Are You a Cog or a Linchpin?

LinchpinSeth Godin has made enough of an impact to have his own action figure, perhaps the only business book writer to have earned such a distinction. He’s hit home runs with so many of his books such as Permission Marketing, Purple Cow, All Marketers are Liars, and Tribes. He’s done it again, maybe even more so, with his latest book that is going onto the market January 26 – Linchpin: Are You Indispensable.

If you follow his blog, or follow someone who follows Seth’s writings, you may have been lucky enough to get an early copy of the book as I did by making a donation to the Acumen fund. This book is potent stuff. Read it only if you want to be challenged and changed.

The idea of the book is that the linchpin, that little metal pin that holds the wheels on vehicles and machinery, that holds the whole machine together, is a perfect metaphor of what we all need to do and become now. We do it by being artists and by giving.

This book is an impassioned plea for people not just to get up and lead, but to break out of the factory industrial capitalist model and stop following orders and being cogs in the machine. It calls for us to throw away the formulas that are embedded in our psyche’s as “the resistance” to our own genius, and do the emotional labor needed to do our art – whatever that is – but also where ever we are, or need to be. I loved it how he said that for 90% of the cases, that probably means leaning into the job you have right now. And not waiting for permission from your boss to do great work.

In one chapter, Seth gives completely conflicting directions about what might be needed, and that’s the point. One of the final chapters is “There Is No Map”. True explorers make new maps for the people coming after them, even if it means they might fall off the edge of the world. That’s also what an artist does – not necessarily with canvas and paintbrush. But maybe with WordPress and a laptop, or with a contact list and a cell phone. What is your art? Starting out can be hard, especially if you don’t have the proper knowledge of what you are getting yourself in for. If you need helpful resources for WordPress and how to get going on there, you can check out links like and see how this can benefit you.

It’s hopeless to convey the message of the book in a few paragraphs. Get it. Read it. More than once. Read the books it points to. My life coach, Wendy Keilin, when I told her about Linchpin immediately told me about the book, The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield. This book is all about identifying the Resistance to your Art. And it’s no surprise that it’s the first book in Seth Godin’s bibliography.

Thank you Seth Godin! You’re truly indispensable.

Riding the Waves of Change with Harrison Owen

These videos were taken in May. They show some of Harrison Owen’s latest thinking about the phenomenon that started with him, or through him, after he dreamed up a simple way for groups to meet called “Open Space Technology“. Harrison Owen likes to tell the story of how this happened after two martinis. More important was that he’d put on a conference with a full year of planning, and the feedback he received were that the best part were the coffee breaks.

The intriguing part of this new thinking is how it related to death and dying. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is famous for showing us how people faced with their own mortality as in an incurable disease, tend to go through several phases in the transition before acceptance. The powerful recognition Harrison Owen has made is that the reason Open Space Technology is so powerful is that it rides the space between denial and acceptance. Change work for organizations is a lot like grief work.

Harrison Owen – Talk I – Leadership in a Self-Organizing World from Harold Shinsato on Vimeo.

Harrison Owen – Talk II – Leadership in a Self-Organizing World from Harold Shinsato on Vimeo.

Harrison Owen – Talk III – Leadership in a Self-Organizing World from Harold Shinsato on Vimeo.


Here is a quote from the book by G.K. Chesterton, Heretics.

Nothing more strangely indicates an enormous and silent evil of modern society than the extraordinary use which is made nowadays of the word ‘orthodox.’ In former days the heretic was proud of not being a heretic. It was the kingdoms of the world and the police and the judges who were heretics. He was orthodox. He had no pride in having rebelled against them; they had rebelled against him. The armies with their cruel security, the kings with their cold faces, the decorous processes of State, the reasonable processes of law — all these like sheep had gone astray. The man was proud of being orthodox, was proud of being right. If he stood alone in a howling wilderness he was more than a man; he was a church. He was the centre of the universe; it was round him that the stars swung. All the tortures torn out of forgotten hells could not make him admit that he was heretical. But a few modern phrases have made him boast of it. He says, with a conscious laugh, ‘I suppose I am very heretical,’ and looks round for applause. The word ‘heresy’ not only means no longer being wrong; it practically means being clear-headed and courageous. The word ‘orthodoxy’ not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong. All this can mean one thing, and one thing only. It means that people care less for whether they are philosophically right. For obviously a man ought to confess himself crazy before he confesses himself heretical. The Bohemian, with a red tie, ought to pique himself on his orthodoxy. The dynamiter, laying a bomb, ought to feel that, whatever else he is, at least he is orthodox.

