Seth Godin’s Akimbo: The Pursuit of Perfection

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 the pursuit of perfection vs. meeting spec and what we should keep in mind when we ship creative work.

Sometimes we look down on meeting the spec and be good enough. However, if we do a good job defining the specification, meeting specs, and being good enough can be a good thing. When we define the spec correctly and meet it, quality comes with doing the work.

Achieving quality is not the same as the pursuit of perfection. Perfection can be quite costly, and not many people are willing to pay for absolute or near perfection. However, most people are willing to pay for good-enough if meeting spec means helping them get what they are after. Good enough, when done right, is something to be proud of.

These days, bringing our creative work to the world is our job. If our work does not ship, the effort does not count. Also, we do not want to ship just for the sake of sending something and check off the box. We want to set spec appropriately and then “merely” shipping the work.

Merely shipping means doing it without the usual commentary, drama, and perfectionism. Hour after hour and day after day, we consistently ship the work in the hope of making things better. Seth calls this continual process and approaches the “practice.”

By adopting the practice, we believe that the only way to make things better is to make things. We learn what the customer wants and learn how to engage with the market to make them better.

However, we are not shooting for perfection — we are shooting to meet the spec. We want to meet a spec that is good enough for our customers. We do not say whether our spec is good enough because our customer will. We also ship when we must because, by shipping our work, we put ourselves in front and engage with the person we make the thing for. If what we ship turns out to be not good enough for our audience, we are doing shoddy work, and we must make it better.

Creative means we are doing something that might not work. Doing creative work means doing something where perfect is unknown. Good, creative work also means we will be doing something human, something generous, and something that might make things better.

Doing creative work as a professional means we do it even when we do not feel like it. Perfectionism is about us, our belief, our perception of what we’re doing, and it is also a place to hide. On the other hand, remarkable work is not about us but about the person we are making it for.

Being a pro also means we must figure out how to show up for the people we seek to serve and ignore everyone else. This act of being specific is about making a very specific promise about what our thing does do. Thus we must be able to find our smallest viable audience and bring them the smallest viable breakthrough they can leverage.

In summary, we need to develop a practice of shipping regularly for the people we seek to serve. We must never accept shoddy work because it does not make any sense to make something not as good as it should be. More often, we will likely be making things that are not as good as they could be because we do not have unlimited time and resources.

So yes, we need a point of view for our work. We need to make assertions, and we need to lead. We need to be able to say, “Here, I made this. No, it is not perfect, but maybe it met spec. And maybe my spec is exactly what you needed.”

Seth Godin’s Akimbo: A Quantum Theory of Customers

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 how customer service is similar to quantum physics and how to perform customer service effectively.

An element will exhibit a discrete quantum state in an environment. That element can move from one quantum state to another, and they do so by either taking energy or giving off energy.

We can think of customer service as having a similar analogy. Within the quantum universe of customer service, a customer can move from one state to another. Some customers are fans, and some customers are haters. Most customers, however, exhibit a state of indifference.

When an external event or force affects a customer, that force or change might change a customer’s feelings about us from one state to another. When that happens, the change of the state in which the customer is about to move into is the moment when an effective customer service approach counts.

When we look at the distribution of reviews on Yelp or Amazon, we will not see the typical, normal distribution curve. We will most likely see a bi-modal distribution, with one big hump at one end and one big hump at the other end of the curve.

Most of the time, customer service worth investing in is either about moving somebody from the indifference state to the raving fan. Another effective way of practicing customer service is to mollify a customer who might go from indifference to a disgruntled hater of the product or service.

However, most organizations do not see customer service as a valuable tool in managing a customer’s emotional state to the organization’s advantage. Most organizations treat customer service as a chore that is best to be minimized for cost-saving reasons. When we treat all customers the same without paying the necessary attention, we will be wrong almost all the time. We end up spending money on the wrong things and disappointing the people we are hoping to turn into raving fans.

Before we can be effective at doing customer service, we need to figure out what to do with “customer service triage.” We need to be able to sort customer service cases into three groups.

The first group has customers who will remain cheerful and loyal, no matter what we do. The second group has the customers who will not be satisfied and remain unhappy, no matter what we do. The third group has the customers who will respond positively to our actions by either moving from the state of indifference to a fan or moving from the negative state to a state of indifference. The more accurate we can differentiate the grouping, the more effective we can practice customer service.

Organizations need to figure out, based on behavior clues and analysis of the lifecycle, which customer is in a quantum state that can be adjusted. The opportunity here is to treat different people differently and get smart about what it means to be different. The art of this is to realize that what makes something a purple cow or makes it remarkable.

