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Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Hardcover – Illustrated, January 26, 2010
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Hugh MacLeod is an artist, cartoonist, and Web 2.0 pundit whose blog, gapingvoid.com, has two million unique monthly visitors. His first book, Ignore Everybody, was an Amazon Top Ten Business Book of the Year and a Wall Street Journal bestseller. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of Linchpin:
This is by far Seth’s most passionate book. He’s pulling fewer punches. He’s out for blood. He’s out to make a difference. And that glorious, heartfelt passion is obvious on every page, even if it is in Seth’s usual quiet, lucid, understated manner.
A linchpin, as Seth describes it, is somebody in an organization who is indispensable, who cannot be replaced—her role is just far too unique and valuable. And then he goes on to say, well, seriously folks, you need to be one of these people, you really do. To not be one is economic and career suicide.
No surprises there—that’s exactly what one would expect Seth to say. But here’s where it gets interesting.
In his best-known book, Purple Cow, Seth’s message was, “Everyone’s a marketer now.” In All Marketers Are Liars, his message was, “Everyone’s a storyteller now.” In Tribes, his message was, “Everyone’s a leader now.”
And from Linchpin?
"Everyone’s an artist now."
By Seth’s definition, an artist is not just some person who messes around with paint and brushes, an artist is somebody who does (and I LOVE this term) “emotional work.”
Work that you put your heart and soul into. Work that matters. Work that you gladly sacrifice all other alternatives for. As a working artist and cartoonist myself, I know exactly what he means. It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it.
The only people who have a hope of becoming linchpins in any organization, who have any hope of changing anything for the better in real terms, are those who have the capacity to do “emotional work” at a high level—to be true artists at whatever they set their minds on doing. The guys who just plod around the office corridors, just turning up for their paycheck.... Well, those guys don’t have a prayer, poor things. The world is just too interesting and competitive now.
And Seth then challenges us, the readers, to become linchpins ourselves. To make the leap. To become artists. To do emotional work, whatever the sacrifice may be. It’s our choice, and it’s our burden. Seth won’t be there to catch us if we fall, but to become the people we need to be eventually, well, we probably wouldn’t want him to, anyway.
Congratulations, Seth. You have penned a real gem of a book here. Rock on.
"Thousands of authors write business books every year, but only a handful reach star status and the A-list lecture circuit. Fewer still-one, to be exact-can boast his own action figure. . . . Godin delivers his combination of counterintuitive thinking and a great sense of fun."
"This book is a gift."
-Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder, The Acumen Fund
"If Seth Godin didn't exist we'd need to invent him-that's how indispensable he is! You hold in your hands a compelling, accessible, and purpose-filled book. Read it, and do yourself a big favor. Your future will thank you!"
-Alan Webber, Founder, Fast Company
"This is what the future of work (and the world) looks like. Actually, it's already happening around you."
-Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos.com
"Thousands of authors write business books every year, but only a handful reach star status and the A-list lecture circuit. Fewer still - one, to be exact - can boast his own action figure....Godin delivers his combination of counterintuitive thinking and a great sense of fun."
- Publisher : Portfolio; Illustrated edition (January 26, 2010)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1591843162
- ISBN-13 : 978-1591843160
- Item Weight : 1.07 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.3 x 0.87 x 9.3 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #464,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The writer doesn't seem to know anything about real jobs. Many of his suggestions make no sense. He keeps telling you to be a lynchpin, but never tells you how. He tells us that Richard Branson is a billionaire because of what he does for five minutes every day different from the rest of us. What is that thing he does? He creates billions of dollars worth of value. Thank you for that business insight. Damn this book is stupid!
I think he can't help treating his reader as though he is advertising to them. He does whatever he can to get your attention in 30 seconds. And then he does it again. And again. You get tired of this. He promises and promises, but doesn't deliver.
Linchpin – this funny little eight-letter word is the main concept of this book. What does it mean to be the linchpin of a company? How does one become a linchpin? Can anybody be a linchpin? All of these questions were addressed in the book. Before addressing all those questions, Godin first explains his definition of a linchpin. He does not mean for people to be like the small pin on a wheel. Instead of the literal definition, he considers a linchpin to be “an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen.” (pg VI). Based off of this definition, he considers a linchpin to be a person that the company would not function with out. This person sees the problem clearly and does not panic. Instead they develop innovative solutions and create their own path. A linchpin never follows a map; they create it.
When Godin looks at the corporate world, he sees many cogs. There are far to many people that blindly follow the rules set before them. They show up to work, do as they’re told and then leave. These people are compliant, under paid and in pain because they are not following their passions. This is Godin’s target audience. In order to inspire, you must speak to those in need.
From Godin’s research he has developed seven abilities that make a great linchpin. All of these abilities make the linchpin a unique asset that is indispensible to the company. These seven abilities are 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. Godin describes each of these talents in detail and explains why if a person is special enough to possess all seven, then they can be an indispensable worker.
When explaining his point about why linchpins are the artists of their industry, Godin used a few good examples to help bring his point across. Artists create things, whether it is a beautiful painting, sculpture or new business model. All artists are innovators, creators and visionaries. The sign of a true artist is when they see something that’s so different and yet works so well. While Ev Williams was creating twitter, he did not use a conventional business model. When people first saw his project, they thought it was absurd. No one had ever seen such a thing. However, it’s uniqueness helped spread the word about twitter. Now it is a hugely successful form of social media. By throwing in the real life example of Ev Williams and Twitter into the book, it made Godin’s point more concrete. Without William’s quotes and the well-known success of Twitter, the point would have just been an abstract theory. Because I know the reality of Twitter, I could conceptualize the problems Williams faced and now I see how he overcame them. By using real life examples, Godin was able to better prove his point.
