Review Linchpin (Acumen Fund Preview ed.)

I have just read the 62-slide Acumen Fund preview version of Seth Godin’s new book ‘Linchpin’. It’s great stuff, well articulated as ever by Seth. I give you some thoughts that stand out from the book, moderate criticism and a few questions too.

At first, I wondered whether Seth would have become a neo-marxist stating ‘the educated, hardworking masses are still doing what they’re told, but they’re no longer getting what they deserve.‘. But off course individual freedom to do great work and reap great rewards is as neo-capitalist as it can get.

Linchpins are the cornerstone people; the people who have built deep relationships, have connected with a lot of people internally and externally; the people who engaged themselves and others in unbelievably successful projects; the people whose removal would rock organizational structures (like when you would break the crystal structures in a diamond, all you get is carbon powder).

Seth argues that we need to be disobedient and artists to perform great emotional labor. That is labour that makes a difference, that causes people to change. Maybe, in my case, Seth is preaching for the choir. But he acknowledges that: this book is for my boss and some of my colleagues and friends that are obiently doing what they’re told and delivering that in high capacity at great speed. It’s not wrong, it’s what schools and the industrial society institutions have brainwashed us to do. In stead, a great future needs us to contribute our truly personal and best work. No matter if your boss has a different map, just go your own way. Your boss thinks we are still living in the industrial era, but your own career is living in the age of creativity. Realize that!

I know it is only a preview version in powerpoint, but I would have liked some more synthesis and framing from Seth. The ideas of ‘work for yourself’, ‘emotional work’ and ‘the age of creativity’ have been substantially commented about by authors like Dan Pink (Free Agent Nation, A Whole New Mind), Richard Florida (The Rise of the Creative Class), Daniel Goleman (emotional & social intelligence) and many more authors elaborating on the fact that we are brain-wisely still the same cavemen as a few 100 000 years ago.

For me, as a European reader, I guess it feels a little too rethorically. I think the language goes well on stage or in short bits in blog posts, but a whole book like this feels like Goebbels with a megaphone pointing to my face. I can feel, however, Seth is trying to get through to me and cause a little change himself. I promise I will change, at least a little.

I hope Seth tracks the reviews because I have a few questions:

– if we all were artists, we would all be average and not remarkable. Where does it end? Or do you think only a minority will succeed in being an artist and doing emotional labor anyway?

– how does your concept of ‘being an artist/emotional labour’ differ from Dan Pink’s six senses from A Whole New Mind (Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, Meaning)?

– can you give some practical tips on

(1) how to build the connections with emotional labor? I mean, if you are the bad-haired creative kept in the corner, how can you build relationships with the I-deliver-as-told-people who only ask what’s in it for me? (and vice versa) They both speak different languages…

(2) how to convice your shipping-focussed boss and make him/her feel comfortable with you playing Christopher Columbus?

I enjoyed giving to the Acumen Fund and I enjoyed reading the preview of Linchpin.  The (mild) critique and questions are not criticism, but a way getting the conversation going.

Cheers, Koen

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6 comments on “Review Linchpin (Acumen Fund Preview ed.)
  1. Seth Godin zegt:

    Thanks for reading!

    One clarification: you open with a quote from me that isn’t a quote from me. I didn’t say that in the book.

    Now, to your questions:
    – if we all were artists, we would all be average and not remarkable. Where does it end? Or do you think only a minority will succeed in being an artist and doing emotional labor anyway?

    We’re never going to be all artists, just as Purple Cow didn’t cause every product sold to be remarkable. The resistance is too great, the fear is too great. I wouldn’t worry about this happening any time soon. And if it does, I’ll write a new book.

    – how does your concept of ‘being an artist/emotional labour’ differ from Dan Pink’s six senses from A Whole New Mind (Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, Meaning)?

    Everything Dan says is generally true. I think Dan’s six senses are a good way to think about six ways to be an artist.

    – can you give some practical tips on

    (1) how to build the connections with emotional labor? I mean, if you are the bad-haired creative kept in the corner, how can you build relationships with the I-deliver-as-told-people who only ask what’s in it for me? (and vice versa) They both speak different languages…

    I agree. I think I cover this a bit more in the actual book.

    (2) how to convice your shipping-focussed boss and make him/her feel comfortable with you playing Christopher Columbus?

    I posted a bit on this earlier in the week. Basically, if you’re asking for cover, authority and permission, it won’t happen. If you’re asking for forgiveness, Go!

    • koepee zegt:

      Thanks for clarifying.
      I changed my paraphrase to an actual quote from the book that makes the point clear. Sorry, I didn’t mean to misquote.

      My fellow-Belgian Sophie Vandebroek, the CTO of Xerox, once said that it was easier to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission. Now, let’s wet our chest, take a deep breath and dive into the deep blue ocean.

  2. @crowdmanage zegt:

    Nice review. It is more analytical than the one on my web site, and I appreciate the insights.

    On reflection I think a lot of the points that I made are likely to be revised once I read the book which will flesh out the ideas that are briefly covered in the PowerPoint. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on my review Koepee.

  3. Hi koen,

    “If we all were artists, we would all be average and not remarkable. Where does it end? Or do you think only a minority will succeed in being an artist and doing emotional labor anyway?”

    In Tribes, Seth talked about the positive deviants, which to me, are another version of Jef Staes’ Red Monkeys.

    About getting permission: well, change happens anyway whether it’s you who’s going to walk the path or somebody else. You might as well take your chance or be proud about what you’re doing anyway. It’s always a good start I guess.

    Much more than the story about the importance of tribes itself, I got hooked bu Seth’s appeal for facilitating these positive deviants within your tribes (or new tribes).

    Why? Because the real issue in overcoming this crisis is much more about enabling the right people to do the right stuff than it is about turning all into creative and innovative hotshots. If that would be true we would be reinventing an industrial version of the creative and the innovator. Which, as you say, would result in being all the same all over again.

    Knowing that, Seth’s Linchpin story comes across as an appeal to the other side, to the positive deviants to step up, be courageous and get in touch with your inner artist. At the same time, it’s again an appeal to respect these people when you meet them, to facilitate them in exploring their talent and changing the world.

  4. koepee zegt:

    Thanks @Hannes, @superblyhuman

    I’m familiar with Jef Staes. I suggested him as a speaker at the Creativity World Forum 2008. According to me, Jef is one of the few authors really focussing on the social (political?) dimensions of innovation in a firm.

    I agree: it’s not what Seth is saying that will have you move your lazy ass off your chair. It is how he says it.
    Being a good listener and a late judge helps in making things happen (in stead of getting things done).

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