Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 7

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 7, Serfs, Farmers, Hunters, and Wizards

In this chapter, Seth discusses how different employees can create different sorts of change within an organization. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • There are four types of people in most organizations:
    • Serfs: They do what they are told.
    • Farmers: They work within the bounds of a winning strategy but constantly use feedback loops to improve the efficiency of their efforts.
    • Hunters: They look for means to expand the company’s winning strategy in ways that the organization probably had not considered before.
    • Wizards: They introduce significant mutations into the company’s mDNA, thus creating opportunities for entirely new winning strategies.
  • Farming, hunting, and wizardry all represent different ways in which zooming organizations can evolve.
  • Many people want to be serfs in a company, and many companies are eager to hire serfs. Our genes drive us to work in a steady job that insulates us from many external changes. Companies hire serfs because the machine-centric view of the enterprise demands people to be compliant cogs. For companies trying to evolve, a large number of serfs is perhaps the most significant single impediment to change.
  • Farmers have understood for thousands of years that focusing on yield is their most important activity. Establishing the communication and follow-up mechanism that permits farmers in our organization to interact and teach others is necessary for their success.
  • Hunters need the freedom to move around and a large territory to roam and identify opportunities. While the hunters have the luxury of not depending on a piece of fixed assets of land, they have a responsibility to report to the people who rely on them for planning food supply. Hunters also need to interact with their peers so that everyone can learn better hunting techniques.
  • Wizards invent opportunities by describing how the organization can use its assets to accomplish something very different. Of course, most of the things the wizard will bring to the organization will not work. However, most organizations fall victim to technology changes by not acting on the ideas of wizards. Unless our organization knows how to zoom, even the wizard’s most excellent idea will go nowhere.

In summary:

“Change is not monolithic. Different sorts of employees create different sorts of change. One of the main reasons organizations fail to change is that they try to introduce the wrong kind of change at the wrong moment.”