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We can do it

We_can_do_itToo often, it seems, this attitude is missing from teams, organizations or the community.

It's missing because people are quick to opt out of the 'we' part. "What do you mean, we?" they ask. It's so easy to not be part of we, so easy to make it someone else's problem, so easy to not to take responsibility as a member of whatever tribe you're part of.

Sometimes it's missing because people disagree about what 'it' is. If you don't know what you're after, it's unlikely you're going to find it.

And it's missing because people confuse cynicism with realism, and are afraid to say "can". They'd rather say 'might' or even 'probably won't'.

Just about everything worth doing is worth doing because it's important and because the odds are against you. If they weren't, then anyone could do it, so don't bother.

Product launches, innovations and initiatives by any organization work better when the key people agree on the goal, believe that they can achieve it and that the plan will work.

Do we have a cynicism shortage? Unlikely.

Successful people rarely confuse a can-do attitude with a smart plan. But they realize that one without the other is unlikely to get you very far.

Count me in. Let's go.

Naming tool of the week

Oleg points us to http://wordoid.com/

It's a conjugator, brainstorming and domain finder, all in one. Nicely done.

I've done a few posts on naming to help you get started. Here's an old one too.

And while I'm sharing links, here's a thoughtful post about money. Not about money, actually, but about the way people think about money.

Wondering around

I stumbled on a great typo last night. "Staff in the lobby were wondering around…"

Wandering around is an aimless waste of time.

Wondering around, though, that sounds useful.

Wondering why this product is the way it is, wondering how you can make the lobby more welcoming, wondering if your best customers are happily sharing your ideas with others… So many things worth wondering about, so few people actually taking the time to do it.

Wondering around is the act of inquiring with generous spirit.

Helping spread the word

Since Linchpin was published six weeks ago, I've gotten some terrific email. Most of it is about individuals who used the ideas in the book to instigate a process of self-reinvention or validation. Some of the best mail, though, has come from managers and leaders who are using the book to inspire others. One company bought 800 copies for its management, while another reader told me how two copies helped change the way her organization coped with change.

When I find a book that moves me, I spread it to everyone who's willing to listen. I hope you feel the same way.

It's ever more clear to me that an author has very little chance of writing a book that goes directly to a large number of new readers who become book buyers. There's not enough time or money or leverage to get in front of a stranger and say, "here, read this!"

On the other hand, that's exactly what someone like you can do. "Here, read this, and then let's discuss it…" In fact, I'd argue that just about every book that has made an impact has spread in exactly that way.

Given that truth, here are two ways I'd like to support you if you think the ideas in Linchpin are worth spreading:


We're working with 800 CEO Read to offer the following: buy five copies of Linchpin and we'll send you a digital ten-page reader's guide. Packed with questions and ideas dreamed up by fellow readers that you can use to inspire or guide group conversations.

Buy five, give them away, have a conversation, make change. (PDF will be sent by email to arrive before your books do). I think you'll be delighted at the impact five books can have on the people you work with or teach.


I'm going to do a live session in New York on April 16, 2010. Instead of charging my usual fee for tickets, I'm offering seats only to people interested and able to train lots of others. If you're a manager, a coach, a teacher, the leader of an organization or someone who has the desire to teach a group about the ideas in Linchpin, I'd love to have you come.

The entire session will be focused on how to talk about and spread the ideas in the book. Because it's a small group, seats are limited and are reserved for people who can buy fifty or more copies of the book from the retailer of your choice. All the details are here. We'll accept applications until all the seats are allocated, so hurry.

Thanks to each of you who have read the book and hugs to those of you touched enough by it to want to share it with others. I appreciate it. Your support made it a NY Times bestseller, #1 in the Journal, etc., but I'm far more satisfied that it has helped people do something that they've always wanted to do. Thanks for making something happen.

Creating the list

…is not the same as obeying the list.

Do you make the list you check off, follow and work on every day? When does it get made? Who approves it? Do you identify tasks or perform them?

If you had a better list, would you do better work? If you made the list instead of just obeying it, would you be a more valuable member of the team?

Yes, asking questions is often more valued than answering them. (If they're the right questions.)

The Wordperfect Axiom

When the platform changes, the leaders change.

