Others have their own reasons for praising this book. Here are five of mine. First, this is by far Godin's most personal book in which he reveals more of his emotions and "soul" (for lack of a better term) than he has in any of his previous books. Also, from the beginning, he establishes a direct and personal rapport with his reader. I felt that he had written this book specifically for me. Although he and I have never met, I felt as if he were speaking to me and discussing ideas with me as if we were engaged in a face-to-face conversation.
Moreover, unlike in most of his previous books, Godin does not climb up into a pulpit and launch a tirade, engaging his audience with a confrontational tone and Old Testament vehemence. He obviously cares deeply about the thoughts and feelings he shares but is at all times respectful of his reader. He repeatedly explains that everyone has several choices and urges his reader to make those only choices that are in her or his long-term best interest.
In addition, meanwhile, Godin creates a multi-dimensional context, a frame-of-reference, in which to anchor his insights and recommendations throughout the narrative. He skillfully uses what I describe as a bi-polar strategy: passively but alertly observing what is happening (and not happening) in order to recognize and understand the ever-changing realities of the world that we share and then actively challenging whatever demeans and diminishes anyone's dignity. Finally, Godin utilizes the manifesto genre as a means by which to celebrate humanity at its best, not as an ideal beyond human fulfillment but as an attainable destination if (HUGE "if") vision, faith, courage, integrity, and commitment are sufficient to the formidable challenges that await each pilgrim.
Near the downtown area here in Dallas, we have a Farmers Market at which some merchants offer complimentary slices of fresh fruit as samples. In that spirit, I now provide three brief excerpts from Godin's book.
On becoming indispensable to customers: "Here's the win (actually, there are two).
"If you want customers to flock to you, it's tempting to race to the bottom of the price chart. There's not a lot of room for profit there, though...In a world that relentlessly races to the bottom, you lose if you also race to the bottom. The only way to win is to race to the top. When your organization becomes more human, more remarkable, faster on its feet, and more likely to connect directly with customers, it becomes indispensable....
"Second, the people that work for you, the ones you freed to be artists [i.e. creators of unique, compelling, and substantial value], will rise to a level you can't even imagine. When people realize that they are not a cog in a machine, an easily replaceable commodity, they take the challenge and grow. They produce more than you pay them to, because you are paying them with something worth more than money....
"As a result of these priceless gifts, expect that the linchpins on your staff won't abuse their power. In fact, they'll work harder, stay longer, and produce more than you pay them to. Because everyone is a person, and people crave connection and respect." (Pages 35-36)
On résumés: "If you don't have a résumé, what do you have? How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects? Or a sophisticated project an employer can see or touch?
Or a reputation that precedes you? Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up? Some say, `Well, that's fine, but I don't have those.' Yeah, that's my point. If you don't have these things, what leads you to believe that you are remarkable, amazing, or just plain spectacular? It sounds to me like if you don't have more than a résumé, you've been brainwashed into compliance. Great jobs, world-class jobs, jobs people kill for - those jobs don't get filled by people e-mailing in résumés." (Page 73)
On the power of being genuine and transparent: "Virtually all of us make our living engaging directly with other people. When the interactions are genuine and transparent, they usually work. When they are artificial or manipulative, they fail.
"The linchin is coming from a posture of generosity; she's there to give a gift [no-strings support of your efforts to succeed]. If that's your intent, the words almost don't matter. What we'll perceive are your wishes, not the script.
"This is why telemarketing has such a ridiculously low conversion rate. Why corporate blogs are so lame. Why frontline workers in the service business have such stress. We can sense it when you read the script because we're so good at finding the honest signals." (Page 214)
For various reasons previously indicated, I hold this book in very high regard and conclude my review of it with one more observation: The person whom Godin characterizes as "indispensable" is defined by what is indispensable to that person. It could well be, for example, a sincere desire to be of service to others. Or it could well be a sincere desire to offer unconditional "gifts" of trust, faith, respect, and candor. Those whom Godin characterizes as "artists" possess the vision, faith, courage, integrity, and commitment needed to create -- in collaboration with others -- a "post-commercial world that feeds us, enriches us, and gives us the stability we've been seeking for so long." That said, it would be a serious mistake to underestimate or ignore the importance of self-interests. Those who create the world to which Godin refers also feed and enrich themselves as well as those whom they serve and with whom they share a community of faith. Only then can they obtain for themselves as well as others the stability they have been seeking for so long. That should be our vision and Godin challenges us to fulfill it.
"I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work." -- John 9:4 (NKJV)
Seth Godin painstakingly explains in Linchpin how the world of work has shifted so that "just doing your job" is a recipe for being dead while you still live . . . and having lots of job insecurity. His solution is for you to care about the results of your work, to reach out to others with your genuine emotions, and to innovate in ways that create something others appreciate . . . whether or not it has immediate economic value. Basically, he's suggesting you become a human being rather than a cog in a bureaucracy or complex process. He calls this being an artist.
I found this aspect of the book to be its main strength: A lot of people don't realize that they need to be innovating in ways that delight other people . . . rather than just pretending they are still in high school and trying to get along by fitting in.
I dislike mechanical metaphors as a way to encourage people to be less machine-like. Linchpin as a metaphor didn't work that well for me. His point is that since everyone else is just going through the motions of following orders, your humanity in seeking to make things better will make you indispensable. It's nice to think that's true, but the book doesn't contain any evidence beyond some anecdotes . . . many of which are about people I've never heard of or read about.
The writing style suggests that a lot of the book is mostly a cut-and-paste job from blogs. If that's the kind of choppy writing that appeals to you, you'll like this book better than I did. I thought it could have used a good editor. Why? You have to read a long time before he gets around to defining a lot of his concepts. In the meantime, you are wondering what he's trying to tell you.
A solution for this lack of orderly development of his ideas is to start with the drawing on page 230 and go on to read the summary that follows. Then, go back and read the book from front to back. It will make a lot more sense that way.
Despite the book's weaknesses, if you haven't decided to make the world a better place by being a caring innovator, you need this book. Get a copy and read it . . . and keep reading it until the point sinks in. I think it eventually will.