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Poke the Box from Seth Godin: a book review

by Mark P. McDonald  |  April 1, 2011  |  1 Comment

Seth Godin is an author who can take a simple idea that we all intuitively understand and transform it into a fresh call for action. Poke the Box is just such a book and something that is well worth the read. The book is an explanation and celebration of people who get things started — the ones who are not content to watch the system work, but prefer to ‘poke the box’ and see what happens.

Every organization needs people who start things. Initiators are rare in any organization as they have the idea, pursue it and often push it through organizational processed he’ll bent on preventing individual initiative in the favor of consensus based action. Godin’s book gives the reader solid support for a simple but significant act:

Starting something

In 80 or so pages, Godin outlines the imperative and potential advantage of getting onto the front foot and initiating change. The reason is simple. In a world of relatively infinite supply, the future belongs not to people who seek to control things but rather to those who are willing to say ‘let’s get is started.’

More than a self help book, Poke the Box is part argument, part manifesto and part wake up call. Well worth the hour or so it takes to read. The book is not perfect and for some it will see it as boosterism, particularly those who say that you need to look well before you leap.

This book is part of a trend for micro-books organized around simple messages. You have to realize what this book is, a poke ala Facebook, not a scholarly work. The natuer of Poke the Box is seen in its length and its price, both of which are smaller than traditional books. More like well formed meme’s this book and others are what we can expect to see in the future as we can all commit an hour to read something interesting but few can commit to serious study of a 300+ page book.

Recommended for executives who look around and wonder why their organization seems asleep at the wheel, unwilling to change or seeming lost when presented with a new challenge. If you feel your group is short of new ideas, then give everyone in your group a copy of this book.

Particularly recommended for CIOs and IT organizations facing the need to raise their business relevance and value. These organizations must take the initiative in creating new lightweight solutions the business will not and cannot ask for.

A word of caution, you need to read the book before you recommend it! Pre-reading is essential as you need to be prepared for when your people start poking your organization to see what happens. You need to think throughout how you will channel that energy constructively.

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Category: book-review  change-on-the-cheap  cio  innovation  management  

Tags: book-review  innovation  leadership  

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program.




Thoughts on Poke the Box from Seth Godin: a book review


  1. Matt says:

    always enjoy Godin’s work, I guess I’ll add this to the list once I get through Tribes.



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