Wordperfect had a virtual monopoly on word processing in big firms that used DOS. Then Windows arrived and the folks at Wordperfect didn't feel the need to hurry in porting themselves to the new platform. They had achieved lock-in after all, and why support Microsoft?

In less than a year, they were toast.

When the game machine platform of choice switches from Sony to xBox to Nintendo, etc., the list of bestelling games change and new companies become dominant.

When the platform for music shifted from record stores to iTunes, the power shifted too, and many labels were crushed.

Again and again the same rules apply. In fact, they always do. When the platform changes, the deck gets shuffled.

Think this only applies to software?

The platform for healthcare changed from independent doctor's offices and small practices to hospitals and hmos.

The platform for TV changed from airwaves to wires (so HBO and ESPN win, NBC loses).

The platform for cars is changing from gas engines to alternatives.

And the platform for books is changing (fast!) to e-books and readers. Just published today: the Vook multimedia production of Unleashing the Ideavirus. The price will increase to $5 in two weeks, but right now it's 99 cents. It runs on the web and on your iphone [try this link too] (and the iPad on April 3rd.)

Here's the thing: Vook abridged it, built it, filmed it and distributed it in less than ninety days. They have a software application that they can use again and again for other titles. They've organized themselves to be profitable at a profit margin that few big book publishers can match.

Once again, the platform changes. Insiders become outsiders and new opportunities abound.

The factory in the center

Old time factories had a linear layout, because there was just one steam engine driving one drive shaft. Every machine in the shop had to line up under the shaft (connected by a pulley) in order to get power.

That metaphor extended to the people working in the factory. Each person was hired and trained and arranged to maximize output. The goal was to engage the factory, to feed it, maintain it and have it produce efficiently.

Distribution was designed in sync with the factory. You wanted to have the right number of trucks and drivers to handle whatever the factory produced and to get it where it needed to go.

Marketing was driven by the factory as well. The goal of marketing was to sell whatever the factory could produce in a given month, for as much money and as little overhead as possible.

And things like customer service and community relations were expenses, things you did in order to keep the factory out of trouble.


What happens when the factory goes away?

What if the organization has no engine in the center that makes something. What if that's outsourced? What if you produce a service or traffic in ideas? What happens when the revolution comes along (the post-industrial revolution) and now all the value lies in the stuff you used to do because you had to, not because you wanted to?

Now it doesn't matter where you sit. Now it doesn't matter whether or not you're adding to the efficiency or productivity of the machine. Now you don't market to sell what you made, you make to satisfy the market. Now, the market and the consumer and idea trump the system.

Suddenly, the power is in a different place, and the organization must change or else the donut collapses.

You rock

This is deceptive.

You don't rock all the time. No one does. No one is a rock star, superstar, world-changing artist all the time. In fact, it's a self-defeating goal. You can't do it.

No, but you might rock five minutes a day.

Five minutes to write a blog post that changes everything, or five minutes to deliver an act of generosity that changes someone. Five minutes to invent a great new feature, or five minutes to teach a groundbreaking skill in a way that no one ever thought of before. Five minutes to tell the truth (or hear the truth).

Five minutes a day you might do exceptional work, remarkable work, work that matters. Five minutes a day you might defeat the lizard brain long enough to stand up and make a difference.

And five minutes of rocking would be enough, because it would be five minutes more than just about anyone else.

Losing Andrew Carnegie

Carnegie apparently said, "Take away my people, but leave my factories and soon grass will grow on the factory floors……Take away my factories, but leave my people and soon we will have a new and better factory."

Is there a typical large corporation working today that still believes this?

Most organizations now have it backwards. The factory, the infrastructure, the systems, the patents, the process, the manual… that's king. In fact, shareholders demand it.

It turns out that success is coming from the atypical organizations, the ones that can get back to embracing irreplaceable people, the linchpins, the ones that make a difference. Anything else can be replicated cheaper by someone else.

Spring reading list–big ideas for idea people

Readers have told me that they enjoy my off-the-wall book lists. Here's another. Science fiction, Tom Peters, Krista Tippett and even a book for touring musicians.

Enjoy them. And don't forget it's okay to share books. They don't wear out.