- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

‘Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig’

Robert Anson Heinlein (1907-1988), American science fiction writer, was famous for his quotes. This is one.  Many uses and interpretations fall on the unkind side. Applied to people, well, you get the message. But it also brings several messages to the table.

Persist in doing something that will never produce fruit
Having people (sorry, he said pigs) in the wrong jobs
Being resilient for the sake of it, as opposed to ‘fail fast’ and move on
How being stubborn is rarely a good idea
The overall futility of pursuing wrong avenues and expecting them to turn out well
How in many cases the only outcome is the duo ‘waste of time’ and ‘annoying somebody’.

Again, reliance is not stubbornness. One of the arts of leadership is to switch gears at the right time and being able to say: wrong path, sorry, now, this is next. Also to make sure people are in the right places (skills, competences). And knowing and finding out which ones are these is another leadership feature.

There is a common practice in many organizations that consists of moving people around jobs. It’s as noble as useful for obvious reasons. But I have seen many times in my professional life, the abuse of this when people rotation becomes a mantra. Critical thinking should come first. In many cases, this mantra, does not teach the pig to sing and the result is that they become very annoyed. Intellectual tourism around jobs may sound great, but it has its limits.