If we designed our product/service right in the first place, we could create something worth talking about. On occasions when we stumble, we also knew what proactive effort we can take to turn the stumble into a win that people insist on talking about it.

To do customer service well, there is a role for human intervention. It needs to be human intervention based on the understanding that different people want different things in different moments.

It will take an understanding that the customer in front of us is at this moment about to make a decision. Once they decide how to interact with us, it’s not going to be easy to fix it in the future. Knowing that and acting on it is a chance to make things better right at the critical moment.

Seth Godin’s Akimbo: The Zoom Revolution, Part 2

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 17 changes that videoconferencing has influenced the way we work and live, compared to the traditional meetings. We need to be aware of the changes and perhaps even learn how to leverage the trend to our advantage.

Adding the ideas from numbers nine and ten, we will have number 11, which is transcription. Transcription means that we can automatically have a written record of everything that was discussed. We can go back over, figure out the intent, and make sure we are doing things right.

Number 12 is the idea of making meetings more computer aware. With our meetings now being digitized, we can now add more computing capabilities to our discussion. This idea is a big frontier because we could not find much use for getting computers involved in the traditional, analog-based meetings.

Number 13 is the idea of triggers. Video conferencing enables new changes and also make some old traditions optional. We are talking about a world where real estate is valued very differently. Commuting to the office for a meeting is becoming a choice, rather than mandatory. Meetings are getting shorter because people get called into discussions for the right reasons and asked to leave for the right reasons—many more triggers to come.

The number 14 is the idea of gamification. We play games with many things every day. Gamification is about status. Video conferencing allows us to gather measurements and statistics throughout the meeting. If we can figure out the proper metrics, why can we not make video conferencing a meaningful experience? Why would we not want to know that this will change the way we talk to each other professionally.

Number 16 is that it is always on. When we are in the office, the ability to have a meeting is confined to office hours. This idea of checking in with one another on an ad-hoc basis can boost productivity if used properly. There is nothing about computer video conferencing that makes that idea a difficult one.

Number 17 is the idea of scale and network effect. With the help of private enterprises and the Internet, video conferencing is free to get started. Once it is free, it is widely adopted. Once it is widely adopted, the network effect becomes ever more powerful. We are beginning to discover this significant impact on the way people are given a voice and how information flows.

Finally, number 18 is Chris Anderson’s idea of The Long Tail. Up until recently, we might only get to interact with a small group of people who are in our circle. Right now, we can interact with many more using video conferencing, and we have little in common with most of them. The long tail means we can get pockets of people who share something in common, regardless of their geographical locations. They do not even get a paycheck from the same company, but they desperately need to be connected.

This pandemic has brought a lot of damage, but one thing it has done is that it accelerated the arrival of the future. It moved the adoption of videoconferencing by three to five years ahead easily, and video conferencing will cause massive disruption in real estate, transport, and retail, to name a few areas.

If used properly, video conferencing can create so many opportunities for people to speak up, go outside their comfort zone, be heard, and be connected with the people they need to be associated with. We can certainly do more in figuring out how to create a platform for others to be great at it in this new frontier.

Seth Godin’s Akimbo: The Zoom Revolution, Part 1

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 17 changes that videoconferencing has influenced the way we work and live, compared to the traditional meetings. We need to be aware of the changes and perhaps even learn how to leverage the trend to our advantage.

The number one thing is timing. It used to be that a physical, face-to-face meeting requires a lot of coordination due to time zone and physical location differences. We often start meetings late because we need to make accommodations for people to be in sync. Now we can begin the videoconferencing on-time because everyone knows how to get there on time.

The number two thing is commuting. Commuting goes away for the large part because of videoconferencing adoption. Some professions are required to be working in a fixed physical office, but most people do not.  For most people, the office’s purpose is to be with the other people who are exchanging ideas with us. If we use videoconferencing correctly, we can dramatically accelerate the efficiency and the joy associated with connecting with other people professionally.

Number three is the size of the group. There was a natural limit to how many people could be on a phone or voice-only conference call. The flexibility of a video call allows us to shift the size of the group dramatically. We are learning to discover how to connect when we do not have the barriers of space involved.

Number four is the idea of multimodal. When we are in a voice-only conference call, the only thing we can do is talking. At a video conference, we can speak, see other people, and work on a shared document all at the same time. Multimodal is a game-changer because side conversations do not have to detract from the meeting’s main topic. We can also create intensive creativity environments where lots of things happen in a brief time.

