Linchpin

 

Seth Godin, is one of the most popular writers,  speakers, bloggers, and marketers.  According to his own website,  he has written thirteen books; many are bestsellers. His blog consistently ranks in the top 100 blogs,  according to Technorati.

One of his recent books, Linchpin published in January 2010, is a non-fiction book that bills itself as a passionate manifesto about the new world of work and how to excel in it by becoming a linchpin. According to Godin, linchpin’s are the:

“artists…with a genius for finding a new answer,  a new connection,  or a new way of getting things done” (please note all quotes from the book are from the paperback edition published by Portfolio Trade,  April 26, 2011).

Godin does an excellent job describing the value of linchpins in modern organizations.  A linchpin, the ultimate indispensable employee=,  is very difficult to outsource.  As technology changes at warp speed,  modern companies need more linchpins and less bureaucrats.  More people that can work without a map,  less people that need a map.

Some of the most famous examples of linchpins would be former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, or Jeff Bezos at Amazon.  Godin however, argues that there are far more linchpins in the world then we realize.  They are at all levels of the organization from  the baker at your local grocery store to the CFO. Godin’s message is not that everyone should quit their job and start a business,  nor is it that everyone can be a Fortune 500 CEO.

His simple message is to bring passion to what you do, make it art,  invest emotion in your labor,  no matter what you do.  This is a honest and refreshing message to hear in a world that is obsessed with quick fixes.

Godin believes linchpins are artists, by his  definition someone who “uses bravery, insight, creativity and boldness to challenge the status quo.” Artists become linchpins by giving their artwork as a gift.  He provides the example of the  famous photographer Anne Liebowitz,  early in her career she went above and beyond in her job by shooting creative shots, not requested by the client.  She  slowly built up her career and her reputation by giving these as gifts and thus became a linchpin.

Godin spends twenty plus pages on the intersection of artistry and gift giving.  It is a well developed theory but it could have been shortened.  At times I struggled to remember how this related back to the main theme.  Other chapters, such as “The Resistance” show Godin at his most inspirational and helpful. If you can only read one chapter from this book read the Resistance chapter.

Overall,  this book is an easy read although it is a little long at times. It presents an inspirational and motivational view of the new world at work. I would recommend this book to people at any level in their professional careers.

The challenge for HR is finding the linchpins at all levels of the organization and designing systems that reward these contributors. Too often HR focuses their time, budget and attention designing rewards for the middle and top layer of the organization.  What can we do to find, reward and retain, the best employee’s at all levels?

 

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