A whirlwind of creative energy with a never-ending supply of fresh ideas, Seth Godin—founder of two Internet firms and author of 18 business books including bestsellers Purple Cow, Tribes, and Linchpin—has spent the last two decades shaking up the way the world thinks about business. The Hastings-on-Hudson-based author and entrepreneur gave us plenty of food for thought during our recent conversation.
What’s your overlying message? What do you hope to inspire people to do?
The arc of my work is about the transition from the industrial economy to the connection economy where we live now, where anyone with access to the Internet owns their own factory, their own printing press, their own connection machine. And so our challenge is whether we will choose to use the opportunity, to share, to speak up, to contribute in a way where we would be missed if we were gone.
What does it mean to “poke the box”? And will everyone be doing just that after reading your latest book?
It’s pretty easy to accept the box we’re given. We’re assigned a role, boundaries, a status quo. We’re told to finish our checklist or do what’s expected. Except that the ones who seem to have the most fun and do the best work spend very little time accepting the box they’re given. Instead of willingly becoming a cog in someone else’s machine, they poke it, examine it, turn it over, and then build their own. Why not? What, exactly, are we waiting for?
Why should business leaders be looking for employees who will poke the box?
If your business is stable, in a static environment, you don’t need ruckus-makers, or people like me telling you to poke anything. For the rest of us though, for those seeking growth and change and the chance to make an impact, your business is only as good as the people you hire. If you hire people who are good at following instructions, don’t expect innovation.
You’ve written extensively about how to revolutionize marketing. Why do so many companies get marketing so wrong?
Too often, marketers are on an organizationally sanctioned power trip, taking what they can get in exchange for paying a few bucks for some ads. Well, that’s not working so well any more. Just about every success story from this generation is about remarkable products designed for weird (caring) customers. Marketers that are able to deliver anticipated, personal, and relevant messages to people who would miss them if they were gone are the ones we care about today.