Friday, February 20, 2009

Friend of Simplicity - Seth Godin

Today I am delighted to have Seth Godin as my "Friend of Simplicity."

Seth is regarded as one of the worlds leading business gurus and has been described as the world leading blogger. I managed to catch him when he visited England earlier this week to deliver a talk in London.

Seth is the author of ten books. His books have been best sellers around the world and changed the way people think about marketing, change and work. 'Permission Marketing' was an Top100 bestseller for a year, a Fortune 'Best Business Book' and it spent 4 months on the Business Week bestseller list.

'Unleashing the Ideavirus' is the most popular ebook ever written. More than one million people downloaded the digital version of this book about how ideas spread.

Seth is a renowned speaker as well.

He was recently chosen as one of 21 Speakers for the Next Century by Successful Meetings and is consistently rated among the very best speakers by his audiences.

He holds an MBA from Stanford and was called 'The Ultimate Entrepreneur for the Information Age' by Business Week.

I hope you enjoy reading Seth’s views.

Trevor - Thanks for agreeing to this interview Seth - one of the many things that impresses me about you is that you find time to respond to 'ordinary folks' like me in your busy schedule. Would you agree with me that responsiveness is one of the most important elements of successful leadership in business?

Seth - The thing is, there are 1000 important elements of successful leadership. Responsiveness is up there, of course, but it's possible to be a powerful leader and not be responsive on a moment's notice. The goal is to find a few elements where you can excel, where you can make a difference for people. Great a few, lousy at none is a good motto.

Trevor - You are one of the worlds leading 'modern' management/business gurus' - do you have your own heroes or role models in this field?

Seth - I'm not a guru, I just play one on TV. I have tons of role models, some fictional, some real. One real leader I admire and try to emulate is Jacqueline Novogratz at the Acumen Fund. She's doing important work, and doing it with flair and generosity. My dad, CEO of a hospital crib company in the US is another. For fifty years he's been showing me how it's done.

Trevor - What are you reading at the moment and what book has influenced you most?

Seth - I'm reading an advance copy of Douglas Rushkoff's new book, "You, Inc." It's terrific. I have been influenced by countless books, and want to give a shoutout to Tom Peters and his Pursuit of Wow and the Seminar book as well.

Trevor - Have you visited the UK and if not do you have plans to cross the pond?

Seth - I'm here right now! As I write this. But just for a few days. What a great country. The juxtaposition of the traditional (ancient) with a desire to change is just extraordinary.

Trevor - My great passion in business is the search for simplicity - what do you think about simplicity in the modern business world and what is your own greatest passion?

Seth - I find that simplicity has an enemy: fear. Fear demands places to hide, and simplicity can't offer that. I would say my passion is helping people discover their fear and then ignore it.

Trevor - Finally Seth can you crystal ball gaze for a moment and give us your vision of the key skills that will be needed to succeed in business in the next 20 years - particularly for the small business or single handed consultant?

Seth - I think choosing the right scale is vitally important. How big is your organization? Your network? How do you balance complexity, leverage and overhead? Don't give up. Bright days ahead.

Trevor - Thank you Seth - I appreciate your time - hope you enjoy your time in England


Anonymous said...

"I find that simplicity has an enemy: fear. Fear demands places to hide, and simplicity can't offer that."


Something to chew on today- thank you Seth and Trevor.

Lois Gory

Unknown said...

Lois beat me to it - I was going to comment on the fear thing too.

Simplicity brings visibility, and therefore a greater possibility of accountability... and yeah, I guess that scares a lot of people who would rather hide behind complexity.

Joel D Canfield said...

I think you coaxed a winner out of Seth, Trevor! I talk about fear in all my seminars and books; this quote is being assimilated.

I continue to be impressed by his approachableness.

Unknown said...

One of my biggest impacts on customers in the past was a workshop I led on Innovation and in order to explain my point I showed Seth Godin's Free Prize inside "product" (I wouldn't qualify it as a book).

I think he's a genius and a unique personality in the business literature. The only thing I could point out as a critique is that in my humble opinion, he will hardly develop a systematic view as to make possible for others to follow his steps. I presume he will never have disciples, and that will be a strong reason that will keep him being unique.

