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Linchpin Book Review
on February 28, 2014
We are all artists. That is the point that author Seth Godin is trying to get across in his book Linchpin. His objective with writing this book is to change the way people look at their work. The goal is to inspire people to no longer follow the norm, but instead create their own paths. With doing this they will build for themselves a more fulfilling, successful and rewarding career thus becoming better employees. When people are passionate about their work, it is in their nature to do whatever it takes to succeed. Having passion, a strong work ethic and drive to succeed is what makes a person a Linchpin.
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.