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A Peacock in the Land of Penguins

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This newly revised corporate fable about the benefits of a diverse workplace echoes the dilemma facing businesses across the country--how to manage the increasing diversity of the workforce and capture the talent, creativity, energy, and commitment of all employees. Illustrations.

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Contents

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The Story

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Are You a Peacock (or Other Type of Exotic Bird)?

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Are You a Peacock

(or Other Type of Exotic Bird)?

YES NO

■ 1. Do you frequently feel like you don’t fit in — that you are different in some fundamental way?

■ 2. Do you get criticized for not being a “team player” (“Team player” = a euphemism for conforming to group norms.)

■ 3. Do you feel pressured by your boss or others to change in some significant way to fit in?

■ 4. Do you feel ostracized, lonely, left out of the loop of information and decision-making?

■ 5. Are you unable to identify with anyone as a role model at the top of your organization?

■ 6. Are your ideas and suggestions routinely rejected as “not the way we do things here”?

■ 7. Do you often feel under- or unappreciated for your talent and skill, while others who are less talented get promoted and rewarded?

■ 8. Do you often try to figure out “what’s wrong with me”?

■ 9. Do you feel stifled, stuck, frustrated by some unseen “system”?

■10. Are you frequently ignored, interrupted, or discounted when you make comments or suggestions at meetings?

 

Survival Strategies for Peacocks Who Want to Stay Put

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Tips for Peacocks Who Want to Fly the Coop

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Strategies for Birds of a Different Feather

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Strategies for

Birds of Different Feathers

If you are a peacock or some other exotic bird in your organization, you have options and choices about whether you should stay there or fly the coop to another job in another organization, or to self-employment.

If you stay, then you have many choices about how best to survive (maybe even thrive!) in a less-than-perfect work environment. Each of the strategies described here has its pros and cons. A few of these strategies will seem realistic and do-able in your situation. Some may seem inauthentic or distasteful to you. Others may appeal to you, but you’re not sure you can carry them off. Still others may be politically dangerous in your organization, or may jeopardize your long-term career goals.

Discuss these strategies with friends you trust. Evaluate them in light of your own personal situation before you decide which strategies to adopt. Only you can decide what’s appropriate for you and your career future. Perhaps this list of strategies will stimulate your own creativity as you plan your future — inside or outside the Land of

 

Positive Penguinship: What Peacocks Can Learn from Penguins

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Positive Penguinship: What Peacocks

Can Learn from Penguins

It’s easy to get annoyed with penguins — especially if you’re a peacock. Penguins are set in their ways, and can be arrogant and pompous. But it’s well to remember that most penguins have good intentions. They may be stuck in their ways and narrow-minded, but that doesn’t mean they are completely useless to the organization. While you don’t want your organization to be dominated by shortsightedness and bureaucratic inertia, there might be a few things we can learn from our interactions with penguins. Here are a few possibilities:

1. Sometimes it is best to err on the side of caution when evaluating new ideas and proposed projects.

Following one’s creative instincts is good, but occasionally taking a penguin perspective can help keep us from being too impulsive. We can learn to take calculated risks, not foolish ones.

2. Because there are many penguins in power in organizations of all types and sizes, it is important to be able to relate to them effectively. You would do well to keep a penguin suit handy and learn “penguin speak” so that you can interact with and influence powerful penguins when you need to. Consider it an exercise in flexibility. The better you are at relating to penguins

 

There’s a Little Bit of Penguin in All of Us

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There’s a Little Bit of Penguin in All of Us

The penguin metaphor we use in our story refers to anyone who is narrow-minded, tradition-bound, risk-averse, conservative, resistant to new ideas or different perspectives, and tied to the way he or she has always done things. Penguins may or may not be managers or executives. Penguins can be found at any level in an organization. Remember, being a penguin is a mind-set, an attitude, a characteristic way of looking at the world.

If we really look carefully and honestly, we’ll probably find a little bit of penguin in ourselves, too — though we may not want to admit it. Even the staunchest peacock probably has a little penguin streak somewhere deep inside. Most of us have an aspect of our lives in which we too are narrowminded, stuck in our ways, resistant to new approaches.

We are creatures of habit, with familiar routines we don’t want to change.

• “I always take this route to work.”

• “This is where I always sit at staff meetings.”

• “The end of the toilet paper should always go over the roll, not under.”

 

How You Can Tell If You Work in the Land of Penguins

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How You Can Tell If You Work in the Land of Penguins

1. Decision-making emphasizes precedent, tradition, and control (“That’s never been done before” or “That’s against company policy”) — rather than creativity, risktaking, flexibility, and innovation (“Seems like a good idea — let’s try it”).

2. Excessive emphasis is placed on “chain of command” and “not rocking the boat.” Loyalty to your boss (or other powerful people) is valued over loyalty to the organization or the customer.

3. Discussions are characterized by group-think — with little disagreement or debate. Avoidance of confrontation or clash with tradition and the existing order.

