This book is a manifesto for change in organizational behaviour. It exhorts readers to make the leap from being compliant cogs to indispensable creative geniuses inside an organization. Godin argues that the process of making oneself indispensable is a learned skill, and his book is the manual. Needless to say, it’s a great read, full of wisdom and inspiration, but tough to apply in practice.

Godin is an inspirational writer, and it’s worth quoting a big chunk of text to illustrate that here:

“Our society is struggling because during times of change, the very last people you need on your team are well-paid bureaucrats, note takers, literalists, manual readers, TGIF laborers, map followers, and fearful employees. The compliant employees don’t help so much when you don’t know what to do next.

“What we want, what we need, what we must have are indispensable human beings. We need original thinkers, provocateurs, and people who care…Every organization needs a linchpin, the one person who can bring it together and make a difference. Some organizations haven’t realized this yet, or haven’t articulated it, but we need artists.

“The indispensable employee brings humanity and connection and art to her organization. She is the key player, the one who’s difficult to live without, the person you can build something around.

“The system we grew up with is based on a simple formula: Do your job. Show up. Work hard. Listen to the boss. Stick it out. Be part of the system. You’ll be rewarded.
…If you’ve been playing that game, it’s no wonder you’re frustrated. That game is over.
There are no longer any great jobs where someone else tells you precisely what to do.

“Leaders don’t get a map or a set of rules. Living life without a map requires a different attitude. It requires you to be a linchpin.”

As I read the book, I tried to think of linchpins that I know. There aren’t that many. Or schools that are mentoring students to become linchpins. I can only think of one – Kaos Pilots in Aarhus, Denmark.

So how can we identify a linchpin? It’s someone who knows how to be human, to contribute and interact. It’s someone who isn’t afraid to do emotional heavy lifting at work to make art even in the face of opposition and negative feedback from superiors. It’s someone who isn’t afraid. “The linchpin feels the fear, acknowledges it, then proceeds.” Someone who knows how to say “No”. According to Godin, there is a certain type of person who says “no” all the time because that person has goals, is a practical visionary and understand priorities.  These linchpins will disappoint you know in order to delight you later; they are so focused on their art that they know that a “no” know is a worthy investment for the magic that will be delivered later.

Be warned, however. “It’s entirely possible that once you choose to become indispensable, you will no longer be loved.”

If you can accept that, then think about how we can reform our school systems to get there.

Godin suggests that we should only be teaching two things in school:
1.    how to solve interesting problems
2.    how to lead

“Schools can teach us to be socially smart, to be open to connection, to understand the elements that build a tribe. While schools provide outlets for natural-born leaders, they don’t teach it. And leadership is now worth far more than compliance is.”

How do you prove to others in your organization or community that you are a linchpin? You have to show, not tell. “Projects are the new resumés,” says Godin.

Another piece of good news from this book is this idea: “The easier it is to quantify, the less it is worth.”

Linchpins have to fight their own inner resistance and fear of failure every day. “Resistance is the voice in your head telling you to use bullets in your PowerPoint slides because that’s what the boss wants.”
“Cog workers have very little freedom in their jobs. Their outpus is measured, their tasks are described, and they either produce or are fired.”

His basic message is simple: Make a choice. “Choose to be a laser beam, with focused intention, or a scattered ray of light that doesn’t do any good.”

“What makes someone a linchpin is the understanding of which hard work is worth doing. The only thing that separates great artists from mediocre ones is their ability to push through the dip. “