Working on a project today, I was challenged to describe its structure and why I felt the need for both a framework as well as principles.
Digging into it, I had to expand on my ideas of principles and rules. It meant to connect them into something that would help me describe the relationship with frameworks.
So here is a start with a metaphor on houses.
When building a house, the framework is the structure that forms a support of frame for the house. It’s fundamental to the house and needs to stay in place. Parts of the framework will, for example, be the walls you cannot tear down.
The concept of a house can be described as the general idea we have of a house. This idea gives a label to a set of key characteristics we’ll use to recognize a house. You will use them to verify with someone else if you are talking about the same thing. Agreeing on them will help you to distinguish a house from other buildings in which you might be able to live like a hut or a cavern.
When thinking about a house, principles can address for example the way a house is built, the relationship between the different parts of a house, or the general belief you’ll be holding about the way a house should be built. Principles thus can be scientific as well as philosophical. A usually evident principle is that the walls will support the roof and that the walls thus should thus best be built before the roof can be put on top. You might also have an idea of where the house entrance should be located, on the side or the front, could it also be on the back?
Rules in the context of a house will then describe any restrictions or instructions describing what you are allowed to do. Should you, for example, have a house which is of historical interest you’ll have rules about the details you need to keep as is. This can, for example, be how the entrance door has to look like.
The metaphor helps to see a relationship between concepts, frameworks, principles, and rules. Going further it appears that rules and principles can apply to different areas and disciplines. That’s when concepts and frameworks will help as they define a context within which we’ll apply these rules and principles.
It’s the context that helps to see how they will be applied. In it, rules and principles will serve a different purpose.
Rules are imposed from the outside whereas principals will be internal. Principals thus are a guidance we can use in multiple situations. They require us to engage in them and develop their meaning for ourselves in a given circumstance. Rules, on the other hand, will tell us what to do. That might be the reason why we’ll develop creativity to break rules in such a way that the rules won’t apply.