Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why Management Is Losing Relevance

June 2010 Book Review

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Seth Godin

First, I just want to say that I’m highly selective when it comes to choosing marketing and business books to read and Seth Godin cranks out what seems like a new book every six months. I’m a skeptic by nature and typically reluctant when it comes to reading his books. Prior to this book I only read his Purple Cow and Permission Marketing books. The Purple Cow was built around the simple marketing concept of standing out. I consider it a modern day equivalent to Rosser Reeves’s Reality in Advertising or Jack Trout’s Differentiate or Die; the Unique Selling Proposition reincarnated for the hundredth time, just done better than ninety others. In Permission Marketing, which was published back in 1999, he eerily predicts the true value of the internet for businesses (brand and relationship management and a tool for product improvement and development).

Linchpin was written for reader or individual utility, but can be used to help drive organizational success. For me, this book’s core themes were about finding your passion, adopting self empowerment and maintaining the discipline necessary for becoming successful, or as he puts it, “indispensable.”

Godin does a great job of connecting work passion with artistry. Here are just a few quotes that help redefine the conventional definition of an artist (hint, it’s not necessarily a designer or painter):

“Artists are people with a genius for finding a new answer, a new connection, or a new way of getting things done.”

“Most artists can’t draw, but all artists can see.”
“An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally."

(In reference to Yo-Yo Ma, Ben Zander, and Gustavo Dudamel.) “These are the guys who don’t fit in, who don’t follow the score, who know the rules but break them. They are artists.”

While part of becoming a linchpin is by working smarter and not necessarily harder, the real work seems to be in fighting what Godin calls “The Resistance.” It lies within each of us. That voice that comes up with excuses, prevents us from sending that email, or convinces us to procrastinate. “The Resistance” reveals itself through others as well. If we let others prevent us from making progress we are giving into their and our resistance. Godin also makes it clear that we have to make the choice of becoming a linchpin. You can’t always rely on others to motivate you. Doing what you’ve always done or were taught is easy. (Note: I believe in the benefits of working smarter and harder.) Here are a few quotes I felt did a great job summarizing the mindset of a linchpin:
"Raising the bar is easier than it looks, and it pays for itself. If your boss won’t raise your bar, you should.”

“Great bosses and world-class organizations hire motivated people, set high expectations, and give their people room to become remarkable.”
“You can either fit in or stand out. Not both.”
“The act of deciding is the act of succeeding.”
This book definitely got me thinking about how society has raised us to conform and not stand out. Who am I kidding; it still wants me to conform. How can Godin’s concepts be applied to a job like mine in research and analysis? For me it spoke to how I need to show greater flexibility, quicker turnaround and offer the insight and direction necessary to help create change. Constantly questioning methodologies or arguing over strategies is in itself preventing progress. While questioning is good and important, too much can impede progress and change. Here’s an excerpt that sounds all too familiar to me:

In reference to symptoms of the lizard brain or “The Resistance” - "Spend[ing] hours on obsessive data collection. (Jeffrey Eisenberg reports that “79 percent of businesses obsessively capture Internet traffic data, yet only 30 percent of them change their sites as a result of analysis.”)"

I’m starting to recognize the value of more open-source sharing. I don’t mean articles and industry updates, I’m talking real examples, methods and applications (good and bad). The next generation of my industry’s “research council” needs to take on the look of linchpins that are willing to share and find real world applications.

If you’re looking for a personal jump start, this book will give you just that. It may be a stretch, but I would consider this book The Shawshank Redemption for career advancement. We all can become a victim of our own prisons, but with the right tools and aim we can set ourselves free. After reading Linchpin, I have a renewed sense of freedom in my work or as Godin would put it, “my art.”

The Fightin' Analyst Book Rating:
out of five stars

In my next posting, I will include a method I’ve been using called “Improvement Gaps” which helps with product and service development and improvements.