Seth Godin's latest book, Linchpin, is a departure from his marketing canon; Permission Marketing, Idea Virus, Purple Cow, Meatball Sundae, All Marketers are Liars/Story Tellers. Linchpin is a response to the turmoil created by the latest recession; the turmoil felt by employees. Linchpin draws from some deep subjects to address the current crisis: economics history, neuroscience, paleoanthropology and industrial/business history. Seth uses ideas from these disparate subjects to develop a strong case for the need for employees to change from being cogs in the great industrial machine that we have come to rely upon.
This is one of Seth's most challenging books so far, not from a complexity perspective but because this is a wake up from the world we thought we lived in. Similar to how he has been shaking up the business world for over a decade, here he challenges not only the system, but focuses on the individuals in the system. He has written extensively deconstructing the archaic industrial complex and calling for companies to reform. With Linchpin Seth takes a different tack, and a much harder tack; he challenges all of us to take some responsibility for our careers/lives. Seth is `the' master of provoking change and he understands change is hard. This is Seth's art, his genius. Linchpin is a carefully laid out change manifesto. Not a `framework', not a `map' since this is one of the most pernicious symptoms of being a cog; we are always looking for someone to give us a map; a set of instructions, a guide. Linchpin's message is clear, there is no map. If there was a map then you become dispensable, easily replaced by the next in line that can follow the map.
This book will challenge, provoke and even cajole you to become a Linchpin, someone that is indispensable to an organization. Using the analogy of a Linchpin. A small part that has a critical role, it attaches the wheel to the wagon. He challenges us all to become linchpins. Instead of waiting for others (management, bosses, companies) to tell you what to do, you should do what is 'critical' and make yourself indispensable.
The first part of the book lays out a compelling case of how we came to this point in history. It draws from economics, sociology, anthropology to explain how and why we find ourselves in a world where employees are considered to be interchangeable parts in a larger machine. How we came from being hunter/gatherers that worked in small groups for 3 hours per day to faceless workers on a 9-5 schedule that can be interchanged at will. Also, this isn't something happening to other people. No longer is it just blue-collar workers or low level white-collar works, it is happening to all of us and we need to take note.
Seth doesn't take the easy road and just complain at the misfortune or blame the `greedy' Wall Street tycoons; he understands the complex economy that we have created. He also understands that trying to scale human beings is not an infinite exercise and we have come to the end. When everyone is racing to the bottom to get cheaper there is only one winner. In a world where the race to top is much harder but also leaves room for infinite winners there is far more opportunity for us all.
The second part of the book moves from how we got here, switching gears to not only what we need to be; linchpins, but also what is stopping us. It delves in to neuroscience to explain how our triune brains are our worst enemies in moving from being cogs to being linchpins. The lizard brain, the oldest part of our 3-part brain (aka the limbic system), is at the root of all autonomic responses, one of which is fear and our response to it. The fight between the older limbic system and the more complex and sophisticated neocortex is what causes most of the `resistance' when it comes to doing great work.
The last part of this compelling manifesto is an explanation of what it means to be a linchpin and the abilities that can make you one. Again, Seth steers clear from providing a map or guide; there is no map, but there are some great examples and principles.
Even though this is a complex and multi layered book it is so well written that you won't notice that Seth is explaining some very deep concepts. It is actually more complex to review than read. The ideas are well explained and the arc of the manifesto is clearly articulated, but it's hard to capture the many nuances, stories, examples, sidebar rants and all the gentle and not so gentle nudging. This book is jam-packed with ideas and provoking thoughts. This is a book that is designed to change, and that is probably the characteristic that makes it the hardest to `just' read. This is a book clearly designed to push people to action. Seth is a master of this kind of book and he doesn't disappoint. Even though the ideas in this book will have you thinking for a long time, the momentum created from this book will propel you to take action not just pontificate.
This is a timely book for our troubled times. Seth is the right person to have written this change manifesto. This is going to be hard for people to hear and even harder for people to do, but for the sake of our future this is a book that should be read and acted upon. The unfortunate part of books like this is it is most appealing to the people that need it the least. The hope is that now the linchpins in society have a book to give to their friends, colleagues and family to explain why it's important to stop being a cog and blaming the latest populist scapegoat for the mess we are in. We are all implicitly or explicitly part of this problem and we should do something to change it. Seth has done his part, the gauntlet is thrown, and it is for us to take the challenge.
Inventor of ThinkCube