March 7, 2011 Tony Morgan

Interview with Seth Godin on ‘Poke the Box’

Seth Godin

Seth Godin

Last week, Seth Godin’s most recent book, Poke the Box, released in the wild. I finished reading it on my flight back from California, and I’ll share my highlights later this week. In the mean time, I caught up with Seth this weekend, and we discussed the new book. Here’s the interview:

TONY: What’s the big idea behind Poke the Box?

SETH: Initiative is taken, it’s not given, and it’s the scarcest resource in most organizations. Individuals who choose to initiate are priceless.

TONY: Why do you think people are so comfortable waiting for orders?

SETH: Total deniability! If someone else gives the instructions, well, then it can’t be your fault, can it?

TONY: What’s one thing leaders could do differently to get their teams to initiate change?

SETH: This is the hard one, Tony. What leaders have to do is seek out and embrace (and possibly reward) smart failure. If you’re not willing to fail, you have no chance to succeed.

TONY: I’m familiar with organizations that routinely listen to the preferences of their current “customers”. They like to keep things the way they’ve always been. If the current “customers” pay the bills, isn’t it a little dangerous to “poke the box”?

SETH: If you don’t want to grow, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. Unless you’re in the record business, have a website, want to get elected, raise more money for your charity or attract smart talent. In those cases, there’s so much demand for change that if you’re not changing, you’re falling behind.

TONY: How do you discipline your life to model this principle?

SETH: The lizard brain, that voice that tells each of us to cool it, back off and lie low–that’s my compass. When I hear the lizard squawk, that’s when I know I’m on to something!

You can wait for the highlights later this week, or you could just go buy the book now using my affiliate link. Just so you know, this is a test. I’m waiting to see how many folks in my audience are really willing to “poke the box.”

We need more people to take initiative in the Church.

When was the last time you took initiative? What prompted it? Join the conversation by sharing your comment.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

Comments (12)

  1. Thanks for including this interview. I can totally relate to what Seth is talking about when he mentions the ‘lizard brain’. I’m definitely going to read the book and even more so going to take on his approach…when the lizard brain tells me to cool it, back off and lie low… I’m going to poke the box!!

  2. Tony,

    I began reading this book last night. I found the ebook was releasing on March 1st and figured if it was from Seth it was going to be good, so I pre-ordered. I love the premise that we must start now, stay nimble and change more. I read about big companies like Google facing issues of becoming large and bureaucratic. I especially see this happening in large churches. I’m finding similarities like loss of initiative, holding status quo, and talent drain. My team is working hard to combat these pressures even now. I think part of the reason is some success is often satisfactory and that great success takes risk. I’m looking forward to finishing Seth’s book to see how he prompts people (and hopefully the Church) to start something. Now.

    Thanks for opening a dialogue on the topic.

    Jason Fullen
    Baltimore, MD

  3. Kevin

    Digging this book so far. The thing I love about Seth is that most of what he says is so simple, yet so uncommon – based on how we’ve been trained to think. Quality stuff.

  4. My favorite bit of this interview

    “TONY: What’s one thing leaders could do differently to get their teams to initiate change?

    SETH: This is the hard one, Tony. What leaders have to do is seek out and embrace (and possibly reward) smart failure. If you’re not willing to fail, you have no chance to succeed.”

    Tony, I already bought the book, so I can’t contribute to your affiliate link, but I just started it yesterday.

  5. Already bought it on pre-order. Great read, nice interview. Yes, churches need to initiate and fail more. We need to pull the plug on some programs (and staff?) when they’re not working.

  6. Thanks for doing the interview. I find staff are reluctant to initiate because they are already overloaded. Initiating would mean even more long hours.

    • I find that too Scott but also see in some instances where they are overloaded but perhaps by things that are good but not great. I think, sometimes, taking initiative also means proactively pruning so that we can discard the things that are keeping us busy but perhaps not making much of a difference. Hard balance but one that needs to be made.

  7. Love the interview. Great questions from you and great responses from Seth. I’ve been honored to be a part of the Domino Project Street Team, seeing some of the behind the scenes work that in going into Seth’s new adventure. Good stuff.

    Fully agree on the need for initiative, especially in the church. Our message is too important to sit idly by or to become complacent in any way. As a matter of fact, I believe himself commanded us to take initiative when he said “GO!”

  8. I pre-ordered and got the book for $1 and it is a game changer. Seth has also put out a free workbook to go along with it. I think folks can check it at the Domino Project website which is worth subscribing too along with Seth’s and Tony’s blogs. “if you’re not willing to fail, you have no chance to succeed.”. I’m taping that one to the mirror. Thanks Tony!

  9. It is really difficult to find those “priceless” people who take the initiative. It’s hard in a small church context b/c larger churches can pay for the initiators. Initiators are already savvy. Why wouldn’t they get paid to use their gifts and talents. I’m not saying it’s impossible to find those people but it sure is more difficult.

  10. DeDe Reilly

    Preordered and thrilled. “Starting stuff” and taking initiative is truly appreciated and encouraged as a layperson/unpaid staff. Having the scars that come from “starting stuff for His Kingdom” on paid staff in the local church, I am in the process of searching for a new full time position, again. In the meantime, there are LOTS of ways I’ve been able to freely start stuff through the denominational conference and networking organizations -and teaching others how to “start stuff for His Kingdom” in their own houses. Just can’t seem to pull it off in my own house, yet.

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