The number six is the breakout room. Breakout rooms are essential because breakout rooms change the rhythm from happening over the central conferencing meeting where there is a forced synchronized march. Video conferencing allows us to quickly create environments where we can break it into smaller and more focused gatherings, working together inside the medium to make something of real value.

The number seven idea is the video itself. Video, as we learned from television, is incredibly powerful at weaving the culture. Showing up in the office has one other important function, which is people seeing us. They see our energy, and they can engage with us and exchange emotional energy. Video conferencing may be a poor substitute for that, but it is a much better alternative at this moment. When we organize a video conferencing meeting, we should do it with the intent for the right reason.

Number eight is the concept of being synchronous or asynchronous. Video conferencing gives us both options. We can hold conferencing that is meant to have synchronized conversations. We can also do conferencing asynchronously by making a video and distribute it. People can watch it, re-watch it, take notes, and have a short and synchronized discussion.

Number nine is the ability to record. We can now get conversations on record with ease.

Number ten is the ability to add a translation. We now have the technologies to provide translation in video conferencing on the fly.

Seth Godin’s Akimbo: Industry and its Discontents

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 the states and the differences between industrialism and capitalism. People sometimes use the words industrialism and capitalism interchangeably. Both are seen as an invisible force that has shaped our culture and our way of life.

Industrialism is a process that craves productivity because lower price wins. The productivity that results in lower prices come from cheaper labor with fewer protections. Industrialism, therefore, demands that everyone in the system feels obligated to go against their morals because productivity is, in many cases, a race to the bottom.

Throughout our industrial age, there are many examples of industrialism, leading us to cultural changes that were dehumanizing. One example is the rise of the cotton industry, coupled with the need for cheap labor. For a long time, the cotton industry relied on slavery as the primary source of cheap labor and productivity.

Capitalism is about free markets and choice. Markets are listening instruments, and they exist to figure out what people want and to prioritize what they get. When we have freedom, it can be the fuel for dignity. In truly free markets, slavery would be impossible because people would have the right and choices to make about their labor.

Industrialism, on the other hand, is its own master. Industrialism is also about power, power over people, markets, and systems. Because it has created surplus and prizes along the way, people have permitted industrialism to run through our culture. In many places, the relentless race to create something ever cheaper has led to the cost to the environment or the people.

Industrialism also seeks monopoly because monopoly is the best way to gain power. While there are few real monopolies around us, we have industrial organizations that practice monopolistic conspiracies. These are oligopolies, groups of corporations and individuals, working together to create less choice.

We call something a conspiracy when people or organizations are cooperating in a way that hurts others. Conspiracies that promote monopoly cab do damage, and those business practices are not secretive. We have many examples of industrial organizations conducting productivity-enhancing practices at the expense of the people and our culture.

Furthermore, computers and machines are becoming the tools used by the oligopolies that seek to maximize their return while giving people less choice. Machines changed everything about industrialism because machines are tireless. Machines do not complain, and they do not bring the baggage of morality with them.

Machines also hastened the race to monopoly because machines can be built and improved to create insulation for the people who do have the machines. With network connectivity, machines also amplify the network effect. The network effect means that successful leaders can become even more potent because they can achieve lock-in. Such lock-in also leads to more profit, more coercion, and more conspiracy.

Industrialism is not the same as capitalism. Industrialism is the repeated process of getting something cheaper and faster. Eventually, industrialism requires coercion by pushing people running the industry not to take responsibility for what they are doing.

Capitalism is about discovering market needs and filling them. It works best when people take responsibility for what they do. We have an opportunity to create boundaries for both industrialism and capitalism, and we can make boundaries that benefit all of us.

Most importantly, we can make both concepts work to our advantage by creating a positive culture. We can create a culture that is based on dignity and choices over the long term.

Seth Godin’s Akimbo: Adversarial Interoperability

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 three kinds of interoperability. We are all connected by the webs of interoperability these days with our smart devices, and it is crucial to understand how we can make the system work better for us.

The three kinds of interoperability are indifferent, cooperative, and adversarial. Many things in life can work together because of the indifferent interoperability. Using our car’s cigarette lighter to charge a cell phone is just one such example.

The next level is cooperative interoperability, in which the people who make a device accept and embrace the fact that we might need to accommodate something new. The USB port is one such example.

When we invented the USB connection, many USB-compatible devices had not been developed. Yet those latter devices would still work with the previously established USB port.

When the government builds roads and bridges, it could not have envisioned all the vehicles that could have used the road one day. Yet the roads and bridges remain heavily used today. Industry standards make these cooperative interoperability combinations possible.

