Is Godin’s Linchpin any good?

Seth Godin

[note: This review is based on the electronic excerpt that was distributed to international readers. Once I get a full physical copy it will be revised. The actual book is five times longer than the document I reviewed. i.e. this post can't fully answer the question in the title.]

Today marketing’s philosopher Seth Godin shipped his new book Linchpin, and it is quite a departure. Godin has always been one to rally the troops, but this reads more like a self-help book than sharp marketing analysis. As the author says, ‘My goal is to persuade you that there is an opportunity available to you, a chance to significantly change your life for the better.’ The basic premise of the book is that the post-industrial paradigm is totally broken, and this means we should stand up and change the way we behave in the workplace, whether as employees or entrepreneurs.

I feel like Godin is taking advantage of the fact that we are in a recession to make his point. Whilst he is correct in stating that job growth is flat and that we are in a negative wage cycle, he does not highlight the fact the economy is cyclical and we have seen this many times before. Instead he paints the current economic situation as evidence that in the face of competition and technology the Fortune 500 way of doing business no longer works. It’s a bit of a stretch if you ask me. When Charles Leadbeater estimates that crowdsourcing will disrupt 20 percent of the developed economies I think it is a more realistic assessment, and thus the other points in his book We-Think carry more weight.

But I can’t fault Godin’s motives as he just wants his readers to seize the opportunities that the current changes are creating. I’ll give him a pass for using that basic sales tactic of instilling fear to create a need. I don’t think you can go wrong by following his mantra, ‘The bargain is gone, and it’s not worth whining about and it’s not effective to complain. There’s a new bargain now, one that leverages talent and creativity and art more than it rewards obedience.”

The title of the book comes from the idea that it is the individual in the organization who collects, connects, and nurtures relationships who is indispensable. The author opines that these linchpins are the essential building blocks of tomorrow’s high-value organizations. Is there anything really new is stating the importance of relationships in business? I don’t see this as an insight – am I missing the point? If so please be linchpin-like, connect to me and let me know what I am missing.

When Godin states that ‘The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about’ he is going back to ideas that he has put forward many times before. In his book Tribes he shared the lessons he learned at Spinnaker where at the age of 24 he got company-wide buy-in by publishing an internal newsletter reporting on how his products were progressing. I guess there is no harm making such a valuable point again, but for me it is another reason why I consider Linchpin a refresher for Godinites rather than something new they can sink their teeth into.

When I read “The law of linchpin leverage” I really felt like I was being drawn into Tony Robbins territory. The law states that “The more value you create in your job, the fewer clock minutes of labor you actually spend creating that value.” The point that Godin is trying to make is that in order to be a linchpin you only have to be a dynamic innovator for a small percentage of the total time you are working, but it may be misinterpreted as the idea that you can achieve more by doing less.

I agree with the premise that you need to be fearless, but not reckless, and I am fascinated by the idea that we are all artists. Godin writes, ‘You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.” He defines art as a personal gift that changes the recipient, and I agree that thinking about our roles in this way is a great way to facilitate becoming linchpins.

Overall I think that this would be an exciting and inspiring book to readers unfamiliar with Godin, but for those that have read him before, then shame on you if you aren’t already following the advice in Linchpin!

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  • Yes, let's see what the full book is like. You are right about SG walking the talk. Thanks for the comment over here too!

  • Thanks for your comment on my review. I agree with you that Linchpin is basically pep talk from Seth trying to get us started to become remarkable - but hey, there are worse people to give you a pep talk :)).

    I also see Seth Godin's further deconstruction of the industrial paradigm and steering for change. At least, Godin himself is walking the talk of his blog. I somehow also miss 'the news' in this book, but I think that 'the news' in Linchpin is on a meta-level, like a sort of experiment by Godin to see how many people he can motivate to change their behavior and start with emotional labor.

    To answer your question: I follow the points of your review. I definitely want to read the whole book too, to enjoy the meat on the bones. Unfortunately it was only available as a 60page preview in Europe...

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