You recently made a splash by announcing that Linchpin would be your final book with a conventional publisher. Is cutting out the middleman a luxury reserved for bestselling authors with established brands and strong marketing talents, or do you think this is where the publishing industry is headed?
Publishing is about taking a financial risk to bring an idea to the world, it’s not about printing. Printing is easy.
The hard part for any author going forward isn’t going to be getting shelf space (that’s infinite at Amazon). The hard part is permission to talk to people who want to hear from you and in creating ideas worth spreading.
So, either publishers are going to start building that asset or authors will.
What happens to organizations when linchpins leave? Can Zappos be Zappos without Tony Hsieh? Can Virgin exist without Richard Branson?
Great question. I think smart organizations have more than one linchpin, no?
In Linchpin, you write that “it’s damaging to put on a new face for work” and suggest people bring their personalities and emotions into their jobs. But doesn’t it get tiring to be “on brand” all the time?
It’s not tiring if your brand is you. If the emotional labour you do is from the heart, then it’s natural. If the work you do is important, it’s okay to keep doing it. Where the stress comes is when you don’t believe, or if you’re scared out of your mind.
You talk about the need to stop obsessing over perfection and simply “ship” ideas and products as soon as they’re ready. But does this ability depend on the brand’s positioning? (i.e. it may work for Google but not Apple or Mercedes who have built their reputations on the promise of perfection).
Apple? Apple ships stuff that isn’t perfect all the time. They sell to people who value “first.” I agree that Mercedes is in a different category. I think most organizations that want to grow, though, have little choice but to create a culture of innovation.
What are some sites, tools or services that you find indispensable for overcoming resistance and “shipping” what needs to get done?
How important a role does content play in what you’ve famously called permission marketing? Are there any brands doing a good job of providing useful, relevant content in an unobtrusive way?
Content is at the core of it. I like that Amazon knows what I like. I like that Groupon is funny. I like that my domain service only reminds me of expiring domains at the appropriate last minute…
Linchpin draws upon Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, which was written a good two decades before the whole question of whether online content should be free or locked behind a paywall. Do you think media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and soon the New York Times are making a big mistake by opting out of the gift economy?
There’s no doubt it’s a huge error. The Guardian is already bigger than both, and the Times is much bigger than the Journal. Trading attention for short-term cash gain is a no-win strategy I think.
Your books contains so many airline- and hotel-related examples that you obviously spend a lot of time on the road. Can you think of an instance when a travel brand or service proved indispensable?
What is actually good about travel?
The security guys treat me like a criminal. The flight attendants yell at me. The flights are overstacked, things go wrong, promises are broken. The airport food is miserable. Sorry, but the only thing the travel and hospitality people I interact with seem obsessed with is cost reduction. They usually pander to the middle of the market and forget to treat different customers differently. Where’s the joy?
I’m ranting now. I’m sorry.
It’s so easy to get this more right than they’re getting it. So easy to hire people (and train people and reward people) to focus on delight, to keep promises, to get to the heart of why people are travelling in the first place. I know how deadening it is to deal with the crowds day in and day out, and I’m sure it wears them down, but the individual traveller finds it hard to be sympathetic.