Seth Godin’s Akimbo: Levi Strauss and the Gold Rush

In his Akimbo podcast, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

In this podcast, Seth discusses culture shifts and why we should pay proper attention to those shifts so we can respond to them effectively.

Seth used Levi Strauss as the example of an organization that responded to trend and culture shifts. The fashion of jeans and Levi Strauss benefited from several significant cultural and societal changes.

One of those changes was the shift from a distributed and agrarian economy to one that was based on manufacturing industrialism. Another one was the event of World War II, where the government deemed the jeans as an essential war-time item.

After the war, the growth of industrialism and the popular culture adopted jeans as part of their uniform. Subsequently, the revolution of retail trend (e.g., The Gap stores) further fueled the growth of jeans and Levin Strauss as the leader of that fashion segment.

When there is a shift in the culture or economics, the change can force or open the door for a company to change its behavior as it grew. Often those cultural or technological shifts can be so profound. When one shift is happening around us, we do not have to be at the epicenter of it for it to shift how we do our job or how we spend our day.

The shift brought about by the Internet is having the same profound effect on what we do and how we do things. The change is primarily a technological shift, and it is also a significant rewiring of our culture. The difference in network connectivity has enabled so many other changes in our culture.

One lesson we can learn from Levi Strauss’s growth is this. Levi Strauss did not cause the gold rush or World War II. The Levi Strauss company did not create the 1960s or even the spread of the Gap stores. When we add it all up, what we see is that every single time this company has grown and become more critical, they have done it because they have responded to the way the world is changing. They did not merely react but responded by working with that shift in the culture and doing something meaningful and vital with it.

With the arrival of the Internet, the same opportunity or threat is available to each of us. We went from not knowing what it is to a world that was completely different from the culture and commerce that was only a couple of decades before.

If we are going to build an entity today, we will need to build it on the idea of working with the plasticity of culture. That idea tells us that we can respond to a world that is being enabled by a technology that we do not even need to understand.

But what we must do is figure out how we are going to take these shifts and do something with them that we will be proud of. By responding to the changes or the “New Normal” effectively means our response and actions will create value.