I’m not a big fan of Jim Carrey, and I wouldn’t recommend you go out of your way to catch his recent movie Yes Man. In fact, I’ll go so far as to spoil the movie for you. Saying “yes” to things you used to say “no” to opens up lots of opportunities for cool things to happen (and some not-so-cool, but they’re all worth it). Oh, and he gets the girl in the end.
In engineering, we spend a lot of time talking about how to eliminate risk. One of the easiest ways is to say “no.” We’re almost done with the release and there’s a minor bug found? No, we won’t fix it, it might introduce a bigger problem. Can we refactor this module that’s worked and has had no bugs found in it for 5 years? No, focus on the things that are broken. It’s a pattern we’re comfortable with.
But over the past few years I’ve made an effort to make sure I didn’t say “no” unnecessarily. Like Jim Carrey’s character, I’ve said “yes” to things that challenged me, tested my limits, or just ate up my spare time. And I’ve found that they opened up even more doors and led to even more opportunities.
This was put to the test when Polly Pearson asked me if I’d guest co-host her Visual Talk Radio program. It was going to be covering the release of the Working Mothers Experience book, which I had been happily watching the progress of for the past year, and talking about culture and diversity at EMC, topics which spark my interest. I said “yes” right away, even though I had two major deliverables in the month of May in addition to EMC World.
And so it was last week that I found myself in a conference room with a handful of energetic EMC employees, including Frank Hauck, who you might have heard is a bit busy these days. We spent 90 minutes in that room, including just over 45 minutes of “radio” broadcast out to corporate employees worldwide. It felt like 15 minutes, it went by so fast. Talk about a shot in the arm — sitting in a room with these engaged, enthused, energetic employees (Polly’s alliteration is rubbing off on me) made me feel like a new employee all over again.
Many of my co-workers asked me how I got invited to co-host the show. It was a little hard to explain. Did it start when I first decided to start posting on our internal social web platform instead of ignoring it? Or when I first wrote about inclusion at EMC? Or when instead of saying “no, thanks,” when members of EMC’s Women’s Leadership Forum offered to lend me some insight into EMC’s culture I said “yes” and took time out to meet and discuss things wiht them? Was it when I said “yes” when Polly asked me to help lead the Corporate Culture Community?
You get the picture. These things build on each other. You never know what saying “yes” once will open up in the future. But saying “no” introduces a dead-end.