Poke the Box

Summary Written by Prashanth Gopalan

The Big Idea

Take Action

"The job isn’t to catch up to the status quo. The job is to invent the status quo."- Poke the Box, Seth Godin, Preface (Kindle version)

And there it is – two lines beating with the unison of one heart.

All of Seth’s ideas, passions, even his personal successes, irrevocably point to this one statement. Regardless of how you reach a position which allows you to reinvent the status quo – whether it be through permission marketing, an ideavirus, tribes, selling the purple cow or by being a linchpin – it pays to take the plunge and start something you think is new and exciting.

Forget what the others have to say about it. Go, do it, now. If you fail, fine, do it again and be prepared to succeed. If you fail again, iterate – until you succeed.

Insight #1

Curiosity Wins

"Every once in a while I’ll perform an illusion or some technical shortcut and someone won’t ask how. People have been indoctrinated so completely by their jobs that they don’t want to know how something works, they’re willing to accept that perhaps the laws of nature don’t work as they expect, and by the way, can I have the remote? Initiative is a little like creativity in that both require curiosity. Not the search for the “right answer”, as much as an insatiable desire to understand how something works and how it might work better. The difference is that the creative person is satisfied once he sees how it’s done. The initiator won’t rest until he does it."- Poke the Box, page 23 of 83 (Kindle version)

Did you want me to elaborate? Ah what the hell, here’s another one:

“Imagine that the world had no middlemen, no publishers, no bosses, no HR folks, no one telling you what you couldn’t do.

If you lived in that world, what would you do?

Go. Do that.”

I hope you’re seeing the point. No matter how many times you read this quote, it starts with igniting that fire in your belly and going on a journey to find out “why?”. Until you find something that gets you sitting on the edge of your seat, burning with curiosity and filling you with eagerness to give it your best shot, you haven’t really gone anywhere yet.

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Insight #2

No Shortcuts

"The easiest way may be the best plan in the short run, but it certainly doesn’t work for the long haul. In the short run, playing your strongest player, following the play-book, rewarding someone who has done it before – these are all great ways to win. In the long run, though, all you’ve done is taught conformity and punished initiation."- Poke the Box, page 48 (Kindle version)

A word to all managers, this quote should be framed and hung on the wall of your office. Stifling creativity isn’t exactly new (Emperor Shah Jahan of medieval India buried alive the artisans who built the Taj Mahal), but in today’s day and age it’s foolish and fatal.

As Seth points out repeatedly in all his output, the age of the factory is over – rote, routine, mindless tasks are not only unwelcome, but ultimately self-defeating. The new economy will be driven by ideas, and if stifling creativity aborts ideas then it will end up aborting businesses too, regardless of how old or new they are.

In short, there really is no way to summarize this book without doing it some form of injustice. I wish I could quote half (or all of) this book in this summary, but I won’t.

All I can advise is to read the book. It’s well worth it. And if that’s not enough for you, try the free Poke the Box workbook as well – it’s packed with tips, exercises and workarounds to get your juices and humours flowing the right way.

Go. Start poking.

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Seth Godin

SETH GODIN is the author of 17 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip and Purple Cow.

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