Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Review: LinchPin

Every once in a while an opportunity comes along to explore something really new and different, and I'm happy to say that you're experiencing one of those events.  Seth Godin is releasing a new book entitled LinchPin, and is trying out a completely new "media" strategy relying on bloggers.  I was honored to be asked to participate.  You'll find his entire book launch on the Squidoo lens:  http://www.squidoo.com/the-Linchpin-Posts.

Seth sent out sections of his book in advance and we had a chance to read those sections and ask questions of Seth about the book.  I've also had a chance to read Linchpin and will provide a review and some of the Q&A between Seth and myself.

First, the review of LinchPin.

Seth has tapped into a number of trends over the years and LinchPin is no exception.  However, I think the concepts he elaborates in LinchPin are probably more important and more sustained than any of the trends from his previous books.  The concept behind LinchPin is that many people need to take ownership of their jobs and lives, and demonstrate the value they can offer by becoming "indispensible".  People can become indispensible not because of their power or position, but because of the way they work - what Seth calls "emotional labor", and what I like to call engagement and passion.  I think with LinchPin he's tapped the mother lode.

Too many people accept a day's pay for a day's work.  They clock in, do their work like automatons, and clock out.  Most businesses never tap the creativity or passion that people have, and most people believe that stuff belongs at home, or in the gym, the lodge, the classroom or the garage, rather than in the cubicle.  The truly indispensible people are ones who bring all that passion and energy to work, and deliver incredible experiences for their partners, customers and compatriots.  I think many people are unsatisfied at work because they aren't willing to tap into their real energy and passion, and don't believe that that work would be rewarded and valued.  In a time when everything can be outsourced, only commitment, passion, creativity and engagement will be differentiators.

This raises both an opportunity and a concern.  People who are too energetic, too committed and too engaged can be a threat to the regular business practices of most businesses.  So, the LinchPins may find themselves as outliers in their business, which can be discouraging, or they may find the culture changing to meet their leadership.  In other instances LinchPins may have to form their own businesses to be able to work they way they want to work.  A word that is frequently repeated in LinchPin is the word "unique", and there are few firms and organizational cultures that embrace uniqueness today.  While I believe Seth's on to a core need that many people have, it may be some time before larger organizations embrace the creation of more LinchPins.

Now, my Q&A:

JP:  Why "LinchPin"?
SG:  My goal in the title was to let people know that it doesn't matter if the world says they are in charge, it doesn't matter if they've been annointed - what matters is taking the steps to become something we can't live without.

JP:  Can a person become indispensible within an organization or do they have to stop complying with an organization in order to do so?
SG:  All of us have worked with people who would be awfully difficult to replace.  Not because of power, but because of their contribution.

JP:  Isn't scalability and repeatability important?  Can we be an economy of thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs?  What work will remain within a corporation and what will be outsourced?
SG:  Of course we need these jobs (cogs that exchange a day's work for a day's pay) but that doesn't mean you have to choose to do them!  My point is that we have been literally brainwashed by industry to believe these are good jobs and that we should shut up and do them.  It's just not true.

JP:  Isn't it a bit much to claim there's a "multi-generational conspiracy designed to sap your creativity"?
SG:  No, I stand by my hyperbole.  The fact is, large corporations and the engines of commerce have been aligned with the government (and vice versa) for a hundred years.  What we've done is interntionally set up a system (and it's worse in Asia) designed to produce compliance.

JP:  What, exactly, is emotional labor?
SG:  I'm using it to describe the hard work of being present, of being creative, of confronting fear, of making a personal connection with colleagues and customers.  Work used to be put cog a into widget b.  Now work is making a customer's day, in whatever way you are able to.

JP:  What's the shift from "mediocre obedience"
SG:  I think we're seeing a profound shift in the culture, particularly among educated and sucessful individuals.  Part of it is the environment, part of it is the economy and part of it is aging boomers.  The direction we're heading, I think, is that we're going to reward and respect artists, not consumers.

JP:  Why the focus on "giving"?  It seems most corporations are more focused on "taking", especially the CEOs of larger organizations.
SG:  I'm arguing that the reason we pay these guys so much is that we're afraid to stand up and do things on our own.  The resistance pushes us to be bystanders, so the board and shareholders happily give away the store to the guy with the guts to stand up and say "follow me".  We won't need great men when we embrace the fact that they're no better than us, they just figured out how to lead a tribe.

JP:  Is this book meant to encourage people to create their own destinies and follow their "art" or meant to inspire people within larger organizations to change their cultures?
SG:  Art is not painting or poetry.  Art is making a difference, leading, doing the thing no one thought of before, doing work that matters, wherever you are, whatever you do.  The resistance would like you to believe that fitting in is what's expected, safe, required by the shareholders, essential for efficiency, blah, blah.  Bullshit.  The big secret is that every organization needs multiple LinchPins.  Why not you?
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 4:15 AM


Anonymous Source said...

I'm in a deadend job, I really need to take some advice and get some small business going! =)

7:23 AM  
Anonymous Faz said...

I'm feeling a bit blah about what I do now - I will give this book a read and reflect. Thanks for the review. It's certainly timely, for me.


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