Leadership and Followership

This past weekend I attended an unconference, Leadership in a Self-Organizing World, at the Sleeping Lady Resort in Leavensworth, Washinton.

I need to bring back, and pull out, the benefits from attending this conference to my co-workers, my community, and to myself. But the meal was so rich and intense, I am just wanting to take a big nap after the feast. But I also know I must share this feast, and keep sharing it, or it will not feed anyone.

There is lots to share. I took photographs incessantly while I was there. I invite you to take a peek. The one included in the post was part of a plenary session. I hope it conveys some of the spirit of our passion, playfulness, and reach.

The conference was organized using Open Space Technology, or OST. If you’re not familiar with it, OST is a meeting methodology that is more oriented around interactivity and participation, and which is sometimes called an unconference. There’s an interesting and compelling CNN article about it. Or you can read my own earlier article about it. It has been a passion for me, and something I see has the potential for saving the world. I initiated a wonderful unconference last month, the second annual Missoula BarCamp. We worked on the question of how technology and the arts can help make the world better through Missoula’s vibrant non-profit culture. The participants can’t wait for the next one.

What was compelling at Leadership in a Self-Organizing World? I find it so hard to fit my experience into words, but perhaps telling the stories of the leaders I discovered at the conference will help guide the way. Harrison Owen, the person who discovered Open Space and wrote the book about it, delivered two talks which I videotaped and I will post online. The talks themselves were excellent examples of public speaking which is a key leadership skill to learn, and there are plenty of courses that can help you like Ginger Public Speaking. Visit website to see if there are any happening near you soon. He made clear that the world is already self-organizing. There is only the illusion of control. He also drove home that the power of Open Space is addressing the point where our old answers fail us, and we reach for new ones. It’s a vital question for this current time, where structures are falling away so quickly. He referenced the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who described the phases someone goes through when they learn they have a fatal disease. These are phases people go through in any change. We deny, we grieve, we get angry, we get depressed. And eventually we accept.

St. Paul said he died daily. The universe is ever beyond our comprehension, so the healthy approach is always to be open to what is emerging. Perhaps that was the greatest lesson at the conference. Life is ever renewing and ever emergent. A good leader knows this, and helps foster leadership in everyone around us. It is this kind of ideology that’s used within the business world, with companies similar to Cavendish Wood helping smaller businesses get themselves on the right path to leadership within their companies.

In the Baha’i faith, the founder said that the sign of the maturity of mankind was when no one wanted to bear the burden of kingship. When we realize that the universe is self-organizing is perhaps the only point where a leader can truly be a leader. Just as Jesus taught that those who would be first among us would serve everyone else, and as he sacrificed his life to promote that message, maybe that’s the real lesson of being a good leader – learning to follow spirit.

Mush – Not a Healthy Team Diet

MushA book has fallen in my path again. If you’re not aware of it, I’m a big fan of Jim and Michele McCarthy’s “Core Protocols“. They have a great podcast on their website. They did pioneering work in software development at Microsoft, which is documented in Jim’s book, the Dynamics of Software Development. That work encouraged them to break away from Microsoft and build their own team work research laboratory, which led them to their book, Software For Your Head.

Jim and Michele uncovered great software for human teams, they called The Core Protocols. The software runs in the minds of the team members, not in a computer. I’ve taken a few of their Bootcamps. It’s not what you’d expect from computer gurus. We played drums, we painted, we made art work, and we talked about our FEELINGS. Run for the hills! But it worked. It was an experience I had only had rarely in my entire career, where people felt inspired, creative, and most importantly, cooperative and mutual support flowed in abundance.

What’s this have to do with mush? It’s been a challenge to get myself to follow the guidance from Jim and Michele. What’s worse, I thought I had to get everyone else in my teams to take on the Core Protocols before they could benefit from them. What did Ghandi say? “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I knew that, but still, it was a challenge. It just seemed way out in outerspace, that if people share their feelings and just talk to each other with a little hygene, that magic will happen.

