Despite your teachers, friends, boss, colleagues and family members telling you otherwise, you are a linchpin. You are a genius that can succeed in the new economy. Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin, sets out to challenge you to unlearn what school and society has rewarded in the past, and to let us all know that we are linchpins (if we make the choice to be).

I just finished reading an advance copy of Linchpin, and have to recommend the book to anyone who either manages people at work or for anyone who has to work for a living. I have read many of Seth’s other books which provide prophetic insight how the Internet and technology have changed marketing and business forever. Linchpin similarly argues that technology is changing the business world dramatically, but the book focuses more on what these changes mean for individuals, and the new opportunities and rewards for those who chose to be linchpins.

What is a linchpin?

The term is defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as: “(1) a locking pin inserted crosswise (as through the end of an axle or shaft); (2) one that serves to hold together parts or elements that exist or function as a unit <the linchpin in the defense’s case>.” Seth’s theme throughout the book is that a linchpin is an artist who challenges the status quo, and in doing so creates value, and in doing this become indispensible. An artist is not necessarily someone who creates a painting, but Seth says a lawyer, engineer, salesman, politician or a mid-level manager in a large company can all create art. Seth argues that “art is the ability to change people with your work, to see thing as they are and then create stories, images, and interactions that change the marketplace.”

Is it hard to be a linchpin?

Definitely. As Seth observes, “Nothing about becoming indispensable is easy. If it’s easy, it’s already been done and it’s no longer valuable.” But as Seth argues, in today’s world to be “successful” you have no choice but to be a linchpin. Not being a linchpin relegates a worker’s work into a commodity, which makes the worker easily replaceable by the next person who will do the work cheaper.

The book covers the shift in economics that the Internet has developed, which has opened up so much more opportunity. In the past, the bourgeoisie controlled the capital to invest in factories. The proletariat workers had little leverage in the equation because they do not possess the capital to create their own factories. Today, however, “the proletariat own the means of production.”   With the new economy, we have to unlearn the factory mind-set that we have been programmed to live by over the last 100 years – which rewarded showing up for work and following the rules. The Internet has changed this.

While technology has changed the rules of the game, individuals need to make a choice. Society does not reward blind rule-following, but instead requires linchpins who do not have maps telling them what to do next. This is difficult, as we are conditioned by society to follow the status quo and to fit in. Linchpins understand this, and must continually fight off the tendency to give-up, conform and to take the easy path by simply following the rules (Seth refers to this tendency as the resistance).

What does this have to do with employment law?

Well, as a blogger, I have read Seth’s blog for a couple of years.  Before I read the book, I thought it would have no relationship to employment law what-so-ever.  But, only a few pages into the book I realized that this book is a must read for managers and human resource professionals. Companies need to realize they now need linchpins within their organizations, and they need to allow employees room to be linchpins, instead of drowning out these productive individuals by forcing them to conform. Seth notes that “Great bosses and world-class organizations hire motivated people, set high expectations, and give their people room to become remarkable.”  This book is not only a wake-up call to managers about what type of employee is needed in today’s workplace.