As usual, Seth Godin managed to get my brain percolating with his homage to Lenny Levine, the “greatest kindergarten teacher ever,” entitled “You can’t say you can’t play.” Genius, Lenny. Catchy and insightful. Simple and poignant.
Lenny’s concept “You can’t say you can’t play” was a guideline to ensure that everyone got to participate, that everyone got a chance.
And it got me to thinking.
One of our recurring undercurrents here at More than a living is complaining. Oh and complaining about job titles, specifically. And this little concept from Lenny via Seth got me all welled up to beat that horse again.
I can’t think of any place that provides a more stringent antithesis to Lenny’s “You can’t say you can’t play” concept than the modern workplace. Nowhere.
When was the last time you asked someone outside of your department for their opinion? When was the last time you sat in on a meeting in another department?
“I’ve got enough to do. Why would I do that? They don’t even know what I do.”
You see, here’s the thing: I didn’t spend my entire life hoping and dreaming that I would become the employee I am today. No one sits around gathering player cards and trading stats on the middle management heroes they hope to emulate. I didn’t have a brilliant epiphany one morning and decide that marketing was my calling.
It just sort of happened.
And I’m pretty sure that Toby didn’t intentionally begin a quest to become a manager in finance. Pretty sure. I mean, half the time I’m not listening to him, but I swear that I would have remembered that.
Now, some folks do have that vision. And bully for them. I laud their stick-to-it-ive-ness. Just as I laud my ability to work nonsense phrases like stick-to-it-ive-ness into my posts.
But that’s not my point. My point is that the majority of us had no ulterior motive in getting where we are today. We just got there.
But today’s corporate world would have you believe something completely different. The corporate world would have you believe that we are genetically disposed to our calling. Quite entirely different species, peacefully coexisting on the corporate savanna and milling about the common Starbucks watering holes. Wary but intermingled. And largely incapable of crossing the boundary or even understanding the unique mixture of clicks and whistles this other species uses to communicate with its kind.
The corporate world exacerbates that division. Shoving folks into silos. Forming rudimentary cliques. Stay with your own. Each of us has a similar context for discussion. Our path of growth and education has made us completely different from those folks over there. Oh sure, it’s okay to talk to Bob because he’s in your department, but don’t–under any circumstances–move beyond a social context with the folks outside of your department.
They might actually give you an opinion. And it might actually force you to think.
So the next time you’re wrestling with a concept, why not tap Toby over in Finance or Jill over in Engineering or Billy over in Marketing. Why not get their opinion? Because, had things been different, they might have very well been in your shoes, struggling with the exact same concept. And wouldn’t you have liked to help them?
Sure, sure. You may get completely inane crap. Who cares? I’m willing to bet that oh-so-important thing you’re currently pursuing is completely inane crap to someone. (And I’m positive that’s the case for some of the stuff I’m pursuing.)
Danger. That different perspective may spark a thought or concept that really solves the problem.
Like someone in marketing listening to a kindergarten teacher.