March 25, 2011 in Book reviews

Poke the Box

Poke the Box by Seth Godin is something very new as it has been published by The Domino Project where Seth Godin and others are working with Amazon to self-publish books in a new way.

The book is a manifesto, which Godin himself describes at one point as a rant! It is in some ways reminiscent of Linchpin, but it is a much simpler book which focuses on a much narrower challenge. The title ‘Poke the Box’ comes from a toy where a child needs to keep poking the box in order to see what things do and find out what actually works and Godin argues that we’ve lost a lot of that childlike ‘curiosity in action’!


So what is Seth Godin ranting about?

Godin makes a hugely compelling argument about the paradox that:

1 – We’ve instilled a fear of failure into employees and we’ve systematically removed the active curiosity that, as children, makes us poke the box. He uses the analogy of juggling and suggests that we’ve become so obsessed with catching the balls (and not letting them drop) that we’ve reduced our focus on throwing the balls up into the air. We still hang on to this fear of failure despite recognising that the most successful people and businesses are generally the ones who have had more failures than most, as a natural consequence of trying things.

2 – The future is a very scary proposition for businesses today; Travel agents, Magazines, and Encyclopaedia Britannica all had solid business models that have been totally turned on their head by ‘new entrants’. Business must face the fact that the barriers to entry are lower than ever before and that the connected economy is no longer founded on ‘money and organisational might’, but on initiative. Competing as a commodity is a dangerous place to be and there is a lot of mediocre out there! For those who are resting on the laurels of a great idea, Godin argues that ‘The half-life of an insight or innovation is short and getting shorter… Innovating and harvesting isn’t a long-term strategy”. When you read Godin’s assertion that “The simple thing that separates successful individuals from those who languish is the very thing that separates exciting and growing organisations from those that stagnate and die. The winners have turned initiative into a passion and a practice.”, which category do you put yourself into? I run my own business and I get to try a lot of new things so I was feeling reasonably smug until I really reflected on Godin’s argument that it is all about starting, not starting to think about but about leaping, committing, making things happen. I’ve realised that I’m missing a lot of opportunities that are buzzing round my head but – If I’m being really honest – I’m only putting them into action when I don’t think I can fail.


What does Seth Godin think you should do?

Well, you need to read the book but the things that made me think were:

– Be curious, challenge the mediocre and dream of ways to do things better

– Don’t wait for somebody to pick you and give you permission to do something remarkable, just get on and do it!

– Don’t dwell on hunches and notions; great ideas are worthless unless you do something with them and see it through.

– “The opportunity is to adopt a new practice, one where you find low-risk, low-cost ways to find out just how smart and intuitive and generous you actually are.”

– “Imagine that you had [no-one] telling you what you couldn’t do. If you lived in that world, what would you do. Go, Do that.”


What do I think you should do?

Watch his video:

Buy or borrow the book, read it and do something!

Download the free workbook that accompanies the book and use it.

Finally: Get excited, get passionate and do something.


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