‘Poke the Box’ by Seth Godin

The Official Book Description: We send our kids to school and obsess about their test scores, their behaviour and their ability to fit in. We post a help wanted ad and look for experience, famous colleges and a history of avoiding failure. We invest in companies based on how they did last quarter, not on what they’re going to do tomorrow. So why are we surprised when it all falls apart? Our economy is not static, but we act as if it is. Your position in the world is defined by what you instigate, how you provoke, and what you learn from the events you cause. In a world filled with change, that’s what matters — your ability to create and learn from change. Poke the Box is a manifesto about producing something that’s scarce, and thus valuable. It demands that you stop waiting for a road map and start drawing one instead. You know how to do this, you’ve done it before, but along the way, someone talked you out of it. We need your insight and your dreams and your contributions. Hurry.

What does it mean to “Poke the Box”? In Seth Godin’s on words “Poke the Box is a manifesto and a permission slip. A manifesto in that it argues that the only real way for us to succeed today is to take initiative. It’s not given, it’s something we do. We provoke, create a ruckus, experiment, fail, repeat, learn, succeed. This notion that it is up to each person to innovate in some way flies in the face of the industrial age, but you know what, the industrial age is over. And it’s a permission slip because some people are waiting for one. If your boss or your co-worker or your spouse gives you a copy, they’re saying, “go.””

The Gist of the Book: Life is a buzzer box. Poke it!

Some good lines from the Book:

  • Human nature is to need a map. If you’re brave enough to draw one, people will follow
  • No one has influence, control, or confidence in his work until he understands how to initiate change and predict how the box will respond
  • You don’t have to be a Howard Schultz to be an initiator
  • The spark I’m talking about is simple to describe, but easy to avoid
  • Ever heard of ‘instigation capital’? The desire to move forward. The ability and the guts to say yes
  • Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance
  • Avoiding failure (by not acting) is counterproductive
  • Economics of poking: When the cost of poking the box is less than the cost of doing nothing, then you should poke
  • The connected economy of ideas demands that we contribute initiative. Yet we resist, relentlessly exaggerating the cost of being wrong
  • Poking successfully also requires tact. You’re trying to change things, not have people recoil in anger or fear from your poking
  • Tact in poking includes sharing the “why” of an idea and “persuading” people, so the idea gathers momentum and gets spread
  • Excellence isn’t about working harder to do what you’re told. It’s about taking the initiative to do work you decide is worth doing
  • What makes our work and our life interesting is discovery, surprise, and the risk of exploration
  • Many times, the boundary is in one’s head, not in the system
  • If you had a chance to do a TED talk, what would it be about? What have you discovered, what do you know, what can you teach?
  • Approach your work in a way that generates unique learning and interactions that are worth sharing
  • Poking doesn’t mean being right. It means action
  • Try is the opposite of hiding
  • If you don’t finish, it doesn’t really count as starting, and if you don’t start, you’re not poking
  • You can’t snooze your way to greatness. You can’t optimise your way to quantum growth
  • People with no credibility or resources rarely get the leverage they need to bring their ideas to the world. People with credibility & resources are so busy trying to hold onto them that they fail to bring their big ideas to the world
  • Does your organisation embrace someone who made a difference, or search for the employee handbook for a rule that was violated?
  • The relentless act of invention and innovation and initiative is the best marketing asset
  • If you hide your spark, bury your ideas, keep your questions from the team, it’s as if you had stolen a laptop and fenced it on eBay
  • Science that comes up with results that surprise the investigator is probably valid, because the self-fulfilling bias hasn’t shown up
  • If you can’t fail, your poke doesn’t count!
  • When was the last time you set out to be promiscuous in your failures?
  • Some of us hesitate when we should be starting. We hold back, promise to do more research, wait for a better moment, seek a kinder audience..
  • It’s easy to fall so in love with the idea of starting, that we never actually start
  • Forward motion is a defensible business asset
  • There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth. Not going all the way, and not starting ~ Siddhartha Gautama

Epilogue: When can you start? Soon is not as good as now!

The Book Cover: The man in a hurry (see pic below) is an archetype, first discovered in the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt. He’s you, the excited, optimistic experimenter who understands that risk is misunderstood and that forward motion is the key to success. The image is a trademark of The Domino Project, but you have their permission to use it non-commercially, to encourage your peers to GO…

Click for youtube video of Seth Godin on Poke The Box

Finally, click here for Poke the Box Workbook

Go. Now.