Sunday, November 7, 2010

Are You Indispensable?

It seems I’ve been reading about artists and artisans lately, in the most peculiar places.

Tom Friedman recently wrote a column in the New York Times about what the recent mid-term election should have been about. In usual Friedman fashion, he laid out a cogent argument. But one issue in particular stood out. Friedman cited economist Lawrence Katz, who notes that everyone today “needs to think of himself as an ‘artisan’.’’ Artisans were people who made things or provided services with a distinctive touch in which they took personal pride, prior to mass manufacturing. Today everyone has to be an artisan and bring something extra to their jobs; doing one’s job in an average way – in an integrated and automated global economy won’t cut it. “The age of average is over. We’re in the age of ‘extra,’ and everyone has to figure out what extra they can add to their work.”

This week, I’ve been reading Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Godin’s premise is that in this “hypercompetitive world” workers must make indispensable contributions and be the linchpins – leaders and connectors – who make a difference; people who can walk into chaos and create order; someone who can make things happen. Godin says that linchpins are artists, who bring their humanity to work; who are brave enough to make a difference.

Godin talks a lot about how a number of artists can’t draw, but he says, “all artists can see.” They see what’s right and what’s wrong. They see opportunities and “can see around corners.” Art is creative, passionate and personal; it’s about intent and communication. “An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally…The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin.”

As an artist, Godin notes, the job is not your work. Your work is what you do with your heart and soul.

And, says, Godin, art must have purpose. “Artists,” he says, “don’t think outside the box, because outside the box there’s a vacuum. Outside the box there are no rules, there is no reality…Artists think along the edges of the box, because that’s where things get done…that’s where you can make an impact.”

So, are you an artist in your work? Do you make a difference? Are you indispensable, or are you average and expendable?

What are your thoughts?

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