I will make further comments on the interview later, Trevor, but I'm pleased to share my thoughts on Seth Godin here.

Trevor Gay said...

Lois, Dan, Joel and Felix

Many thanks for your excellent comments.

Lois - I too love the simplicity quote from Seth and I agree with him 100%. To promote simplicity means we are setting ourselves up for questioning.

Frankly I cannot see why anyone in their right mind would want to make things more complex than they need to be.

Dan is right that people often use complexity as a shield to hide behind.

Good to know the quote will prove useful for you Joel in your seminars and books – tell your friends!

Felix – I think Seth is unique and his style is unique. I imagine he does not set out to develop a style that other can follow – his is clearly a one-off. I am astonished dhow he is so approachable and co-operative to us ordinary’ folks! – A great t man indeed.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the interview. Wonderful rapid fire answers in great succession.


Thanks for pointing back to your Dad as a great source of inspiration and knowledge. I have my Dad talk me off the ledge about once a week in these odd economic and business management times. My Dad, as yours, has been somewhat successful in business over the past 40 years. Nothing replaces a good dose of Dad, especially when they've lived business in different climates!

Thanks Trevor...

Trevor Gay said...

Great comment Scott – My Dad sadly died suddenly in 1994 at the young age of 70 – I miss him. Dad’s wisdom guided me in my younger days and his influence clearly comes through in my beliefs and principles about work and business– Dad’s are priceless!

How I wish I could still pick his brains.

JOHN O'LEARY said...

Impressive that the interview could be so brief but so useful. (I guess that's what Simplicity is all about, eh?) I loved: "The goal is to find a few elements where you can excel, where you can make a difference for people. Great at a few, lousy at none is a good motto." I think I'll take that one on.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi John - less is more my friend :-)

Hope you are well.

Anonymous said...

I hope the widget of Justgiving was not working because of an overwhelming repsonse of donors looking to contribute to your cause and the London Marathon!!!!!!


Trevor Gay said...

The widget is working again now - Still plenty of time to hit our target .. he says hopefully!

Cheers Scott.

Anonymous said...

Terrific interview! I do however have to differ on the point that simplicity has an enemy...fear. Simplicity is the cure to fear. Why let it hide in the workplace when you can drive it out completely with by simply communicating and interacting with the folks you lead. What do folks fear? Ask them and then use that feedback to build a culture conducive to trust and teamwork...Simple? Yes! Effective? Absolutely!

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Dave - I read Seth’s comment to mean that people ‘hide’ behind complexity but if one promotes simplicity then we are up front and cannot hide. As a result some people are afraid to keep things simple through ‘fear’ of being questioned and therefore resort to complexity as place to hide.

The reality of course as you describe so well is that leaders are respected far more if they are up front and honest with the folks they lead.

As my late beloved Dad often said to me “Bull***t baffles brains”

Anonymous said...

Trevor...I got the linkage between simplicity and fear. Seth speaks of the need to help folks discover their fear which is the first step in eliminating it. I am of the Tom Peters school of thought that every leader needs to reach down three or four levels below them in the organization chart to keep folks kinda honest and on point. Linkage and alignment, all levels on the same page. Accountability is a marvelous thing.

Trevor Gay said...

Cheers Dave - if only more leaders just what you say Dave and reach down many levels. Sir Alex Ferguson writes in his book “Managing My Life” about how someone way down the pecking order at Manchester United will say to him - 'Thanks for your help 15 years ago with that problem I had.’ Sir Alex admits he has forgotten what the problem was but the fact he sorted it is a huge thing for the person concerned. Sir Alex KNOWS and meets his folks who are working on the front line.

Too many leaders lock themselves away in their warm and comfortable offices writing reports that no one reads and not getting their hands dirty with their front liners. Long live the leaders who do the opposite my friend - I'm with you 100%. Personal accountability to ourselves and to front liners is indeed marvellous

Unknown said...

After reading the interview, Trevor, I just can say, it's great. I think he's giving important clues: excel at a few, lousy at none, balance your size and network. I do think those are the clues to thrive today.

Great, great interview, and pretty simple, too.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks again Felix - I appreciate your comments. Seth is a man with simplicity in his heart methinks :-)

Stay well Amigo!