4. It is extremely important to publicly adhere to the

“company line” and be discreet in all conversations.

You must be careful whom you trust with your candid opinions, and never point out that “the Emperor

Penguin has no clothes.”

5. “Organizational constipation” makes everything move slowly. Very bureaucratic — several layers of approval are required to launch new projects, resolve customer problems, make purchases, and so on.

 

Recognizing the “Quack” (Common Phrases from Penguins)

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Tips for Penguins Who Want to Change Themselves

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Tips for Penguins Who Want to Change Their Organizations

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Tips for Penguins Who Want to

Change Their Organizations

1. Recognize that the world is changing and the future looks very different from the past. What worked in the past may now be obsolete. A new future requires new ideas and perspectives.

2. Create opportunities for exotic birds to contribute their talents and ideas — project teams, task forces, special projects.

3. Continually reevaluate work processes, policies, and procedures. Don’t assume that the “tried and true” will continue to work indefinitely. A product, a service, a work process can become obsolete overnight, and you may find yourself behind the curve instead of ahead of it. Constant vigilance and continual reevaluation are the watchwords of the day.

4. Provide processes and people to help birds of all kinds deal with their feelings about change and your organization’s future. Make it safe to talk about fears and anxieties, hopes and aspirations.

5. Celebrate small successes — both individual and organizational. Change is bumpy and uncomfortable.

 

Preventing Penguin Paralysis

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Preventing

Penguin Paralysis

• Try holding stand-up meetings instead of sit-down meetings. This technique tends to speed up discussion and decision-making. The meeting can’t go on too long if everyone is standing.

• Try lots of experiments. Experiments are trial balloons, short-term pilot projects, and such. They will encourage innovation and reasonable risk-taking, without requiring a wholesale commitment to a new idea. Budget for the experiments as a regular business expense. Allow for the fact that many experiments will fail; this is part of the normal price of innovation.

• Timing is everything. Allow enough time for brainstorming and discussion, but also set tight timelines for decisionmaking. Don’t keep waiting for more data; you’ll never have all the data you’d like. Learn when it’s time to go with what you have.

• Hire innovative, creative people and then let them innovate — even though it shakes up the established order. If you don’t trust their judgment, then don’t hire them in the first place.

 

The Care and Feeding of Peacocks: A Penguin’s Guide

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The Care and Feeding of Peacocks:

A Penguin’s Guide

Peter Drucker, probably the most respected of all management consultants, says that organizations need two kinds of people — they need bureaucrats… and they need lunatics! Bureaucrats keep the system running in an orderly fashion, while lunatics challenge the system with innovation and new ideas.

We call them penguins and peacocks. We need some penguins in our organizations as a conservative force, to maintain tradition, to provide institutional memory and keep us from repeating the past, and to provide some stability in the face of constant change. Penguins make sure that all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.

At the same time, we need peacocks in our organizations to provide creativity and new thinking. Innovation and breakthroughs almost never come from the penguins — breakthroughs always come from the peacocks, those outside the mainstream. Peacocks and other exotic birds are the ones who see things from different perspectives, who are always looking for the new angle, and they are outside the mainstream of tradition and predictability.

 

Reports from the Field

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Reports from the Field

What influence have Perry the Peacock and his colorful friends had on the individuals in organizations who have read the story? Are corporations becoming less penguinlike? Are bureaucracies losing their stultifying grip on employee initiative and innovation? Are “birds of different feathers” finding their organizations more receptive to alternative points of view and new ideas?

We wanted to find out, so we asked some of the people who have been using A Peacock in the Land of Penguins.

We discovered that the story is being adopted in a variety of ways in different kinds of organizations:

• New-employee orientation

• Team-building training

• Management and leadership training

• Strategic-planning retreats

• Community-outreach efforts

• Diversity seminars

• Internet-based training

Penguins in organizations both large and small are “learning to fly” — they are getting out of their penguin suits and trying new behaviors.

• For some penguins, learning to fly means getting out of their comfort zones and spending time with people who are very different from themselves.

 

Training Materials

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Training Materials

“A Peacock in the Land of Penguins” video

(11 minutes)

This best-selling animated video has been a consistent hit with organizations of all types and sizes. It has achieved the status of “classic” and is used in seminars, conferences, team meetings, and training sessions. The story deals not only with creativity, but also with change, innovation, teamwork, openness to new ideas, organizational flexibility, and diversity. The video comes complete with “Leader’s

Guide,” including training designs on empowerment and diversity, seminar exercises and handouts, and a bibliography.

“Pigeon-Holed in the Land of Penguins” video

(10 minutes)

This charming animated video is the perfect addition to any consultant’s tool kit, or training department’s video library.

The video deals with the problem of pigeonholing in organizations, and explores teamwork, creativity, and the importance of seeing beyond stereotypes to maximize the opportunity for everyone to contribute to the organization’s success. The video comes complete with “Leader’s

 

Merchandise

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Keynote Speeches, Training, and Consulting Services

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