Career Advice

Flying Lessons from Piggie: Don’t Take “No” for an Answer

I read a children’s book yesterday about an elephant and a piggie. The elephant was a big, snarky curmudgeon who would stop at nothing to keep the enthusiastic little piggie from finding her wings to fly. But despite page after page of naysaying and disbelief and not-nice commentary, the elephant relented with surprise when the piggie enlisted the help of her trusted friend, the duck, to help her get airborne. It required some string and the duck holding her up, but the piggie eventually made it into the sky.

We are all faced with situations where someone else tries to hold us back and keep us from spreading our wings. Early adopters of Enterprise 2.0 are painfully aware of this. Maybe it’s office politics or “we don’t have the budget” or something about not having the time to collaborate — the excuses given by elephants as to why we don’t need collaboration in the workplace are many.

Whether it’s in your personal life or at work, when you’re the pig and the elephant tries to hold you back, do what the smart piggie did. Find and accept help. Follow your passion. Find creative solutions. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Yes, this may be an idealistic approach, but remember that trying to change the status quo takes time. I talked with a customer yesterday who is still in the “pilot” phase of social after years of investigation. I also talked to a friend who has left two companies in two years because she hasn’t been able to enact any change in the corporate culture to bring in social software. For both of them, it was frustrating that they hadn’t been able to bring a community to life at their organizations. But one was still trying with all his might, and the other had decided that her talents were best suited for a more flexible organization.

So if you believe in something, push for it. Do everything you can to make it happen. Also accept that there are some things that you just can’t change. Get help from others to find solutions when this happens. But know that when it’s time to go, go. Even the best change agents can’t change the minds, cultures, and practices of institutions that are not willing to try something new. If you’re a piggie, a true evangelist, take a risk and find a new home that will welcome your talents in collaboration and the social enterprise.

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