Seth Godin’s latest book, Linchpin, is a rallying cry for people to use their creative talents, instincts and skills to become indispensable. I interviewed him about the book.
In Linchpin, Seth told me, “I’m arguing for gentle, progressive, relentless generosity, coupled with the artist’s impulse to connect and change. To leave things better and different than the way you found them.”
“Linchpins,” Seth says, “are the essential building blocks of great organizations. Like the small piece of hardware that keeps a wheel from falling off its axle, they may not be famous but they’re indispensable.”
Unfortunately, those people often have been bullied or ignored into complacency, Linchpin aims to help them get back their spark – which Seth calls artistry – so they can become indispensable.
As part of Seth’s multi-blog online media tour, I interviewed him about Linchpin. You can read other interviews by other bloggers here.
Interview with Seth Godin
BL: 1- What are the main things that keep people from being creative? Where does the damping down start? At home? In school? Do people come into the workplace believing that they have to be cogs in the wheel, or is that thinking imparted?
Seth Godin: I think that we’re born creative, but that doesn’t mean we’re good at it. Then we go to school and not only don’t we get good at it, but we’re hassled until we hide it. School sets out to diminish creativity, because creativity is difficult to manage and difficult to measure. So for ten or fifteen years, every time we feel like being creative, we back off, or get shouted down.
Then we apply for a job, and just about everyone in the entire system insists that we fit in. Do what we’re told. Don’t screw up.
So, is it any wonder that by the time you actually get your red stapler and stack of Post Its that the first thing you say is, “what do you want me to do now?”
BL: 2- A lot of people today are fearful of losing their jobs. They are, therefore, afraid to upset the status quo by suggesting ideas which – like so many new ideas – may seem outrageous at first. How would you suggest people present “outrageous” ideas to bean counting bosses?
Seth Godin: Who has been losing their jobs lately? Compliant factory workers in Detroit (not their fault). Thousands at Circuit City (not their fault). Innocent folks in businesses large and small, by the barrel.
Innocent except for the part about being compliant, about accepting the status quo, about fitting in when they thought it was the best way to keep a job. It’s not. The best way to keep a job is to be indispensable, which DOESN’T mean more average than everyone else or more compliant either. It means willing to make change, to make art, to make a connection, to keep things moving forward. Do the math. That’s the safe plan.
BL: 3- What risks must one accept in order to demonstrate that one is a linchpin in an organization?
Seth Godin: I think it’s essential to understand that being a linchpin does not mean being a show off or a jerk or a thorn in the side of the system. It’s not about insisting that your boss overhaul everything and put you in charge, nor is it about destroying the status quo wherever you see it.
No, I’m arguing for gentle, progressive, relentless generosity, coupled with the artist’s impulse to connect and change. To leave things better and different than the way you found them.
The risk is that people might laugh at you.
There, I said it.
Are you up for that?
BL: 4- Breaking out of the box, as you say in the book, requires courage, foresight, and a willingness to go against the flow. What are some of the ways people can “train” for those functions? Do you suggest present new ideas gradually, or going for shock and awe? Is there a way to train oneself to trust one’s best ideas? A series of step to follow? Questions to ask oneself?
Seth Godin: Out of the box is overrated. The edge of the box is where the action is. The edge, where you acknowledge boundaries that can’t be changed, but challenge traditions that have no function any longer. And the best way to get to the edges is to practice, to practice small. Could that receptionist make guests feel a LOT more welcome? Could that sales rep be more generous with a prospect who is about to say no? (Send her to a competitor!). You get the idea. Little shifts to teach yourself that maybe getting laughed it isn’t so bad.
BL: 5- I’ve been blogging for 10 years. In that time, I’ve seen that the more information I give away, the more amazing opportunities will come back to me. All of my clients, and now my new job, have come to me as a result of taking the risks of giving away knowledge and information, having strong opinions, and not caring if people disagree.
Yet, this ability to embrace risk seems to me to be part of the hard wiring. Do you think everyone has the ability to become a linchpin?
Seth Godin: You bet we do. Not doing the same thing. We can’t all blog or do great math theories or paint paintings or even hug properly. But everyone I’ve ever met has the ability to do something human enough that I’d miss them if they were gone.