The Linchpin in Web Projects
Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin, challenges and encourages readers to be indispensable. Failing to do so, he states, is to risk having a job that is sent to a cheaper source of labor–either to other people, a machine, or a combination of the two:
“If we can put it in a manual, we can outsource it. If we can outsource it, we can get it cheaper.”
This isn’t necessarily a revolutionary idea, but Seth’s way of explaining is both engaging and encouraging. As one reads the book and absorbs the ideas, some traditional management concepts jump out at the reader. Here are a few that many might recognize:
- Be Different – Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter taught us that in his 1996 HBR article in which he boiled the volumes and volumes on the topic of competitive strategy to the very notion of being different.
- Technology Will Equalize – New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman led us through this in his book The World Is Flat. As the technology and connectivity proliferates, the more level the playing field becomes for competition. The winners will be those that are the most innovative.
- Keep Teams Small to Minimize Relational Complexity – V.A. Graicunas established the concept of Span of Control in 1933 and developed a formula for quantifying it. Adding an additional member to a team only increases headcount incrementally but increases the number of relationships (handshakes, as Godin calls them) exponentially.
- Challenge and Responsibility Motivate Louder Than Dollars – Frederick Herzberg developed the two-factor theory in 1968, now immortalized in a HBR Classic article. Linchpin employees are motivated more by responsibility than dollars.
While Linchpin does seem to rely on some management concepts that are not-so-new, his packaging of the content is particularly relevant given today’s economic shifts. If you listen to his interview with Lee Stranahan about Linchpin, Godin warns us that “we all live in Detroit now.” This is meant to be a rallying cry to either adapt to the demands of the new economic environment or risk commoditization.
Much of Seth Godin’s work over the years has had some association with Internet projects. His work is engaging and inspiring, making him notable and quotable among anyone and everyone who has either launched a Web site or Twitter account for money. This has attained him a certain celebrity among both strategists and MLMers alike.
But there is something deeper underneath the surface that all strategists and Internet professionals can use to launch successful Web projects…a set of take-aways that are both revolutionary and sensible all at once:
- Your site should be a gift to its users – Why are so many Web sites self-serving? They should give meaningful content, opportunities, or experiences without an expectation of reciprocation.
- Put someone in charge – Web committees need a clear leader who is actually on the committee. Too much confusion here leads to a muddled sense of who is in charge and diluted end-product.
- Set a launch date and stick to it – A failure to do so could mean a year of unnecessary delay and a lack of of project urgency. Seth calls this the ability to ‘ship’ the product, which refers to a site launch.
- Make it authentic – Your site should truly speak to and connect with users. Authenticity creates a bond with your site’s guests.
- There is no Map – There is no cookie-cutter system for creating a successful Web venture–no map. If you feel like you’re internalizing, struggling, and aspiring your way toward a positive end result, you’re probably doing it right.