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World Innovation Forum: Seth Godin

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Early in his presentation on day two of the World Innovation, Seth Godin made a point that may be comforting to those stuck in companies that don’t seem like they’re going anywhere, and that definitely presents opportunity for those interested in making a career out of effecting change and grasping new opportunities.

The premise: that we’re in the midst of a revolution in which the traditional methods of marketing—mass appeal, repeated messaging and so on—are no longer effective.

The message: That “revolutions create losers before they creates winners.” Broken down further, the core of his suggestion is that every company out there is struggling with the same issues when it comes to competing in a rapidly shifting marketplace. And that some companies will provide lessons for others by failing. The reason that may be of comfort to those at organizations that seem to be treading water: your company still has the potential to end up a winner. The better news: that it may come down to you.

The opportunity for individuals that Godin’s message represents should be obvious: that there is significant potential for individuals to shape the future of their companies through innovation.

On that note, Godin spent a long time talking about the automation of workflow, and delivered a message that should frighten many people: If you (or someone else) can write down what your job is, someone else will be able to do it cheaper. That’s the reality that manual workers faced in the era of industrialization, but according to Godin it’s one that is making its into white collar fields as well.

Value to organizations, he says, comes from employees who don’t spend their time repeating the same actions day after day. Accordingly, those who can innovate, create and provide new value by doing new things are the most important  in any company, and tend to be remunerated accordingly. Or, as Godin puts it: “The more time you spend following instructions, the less you get paid.”

The problem that many employees will have with Godin’s message is that carrying it out often relies on doing things without permission, and risking failing in public. Add in the rigidity of life at many major corporations–something that Godin acknowledges but dismisses as a barrier to those truly determined to lead change–and it’s easy to see where some companies could get left behind in a rapidly changing world.

Above all else, Godin is immensely quotable on his chosen subject areas. Some further examples from his presentation:

“Your job is a platform. It is not as platform for you to do what you are told. It is a platform for art.”

“Genius is a human who brings his real self to bring change.”

“This idea of obedience is bogus. There is no company today that would do better if employees were obedient.”

“You don’t lead because you have charisma. You get charisma because you lead.”

On Twitter: Don’t be fooled by numbers and metrics. The only one that matters is: “How many people would miss you if you stopped showing up or talking?”


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