Are you the box needing a poke?

Poke the BoxPoke the Box by Seth Godin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Are you the box needing a poke?

Wow. Seth Godin’s newest book Poke the Box has been out for a mere 3 days, and I notice there are already 14 reviews on Goodreads and 46 more at Blogger buzz was singing high notes in my feed reader.

As an author it’s easy to feel the green monster of envy breathing down your neck, for Godin has quite a tribe of sneezers (as he calls his vocal audience of idea spreaders). However I’m someone who’s feeling mighty grateful for the energy he’s stirring up.

Seth Godin enjoyed picking on managers in Tribes, We Need You To Lead Us, and he doesn’t let up in this book either:

“So the new manager says to herself, ‘I better not tell my staff that pickles are the trendy new appetizer, or they’ll be on the menu within days— and if they flop, the buck will stop with me.’” ~ Poke the Box

However this time my reaction was different. I see his rant (which he admits PTB is, both rant and manifesto) as a welcome challenge to managers everywhere, one which asks, Have you been part of the problem?

For if you have been (or heaven forbid, still are), here’s a guy giving you a golden opportunity: Evangelize new projects. Support their leaders. Turn into a new breed of manager, and prove that a lot of what Godin has said about you in both Tribes and Poke the Box is wrong — at least on your turf, in your workplace, and in your life.

“The company policy manual has an answer for your situation, and it only takes a few vice presidents to make it clear.” ~ Poke the Box

Poke the Box is written for your employees, and/or you as an employee, and Godin has written it for just one reason: To convince them (and you) that they MUST have more initiative and be a self-starter in everything they do. Not should, must. And work is a great place to make your magical turnaround happen:

“If there’s no clear right answer, perhaps the thing you ought to do is something new. Something new is often the right path when the world is complicated [as it often is.]”
~ Poke the Box

Godin’s coaching, and the sneezing of his über excited audience, is FANTASTIC news for managers — unless they’re the old schoolers he describes who much prefer employees who are “cogs” and excel at compliance, not creativity. However you” Are you ready to break some rules?

Poke the Box is a quick read: Just 96 pages long. At $4.99 on Kindle and other e-readers, it’ll be a much better wake-up for managers than their morning coffee if they take Godin’s advice to heart and “Go, go, go.”

I really enjoyed the book, for Seth’s trademark pithiness shines through in several spots (there aren’t chapters, just short sections). He has a talent for making contrarian thinking seem so obvious and reasonable:

“Only in systems where quality is a given do we care about attempts [which might not work]. I’m not sure Yoda was right when he said, ‘Do or do not, there is no try.’ Yes, there is a try. Try is the opposite of hiding.” ~ Poke the Box

If your employees read this book, you’d best not be hiding either. They’re likely to need your help, for as I tell you in my own writing, over and over again, managers matter. I don’t care what Seth or anyone else says about you: To be an Alaka‘i Manager is to answer a nobler calling.

Yes, I like Seth Godin and admit to being a fan.

However if you’re a manager, I want you to prove him wrong. Wrong about your role, your spirit, and your demeanor.

For he’s right about you in so many other ways:

“You already have good ideas, already have something to say, already have a vivid internal dialogue about what you could do and how it might make things better. If you don’t, if there’s just static inside, I think it’s really unlikely you read this far” The reasons for lying low are clear and obvious and stupid. The opportunity is to adopt a new practice, one where you find low-risk, low-cost ways to find out just how smart and intuitive and generous you actually are.” ~ Poke the Box

At the end of Poke the Box Godin asks us to share it, his m.o. since he wrote Unleashing the Ideavirus. I hesitated after reading Tribes but this one is a win for all of us.

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