Seth Godin’s Linchpin is about becoming irreplaceable. It starts with the fact that everybody is brilliant. Everybody is brilliant, just not all the time. Albert Einstein for exmple, one of the most brilliant people the earth has ever seen, could often not find his way home. He was brilliant some of the time, like many people. It’s all about doing something amazing with these moments of insight and becoming irreplaceable.

Richard Branson is also mentioned in the book. 95% of the time he does normal work that everybody could do, many probably better then he does. It’s about those 5% of his time when he does something only he seems to be able to. He connects the dots, he sees opportunity that nobody else sees and takes decisions that nobody else dares. That’s what makes Virgin one of the most successful organizations in the world.

Godin states we seem to live in the industrial era, even with non industrial organizations. The main principle of ‘The wealth of nations’ by Adam Smith is still alive and kicking. Smith states that you should cut up every process into pieces so small everybody can do it. That way you can hire someone for the lowest wage possible to make the highest profit possible. That model is now broken. The reason for this? There is always someone else who can do it cheaper. This isn’t just about unschooled labor. Most jobs at a bank or recruitment agency are easy to learn, hence get cheaper and cheaper until it gets automated. The model is also broken for companies, because there will always be someone else that’s cheaper then you. And in a market with no differentiating factors, the buyer will always go for the lowest price.

The addition in the title of this blog is mine by the way. In the book, that’s primarily about how to be brilliant and what stopping us, Godin has one small paragraph on the question why so many linchpins have a problem getting a job. Why do the people that broke free of mediocrity not have all the best jobs? This problem lies mainly in the application process. The application process is broken. Special people, people that make the difference, don’t get jobs at companies that let their applicants go trough an application process. The problem here is the word process.

The linchpins, people that make the difference, the unique individuals, can’t be captured by processes and procedures that are meant to recruit the ‘good’. But let’s face it, good is just another word for average, right? We’re all good right? Ever met someone that said he wasn’t good at his job?

A nice example of how it can be done different is 37 Signals. An American IT company that makes among other the successful Basecamp application. With just a few hunderd employees they make hell for Microsoft with cheaper and better products. 37 Signals just wants Linchpins, only people that make a difference. Many of their champions don’t get hired by resume or application, they get in touch because they are a fan and offer themselves. Not with a resume and cover letter, but they do for example freelance work, somethings next to their existing jobs. Education, previous work, other work, it’s all irrelevant if you prove you can do what they want in a fantastic manner.

Another reason why the corporates have so much trouble getting in brilliant people is the ‘ego effect’. Most managers has a big problem to hire people that are smarter then them. Many entrepreneurs (though not all) don’t have this problem since they tend to benefit from people better then them. Ask an applicant the question, ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ and you rarely get the answer: ‘in your job’. Yet this should be the answer, at least, if the candidate has management ambitions. He might just want to deepen himself.


Linchpin is a good book, although not Godin’s best in my opinion. It’s primairly about being remarkable (Purple Cow) and how to be just that. It does however raise questions for recruitment. Everybody always claims to hire the best people, the best talent, but ask yourself: who in our organization makes the difference? Can you name names? If not, you can be almost certain your organization isn’t making the difference in the marketplace and you’re not really looking for talent, you’re looking for factory workers (in a suit).

Over de Auteur

Bas van de Haterd Bas van de Haterd is professioneel bemoeial en expert op het gebied van technologie en werk. Hij schreef o.a. de boeken '10 banen die verdwijnen & 10 banen die verschijnen", "de maatschappelijke impact van de zelfrijdende auto" en "(R)evolutie van werk". Hij schrijft over recruitment in de brede zin van het woord en hoe dit beter kan door technologie slim in te zetten. Hij adviseert hier bedrijven over en geeft over dit onderwerp ook regelmatig inspirerende lezingen. Hij is te bereiken op

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