This new book that’s fallen on my path is called Clear Leadership by Gervase Bushe. I would not have read it and inspired a team of 8 people at SAP to read this book with me had it not been for Jim and Michele McCarthy. Part of their fantastic community of software developers, change managers, counselors, and managers, is a wonderful gentleman from Paris, Christophe Thibaut, who told me the book is fantastic.

The main theme of “Clear Leadership” seems so obvious on face value. What happens in most teams (and most groups of human beings) is what he calls “Interpersonal Mush”. We all make up stories in our heads about things. It’s what our brains are built to do. They do it constantly. Unfortunately, we make up fictions about each other without validating the stories directly. Trust is damaged, collaboration is impeded, and of course, productivity sinks. Bureaucracy has the saving grace of keeping people in line towards an objective despite this, but at a painful soul cost.

What I love about The Core Protocols and Jim and Michele McCarthy’s work is that it provides some very simple tools to get better at the four skills that Gervase Bushe identifies that we need to provide “Clear Leadership”. The four skills are self-awareness, descriptiveness, curiosity, and appreciation. When we practice these skills, it cuts down on interpersonal mush. And when we practice the Core Protocols, it does that too!

The Core Protocols helps you connect with your passion, wisdom, integrity, faith, the kind of nutrition a team needs to do great things. So let’s change the team diet, cut down on the interpersonal mush, and get some healthy virtue-vitamins into our teams.

Do it Gung Ho!

Gung Ho!Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles wrote a page turner with their book Gung Ho! A book about leadership, the lesson was delivered in the form of a story where a manager is tasked with turning around a failing plant and instead her own ideas of leadership are turned around by a maverick manager of one of the teams at this plant.

It’s a great book. I hope many people read it and take it to heart. It lays a very realistic plan for optimum performance through the honoring of the individual as more than a resource, as people with real lives, concerns, hopes, and dreams. And that when we embrace the full humanity only then will the team come together to provide high performance for the company’s objectives.

There are so many business books on leadership, yet there seems to be such a lack of it most of the time. Perhaps leadership has much more to do with every one of us than it does the people at the “top”.

The World War II term, Gung Ho!, actually came from the Chinese word Gōnghé which is short for a longer phrase meaning “industrial workers cooperative”. It’s interesting that an über-capitalist book would adopt a Chinese Communist term, but perhaps it is indeed only in the collective that we’ll ever get to participate in truly enthusiastic collaborative – and fulfilling – work.

Ben Zander – One buttocks leadership

Thank you to Phil Gerbyshak for pointing out this talk by Ben Zander at TED. I don’t know if I can introduce it better than Phil, as Phil saw the full 75 minute lecture live. Ben Zander shows the difference between playing a piece with short phrasing and playing it with the full vision in mind and rocking from one buttocks to another slowly with long phrasing.  Seeing the full vision is the difference between getting distracted with what we’re going to have for lunch and a Nelson Mandela who spends 25 years in prison. Please watch this!

Missoula BarCamp 2008

The Missoula BarCamp 2008 approaches in only 8 days.  Saturday April 26, 2008.  The Missoula Area Economic Development Corporation has generously donated their space.  We’ve received support from several other companies and organizations.

Having this conference was to meet a strong desire to participate in such an event.  Coming to the Missoula Web Developers Discussion group meetings once a month has been invigorating and enlivening.  It helps to learn in less formal settings and to enable more easy exchanges.  A BarCamp is an agile method of producing a conference.  It makes it easy to contribute and easy to attend.  It’s kind of a Just In Time method for knowledge transferal.  A computer language compiler converts the program written by the programmer into bytes and bits that can be processed by the hardware of a computer.  Just in Time compilation may seem lazy, just leaving things to the last minute.  But it turns out that leaving things to the last minute has some real benefits.  Because you can optimize based on the circumstances.

This isn’t a general truth.  There are times when thinking things through in advance is a very good idea.  It’s also true that some of the most interesting problems, sometimes called “wicked problems”, are best solved with more agile approaches.  And this way of thinking is solving some of the more difficult engineering and software development problems today and it has also been streamlining product delivery, requiring less warehousing and storage as production lines get closer to producing them upon demand.  It’s amazing the costs when you have to know everything up front.