While I felt like Godin had some great examples, he also had some that were sub par. There were many times where the book seemed more like a cliché inspirational speech, than anything of substance. When discussing how one becomes a linchpin, Godin wrote that we all could be CEO’s of top companies. He used the example of Richard Branson and how he built his airline company. Godin tells the story of his idea for Virgin Atlantic and then goes on to say that anyone could do Branson’s job if they thought creatively enough and knew what to look for. While this is a sweet and thoughtful thing to say; it is not accurate. In reality not everyone can be a CEO. It takes a lot of leadership skills, vision and intelligence to be a good leader. It’s important for a good leader to always be looking for new opportunities, make important decisions and understand your audience. Each of those adjectives are characteristics that Branson possesses, however not everyone has them or can learn them. Even if someone did, they are not the only qualities that make a good linchpin or guarantee success. Godin devotes a whole chapter on “becoming a linchpin”. Even if someone reads the advice a thousand times that does not guarantee that they can apply it. While every one is special and has a lot to offer the world, that does not mean they will be the linchpin of their company. It takes practice, intelligence and a lot more than just reading a book to teach the skills needed to succeed.
Overall this book would get a B rating on a traditional college grading system. It brings up some interesting points about how to become a better worker as well as helped me better understand not to let my fear inhibit me from trying a new method. I learned that the best inventions were created by people who looked at things in a different way than the average person. They were able to see the problem, understand it and then had the courage to try something new. This is a useful skill that any body can use in their work or while at home. While that was a useful skill, Godin had a tendency to ramble on in the book. Sometimes his lessons sounded more like a cliché speech, then something I could see myself applying. Godin has accomplished a lot in his life. He has seen much success in the marketing world. If he had incorporated some of those experiences in the book, it would have felt more genuine and less like someone preaching to me about having a good work ethic. This would have helped me to better visualize how his points are feasible. Despite the rambling, the book does have some worthwhile points that are important for anyone in the workplace to understand. For anyone who is just entering the workforce or feels stuck at his or her job, I would recommend this book as a useful guide on how to navigate the corporate world.
EDIT: I'm changing my review from 1 stars to 3. I mustered up enough courage to finish reading the remainder of the book. After you get beyond the repetitive nature of the first 100 pages, it starts to become a bit less painful and somewhat motivating.
Top reviews from other countries
It's pretty good though if you're a blogger and like to talk colourful and emotional. So that's a +1.
It's no longer enough to be a loyal and hard-working employee; you're still replaceable. This book highlights who companies really need and how you can become indespensible. In addition to keeping your job, you'll find your work more challenging and enjoyable.
The book provides many successful examples of linchpins at (American) companies, such as Google, Zappa, Ideo, etc. What if you work at at ordinary (non-tech) British company, can you still become a linchpin?
I think so, if you have the right attitude AND your employer/manager isn't excessively bureaucratic. (Seth argues that it isn't employers with the problem, but our own resistance and fear of change.)
The book was published in 2010 when the greatest threat to employment was globalisation; I believe the bigger threat (including to professionals) is now A.I. and robotics.
4 stars as the book could probably get the message across in fewer pages and have more international examples.
In terms of the content, I found myself agreeing with most of it, particularly talk of resistance. It can be summarised as "you can either try to be the best you can be or you can just fit in". That's it really. What the author does not go into is the problem of how few companies can cope with people who push to be really good, who do creative stuff and work slightly outside the box. Many companies (or middle or junior managers at least) want people who do what they are told, nothing more, nothing less, and who just keep their heads down. That might not be what the executives want, but lower levels of management often do. So, if you are one of those people who push to do things better, to create more, to deliver more, to improve quality and performance, then you may just have to start your own company or try working for a number of companies before you find one where your efforts are appreciated. Sad, but true - in the UK at least.
I do also have a couple of issues with the idea of making yourself indispensible. From the employer's point of view, anybody indispensible represents key-person risk. Allowing anybody to become indispensible is a mistake on the employer's part. Employers may take different actions when they realise that somebody is becoming indispensible. The drastic one is to get rid of the person before it is too late, the less drastic is to ensure that skills and knowledge are shared so that the person does not become indispensible. From the employee's point of view, if the employee has loyalty to his/her employer or colleagues then the employee should recognise when this key-person risk is developing and try to ensure that action is taken to reduce it. As a contractor, I believe that one of my responsibilities is to ensure that when I move from one contract to another, my previous client is able to continue without too much impact. Whether that is by documenting in great detail the many things I do, by training other people to do those same things, or by a combination of methods, I believe making myself indispensible is wrong, despite understanding why from a job security angle some people would want to. However, making myself the best I can be is right.
So, I think the title could be changed - are you the best you can be, rather than are you indispensible. And I would say, read this book rather than listen to it. But otherwise, it is pretty good, if not great.
It's elegantly written, solidly constructed, and as the title said, by reading through, it helped me to reframe my attitude, and now I am a Linchpin at work - and I am loving every moment.
This also helped me to realise I was a diamond-in-the-rough but natural networker, and helped me to tap into using the networking skills to bring about faster completions of projects, listen and ~learn~ more about things that were about to happen, and see the signs and take action to minimize any issues before they hit other people's radar! This is something that only improves in time - I've even been asked once if I can see the future. (And no, I cannot!)
This book is amazing. What else can I say, except if you don't buy it, add it to your wishlist, and buy it when you can.