August 8, 2015

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Linchpin by Seth Godin
Are you indispensable?

The old American dream:
·         Keep your head down
·         Follow instructions
·         Show up on time
·         Work hard
·         Suck it up

The new American dream:
·         Be remarkable
·         Be generous
·         Creative art
·         Make judgement call
·         Connect people and ideas

There are three situations where an organization will reward and embrace someone with extraordinary depth of knowledge:

  1. When the knowledge is needed on a moment’s notice and bringing in an outside source is too risky or time consuming

  1. When the knowledge is needed on a constant basis and the cost of bringing in an outside source is too high

  1. When depth of knowledge is also involved in decision making and internal credibility and organizational knowledge goes hand in hand with knowing the right answer.

Well-paying employment requires that workers possess unique skills, abilities and knowledge.

Marissa Mayer (ex Google and current Yahoo CEO), while at Google,  was not the key brain in the programming department nor is she responsible for finance or even public relations. She applied artistic judgement combined with emotional labor. She makes the interface work and lead the people who get things done. If you could write Marissa’s duties into a manual, you wouldn’t need her. But the minute you wrote it down, it wouldn’t be accurate anyway.

Why do so many handmade luxury goods come from France?

It is not an accident. It is the work of one man, Jean-Baptiste Colbert. He served under Louis XIV of France in the 1600s and devised plan to counter the imperialist success of the countries surrounding France. Most of the European countries were colonizing the world, and France was being left behind. So Colbert organized, regulated and promoted the luxury-goods industry.  He understood what wealthy consumers around the world wanted and he helped French companies deliver it. Let other countries find the raw materials, the French would fashion it, brand it and sell it back to nation as high-priced goods.

Author Richard Florida polled twenty thousand creative professionals and gave them a choice of 38 factors that motivated them to do their best at work. The top ten ranked in order:

  1. Challenge and responsibility
  2. Flexibility
  3. A stable work environment
  4. Money
  5. Professional development
  6. Peer recognition
  7. Stimulating colleagues and bosses
  8. Exciting job content
  9. Organizational culture
10.         Location and community

The digitization of work makes typical MBAs very happy. This is the sort of thing you can put in a spreadsheet. The challenge is that all your competitors are using the same spreadsheet, so your opportunity for quantum growth and significant market advantages is tiny:

The easier it is to quantify, the less it’s worth.

Artists are optimists: Optimism is for artists, change agents, linchpins and winners. Whining and fear, on the other hand, is largely self-fulfilling prophecies in organization under stress.

Passion cares enough about your art that you will do almost anything to give it away, to make it a gift, to change people.

The reason that startups almost always defeat large companies in the rush to market is simple: startups have fewer people to coordinate, less thrashing, and more linchpins per square foot. They can’t afford anything less and they have less to lose. There are two solutions to the coordination problem, and both of them make people uncomfortable, because both challenge our resistance:

  1. Relentlessly limit the number of people allowed to thrash. That means you need formal procedures for excluding people, even well-meaning people with authority. And you need secrecy.
  2. Appoint one person (a linchpin) to run it. Not to co-run or to lead a task force or to be on the committee. One person, a human being, runs it. Her name on it. Her decisions.

Five elements of personality: Openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability.

Linchpin does two things for the organization. They exert emotional labor and they make a map. Those contributions take many forms. Here is one way to think about the list of what makes you indispensable:

  1. Providing a unique interface between members of the organization
  2. Delivering unique creativity
  3. Managing a situation or organization of great complexity
  4. Leading customers
  5. Inspiring staff
  6. Providing deep domain knowledge
  7. Possessing a unique talent.

Unique creativity requires domain knowledge, a position of trust and the generosity to actually contribute. Delivering unique creativity is hardest of all, because not only do you have to have insight, but you also need to be passionate enough to risk the rejection that delivering a solution can bring. When the situation gets too complex, it is impossible to follow a manual.

If you are not the best in the world at your unique talent, then it is not a unique talent. Which means you have only two choices”:

  1. Develop the other attributes that make you a linchpin
  2. Get a lot better at your unique talent

Organizations rarely give linchpins all the support and encouragement they observe. Which means that your efforts won’t always get what they need to succeed. There are two tactics can help.

  1. Understand that there is a difference between the right answer and the answer you can sell. Too often, heretical ideas in the organization are shot down. They are not refused because they are wrong: they are refused because the person doing the selling doesn’t have the stature or a track record to sell it. When you propose something that triggers his resistance.

  1. Focus on making changes that work down, not up. Interacting with customers and employees is often easier than influencing bosses and investors. Over time, as you create an environment where your insight and generosity pay off, the people above you will notice, and you will get more freedom and authority.

Book referenced in the book
The art of possibility by Roz and Ben Zander
TED of Elizabeth Gilbert (based on Lewis Hyde’s book - The Gift)
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray and Love.
Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits

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