But along the way, some greedy companies attempt to break cooperative interoperability. Those companies were saying that they are trying to make things better, but mostly because they are trying to corner the market and make more profit. We know the motive is financially motivated when the consumers are not benefiting from the new process or change.

The idea of adversarial interoperability says that we need to make something so that third parties can use a system even when the inventor or the owner of the system does not want them to.

Today we have a problem with many systems and platforms. Organizations built these systems and platforms using the methods of cooperative interoperability, but they are trying to prevent other people or systems from working with them.

After gaining popularity and momentum with those systems through the benefits of cooperative interoperability, those organizations try to corner the market by making it hard for other systems to interact with them, thus confining the user in the closed ecosystem.

We now know networks are incredibly powerful. A network is significantly more essential and when leveraged by many nodes. When we build a network, the network gets more powerful when more people use the network. The network is also sticky because the switching costs are very high. The network effects have huge upsides bounties, not just for the people who use them, but for the people who build them and control them.

What we need are open networks. Open networks are resilient and efficient. As soon as something in that network starts to falter, the interoperability that is part of the network can help us make the network better.

Closed networks with lock-in tend to lead us to the most hated companies in our culture. We hate the cable company because we are locked in, and we do not have any choices. We run into trouble when we permit people who build networks to control them without any check and balance ultimately.

When that happens, what we end up with is a network with calcification and stagnation. For those networks, we need third parties who can come along and use that network to make things better for its customers. The Internet is a beautiful example of such an open system. The best parts about the Internet have been how quickly things got better when someone could freely experiment within the open network and figure out how to make the system better.

Today some people want to make our experience better in a network, and they are not permitted to do so by the controlling organization. The more we open these systems and allow changes to happen, the better things can get not just for the users in the short run but also for the people who build and support these networks in the long run.

Seth Godin’s Akimbo: Believe in Above Average (and Below)

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 how two groups, the professionals and art creators, view their work and what we need to keep in mind as we do our creative work.

Many professionals, such as surgeons and therapists in this example, believe that they are better than average when compared to their peers. Scott Alexander broke it down into Alexander’s principle of professional exceptionalism, and it is interesting to analyze the rationales behind this belief held by most of the professionals.

It is human nature to think that our victories belong to us, but our failures belong to nature. When those professionals are doing something as extraordinary as changing someone’s mind or cutting someone open and then healing them, it is easy to pay attention to how their intervention made a difference. In the times that our response did not make a difference, we remind ourselves that we are not gods, and we are just doing our best.

All these rationales of professionals thinking highly of themselves may have something to do with these professions are professions because the people are accredited, and the trade was hard to get in. And those things mean that the professionals are scarce, so we deem those professionals valuable. All these rationales also add up to a significant effect of cognitive dissonance.

But for the artistic creators like many of us, our mindset may be quite different. Many of us struggle with a mentality of self-doubt for several reasons. One reason is that, since most of our work deals with the reality that there is far more supply than demand, most of the direct feedback we get is rejection. We get rejected by the middlemen and by the end-users because both groups have many choices available to them.

The second reason is that since the work we do involves widely available tools, the group of people who believe that they can do the work we do or even better is large. It is easy for others to say that the work we are busy making are things that anyone could make.

The number three reason has to do with the transient nature of our fan base. The fan of an artistic work churns continuously. People’s tastes change over time.

The number four reason speaks to the tendency that negative criticism is more natural to spread than positive feedback. As a result, most public criticism of our work is negative when we work as an artistic creator.

The number five reason has to do with the idea of novelty. It is not easy to keep coming up with a string of novel ideas all the time. Because we work in originality, our existing customers are often hesitant to return because someone else likely can offer more novelty than we can.

Finally, the number six and the biggest reason is the lack of benefit of the doubt. When we, the artists, are busy creating the art or the changes we seek to make, we tell ourselves that we need to go big or go bust. Many creators end up chasing that once in a lifetime moment, but those moments are scarce. What we end up with is a world where almost nobody who creates gets the benefit of the doubt. Most of all, we do not get the benefit of the doubt from ourselves. As a result

To be the “chosen one” of creators is indeed rare. The rest of us who are seeking to bring original work to an audience cannot count on to be the chosen few. While there are very few who get the attention and the winds-in-the-sail, for everybody else, we must struggle to bring out our best work.

However, the struggle is worth the journey. What is essential is that we figure out how to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt as we create. If we cannot find a way to trust ourselves for doing this work, it is going to be very difficult to push beyond mediocrity, and onto the extreme edges.

For us to do the work that matters for people who care, we must think we can raise the average. Only then will we be able to muster the necessary courage and resolve to ship our work and do it consistently.

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.