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Seth Godin: Are We Trying Hard Enough To Do The Best Work Possible? [FUTURE OF WORK]

PSFK chats with the popular author about how to make employees more eager to contribute to the growth of their company.

Wesley Robison
Wesley Robison on September 23, 2012. @redixculous
PSFK Presents The Future Of Work

As part of our Future of Work Series, PSFK reached out to experts to get their take on the changes we’ve identified that are currently going on in the workplace. We recently caught up with Seth Godin, and chatted with him about how people can make an impact in their workplaces. His upcoming book The Icarus Deception that asks ‘Can you produce what you’re capable of?’ was funded on Kickstarter in a matter of hours.

Check out our conversation with Seth below to learn more about the difficult decisions we are faced with, in the workplace.

How does who you know make you better suited for what you’re doing and aid in your job place integration?

 Right. I think that’s a great point. And I was walking through the offices of a very well-known magazine the other day. And at least a third of the people I passed had Facebook or Twitter prominently opened on their screen. And I think that the people who run the place who are aware of this and felt like if their workforce was better integrated into the community, they would do better. But it wasn’t working, and the reason it wasn’t working is because people were wasting time in hiding from their real work, as opposed to using this opportunity to actually connect with the people they needed to connect with.

So, in a connection economy, which is where we live, we’re not going to succeed by sloppy networks. We’re not going to succeed by trading favors. We’re going to succeed by actually being part of a community and part of a network, and I don’t think you can do that on demand. I think you have to plan for it. So there are some people who are coming up with these new tools who are going to be ready for that, but there’s a whole other group that is just wasting time.

Do you think gamification in the workplace will help to bring these people into the conversation, and have the proper incentives to really get involved?

Is the point of gamification to be able to manipulate your workers so that you don’t actually have to tell them the truth? Or, is the point to create an environment where people overcome their own fear and their own resistance. It’s very easy to do the first one. Gamifying a fast food restaurant to make your productivity go up five percent isn’t particularly difficult. I think it’s significantly more difficult to do the second one.

There’s a million tactics available. You don’t have to look at the employee handbook at Dow. What they’re doing at Dow is funded by the fact that they’re an enormously profitable company, but they made the decision it would be better for the long haul to build a great company than it would be to build a company that maximizes its profit. That’s a really tough decision.

The tactics are merely laying the groundwork for two different kinds of bosses and two different kinds of leaders and two different kinds of managers. One is wondering, “How do I get more out of people by giving them less?” And the other one is saying, “How do I create a platform for people to do work that they’re proud of?” I don’t think you can. I think if you answer that question at the beginning, the tactics take care of themselves.

Is there a model to bring people together in a work culture?

Yeah, try.

Put some backbone into it, so to speak?

Yeah, no one is busy saying, “I wonder if there are methods available to make my company more profitable.” They don’t need to do that because they’ve decided, 100 years ago, that their goal is to make their company more profitable, right? So it becomes obvious when you leave out the buck. “I want it to be in a nationally read magazine. I want it to be green. But I have to be just as profitable in the short run as I used to be.” Well, you can’t do that.

Do you think that after a while there’s a breaking point of how much can be done or how much openness can be ascertained without really having some focus?

 Oh, yeah. I don’t think that the people who are doing the smart work are demanding that everyone be in charge all the time and that work becomes a version of Wikipedia. I think that if you give people real leadership the fact is that when Phil Knight was running Nike, when Steve Jobs was running Apple, you didn’t see a lot of people quitting in disgust because they didn’t get to be in charge, right? And the reason is the people were willing to follow a strong leader who has a sense of where he or she’s going. You’ve got to be really careful about not thinking that it’s a democracy. It’s not a democracy. It’s a journey, and the question is, “Are you taking people on the journey you promised you’d take them on?”

Thanks Seth!

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