If you are a fan of Seth Godin, you will definitely like his latest book, Linchpin. The premise of the book is that we live and work in a hyper competitive world, one that requires us to think very differently about our contribution whether we are the CEO, a manager or a single contributor. While this statement isn’t earth shattering, as humans we tend to get caught up in the “ignore it and it will eventually go away” syndrome. So why is it so hard for us to take risks, re-craft our mission or make a course correction before it is too late? Blame it on our lizard brain – yes, you heard me right! That lizard brain deep within, and which houses the doubts and fears, attempts to sabotage anything that feels threatening or risky. Some might call this insecurity or self-doubt. However you define it, until we identify these fears, resolve to overcome them and take action, we will be frustrated and stalled.
So what does it take to become a Linchpin? Primarily, Linchpins challenge the status quo, exert emotional energy and make a map for the future. Linchpins are brave enough to work hard and make a difference. Of the seven key attributes outlined in his book, three rise to the top of my list as I think about our leadership and strategy. Linchpins must:
Possess a Unique Talent. Godin states that we don’t need just a positioning statement or a unique selling proposition. We need superpower. He says, “If you want to be a Linchpin, the power you bring to the table has to be difficult to replace. Be bolder and think bigger. Nothing stopping you.” In other works, know your strengths, make a plan and stick with it. When I think of MR companies that exemplify this trait, Communispace comes to mind. Diane Hessan, CEO, Communispace, says “We do one thing well and we are relentlessly focused on just doing it better and better and better.” With a past five year growth rate of 580%, Communispace is no doubt the clear market leader in consumer insight communities.
Managing a Situation or Organization of Great Complexity. In other words, when the situation gets tough – the tough get going! As Godin describes in his book, “Linchpins make their own maps, and thus allow the organization to navigate more quickly than it ever could if it had to wait for the paralyzed crowd to figure out what to do next.” There is a new class MR start-ups shaking things up, but there are also some existing MR firms, both large and small, that are continually challenging the status quo. One example is Gongos Research. I spoke with their CEO, John Gongos, a couple of weeks ago and he credits his company’s success to staying nimble with quarterly strategic planning and having a disciplined approach to customer acquisition and account management. John recently spoke on this topic at a CASRO Leadership Conference in Chicago and a short article will be published in the upcoming CASRO Journal.
Leading Customers. We all know that as markets become more fragmented and consumer connectivity increases, we have to think differently about how we interact with our customer. Social media, social networks, data mining/business intelligence, neuroscience and mobile are “hot topics” these days, and it will be interesting to see how these methods evolve over the next three to five years. I believe those companies (some examples: Blue Ocean, Revelation, InsightsNow, Brainjuicer) that connect the dots on new technology and methods with evolving customers’ needs, will master the change that is necessary in new MR era. The challenge is yours to figure it out!
As business executives, we could get pretty pessimistic about the future of our industry. I, for one, am an optimist, and believe Linchpins are alive and well in the MR space. These leaders are out there crafting and re-crafting their business models, staying focused on core strengths and leading customers into the future. Are you a Linchpin? From your perspective, would you add more traits to my/Seth’s list?
For more information about Beth Rounds.
Note: In full disclosure, some of the companies mentioned in this blog are current Cambiar clients, others are not.