in Organizations


Some terse notes from the free bits of Seth Godin’s Survival Is Not Enough. I find his prose a bit wordy, but I think he’s trying not only to communicate the ideas but also to inspire.

  • Evolution in business is a theme…‘Extinction is part of the process of creation. Failure is the cornerstone of evolution’ and ‘[Kinko’s] had a posture about change that treated innovations and chaos as good things, not threats’ and ‘Sooner or later, every winning strategy stops working. The competition catches up. Technology changes.’
  • Small, quick, cheap feedback loops allow for low-risk experimentation. Ask: ‘How much will it cost to find out if it works, how long will it take and how much damage will be done if we’re wrong?
  • Factories – any kind of large, long-term investment – make it hard for companies to change. Lease, don’t buy.
  • Echoing the broken windows theory, he cites the stupid little things big companies do to piss off customers, reminding us that small customer interactions matter
  • ‘Discovering your winning strategy and saying it aloud is critically important in getting ready to change it. The easiest way I can describe for finding your strategy is to do this: Figure out what changes in the outside world would be the worst possible things that could happen to your company. (No fair picking something that affects every business . . . it’s got to be something that is specific to your industry.)’
  • Competent people resist change. Why? Because [giving up what they do well] threatens to make them less competent.’
  • Knowing when to pile on (as AOL did once ICQ started to succeed) or when to abandon ship (as Amazon did with their Junglee shopping service) is an art.’
  • And yet, sending signals that you are a robust company (an expensive lobby) affects – as in sexual signals – a client’s perception: ‘The companies that can waste the time and money to send these signals are the ones that we believe are more likely to have the resources to provide good customer support, more likely to be in business years from now…Signals aren’t right or wrong. Instead, they either work or they don’t.’
  • On assholes that don’t work well in groups: ‘A bully gets what she wants at the expense of the group’s well-being. And because bullies operate from a zone of fear, they’re the most likely to effectively oppose change of any kind…Firing people is dramatically underrated as a management strategy.’
  • And last but not least, and one big reason I left SBI/Razorfish: ‘Choose Your Customers, Choose Your Future…Every time you interact with clients, you swap memes with them. They affect the work you do, the prices you charge, the rate at which you change and the kind of person you hire.’