Are You a Linchpin? Highlights from Seth Godin's Newest Book
I recently read Seth Godin's newest book, Linchpin, and not only loved the book but also found that it so shockingly well described my office. So much so that I've started recommending it to recent grads interested in marketing, alongside Inbound Marketing and The New Rules of Marketing & PR, of course.
Below is a combination of summary and favorite tidbits from the book.
Linchpin is Purple Cow for people. In short, be remarkable.
The premise of the book is that the lizard brain, one of the most primitive parts of our brain, is in charge of survival instincts and keeping us out of danger. When translated into our complex world, though, this means that we confine ourselves to our self-made boxes and do not innovate. A linchpin is someone who acknolwedges the fear of the lizard brain but continues to create art to share with the world. It is ever more important, in the new age of the internet, to become a linchpin rather than a cog in the wheel of a factory.
We've been taught to be cogs in a wheel, workers in a factory. But we can choose to break from that mold to create art.
Instead what we should teach in schools is to (1) solve interesting problems (answer the question "What should I do next?" - a question that Google cannot answer) and (2) lead. The new American Dream is (or should be): Be remarkable. Be generous. Create art. Make judgment calls. Connect people and ideas. "If you can be human at work (not a machine), you'll discover a passion for work you didn't know you had. When work becomes personal, your customers and coworkers are more connected and happier. And that creates even more value."
Act like a cog in a machine and you will be treated as such. Linchpins acknolwedge fear and create art anyway. Linchpins have a passion for creating and spreading art.
Linchpins create art that draw people to them and make people (customers, employees, employers) loyal to them. They create great art that makes people cross the street to get to them. Fear is what holds us back. And it's not that linchpins do not have fear. Rather, they feel the fear, acknowledge it, and proceed.
A cog in a machine is always waiting to get instructions. Even if you have a job that is typically like a cog in a machine, you still don't have to treat it that way. "If he waits for a job to be good enough to deserve his best shot, it's unlikely that he'll ever have that job." Linchpins create art, give gifts not because they have to, because if they did, it wouldn't be a gift, it would be a job.
"Passion isn't project-specific. It's people-specific. Some people are hooked on passion, deriving their sense of self from the act of being passionate... People with passion look for ways to make things happen."
Linchpins get things done.
The resistance (the lizard brain) keeps us from actually shipping a product. One case is in the form of thrashing when it's time to ship - surfacing all sorts of objections at the end of a project that delays us and keeps us from actually finishing anything. Instead, thrashing should be done at the beginning of a project when it's a lot cheaper, and should limit the number of people thrashing as much as possible. Some common manifestations of the resistance are: playing "devil's advocate," relying on deadlines to get things done, always juggling multiple projects, compliance disguised as humility. Seth calls out the sprint/scrum process as a great way to battle the resistance and GSD. "Successful people are successful for one simple reason: they think about failure differently." You become a winner by getting good at losing.
Being a linchpin requires good judgment and passion.
Seth calls out the importance of passion multiple times, explaining a two-way relationship between art and passion - passionate people create art, the freedom to create art inspires passion. Note that it's a lot easier to bring passion to your job than to find a job that matches your passion.
The Seven Abilities of the Linchpin
Linchpins do 2 things: (1) exert emotional labor (2) make a map. Linchpins have 7 key abilities:
- Provide unique interface between members of the organization
- Deliver unique creativity (requires domain knowledge, position of trust, generosity to contribute)
- Manage a complex situation or org (requires map-making and clear judgment)
- Lead customers
- Inspire staff
- Provide deep domain knowledge
- Possess a unique talent
Still having trouble being allowed to be a linchpin?
- Note the difference between the right answer and the answer you can sell. Ideas might be shot down not because they're bad but because the wrong person tried to sell it. If you have a controversial idea, you can trigger the resistance in other people.
- Focus on making changes that work down (customers & employees), not up (management). Use that to earn the trust and respect of those above you.