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Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Paperback – April 26, 2011
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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 international reviews
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.
Seth asks you to become an artist as he puts it. This is not art in the sense of creating pieces of art but rather about how you deliver something of yourself to any situation and particularly within the sphere of your job or career.
Even in the most mundane of jobs Seth asks that we fully embrace what we do and through this we become that essential person who somehow makes the system work smoothly.
Like many similar books of this type it is certainly one that makes you think and reconsider your outlook upon life and in particular what you do as either a job, career, or in any voluntary work. Whether or not you can transform your self into a Linchpin or not, then the book certainly traces the history or various employer/worker relationships and this aspect of the book alone can be very enlightening.
The writing can become repative at times as there is a tendancy for the same point to be made time & time again, repeated until you're mind won't let it go. It winds around & around, re-stating the same fact, again & again. Languishing on the same point, a bit like this. It does mean it sticks in your memory though. :)
Having said this, whilst the majority of the book is "on the money" I fundamentally disagree with Seth's point on education and how wrong the current system is for our future leaders. Maybe this is specific to the USA and I can see Seth's point but picking up on his other points, education is something that's a gift we give to our children in the hope that they lead successful and fulfilling lives. There are areas of the world that do not have the education we take for granted in the west and they struggle to make ends meet, hoping they can one day afford books and escape their lives. I think Seth's point dismisses this benefit and almost claims we should just let our children be feral. I appreciate this is challenging and thought provoking and my comments most likely justify Seth's writing.
After reading Seth's other books over the years, I have learned and put into practice a great deal of the points raised and adapted them to suit my work making computer games and I feel the people I work with have also indirectly benefitted. I look forward to the next book and until then I'll continue to read Seth's blog to fill the gap.
Read this, and The Dip and Tribes and you'll be spouting Godinisms!
Can't recommend it enough!
What do you have to lose apart from the price of a couple of coffees and a few hours, who knows the idea may inspire you to go do something that bit different.