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Are you sheepwalking or are you innovating?

February 15, 2007, 7:01 AM

Purple_sheep_1 Marketing guru Seth Godin coins new terms and expressions on a regular basis, and this time, he's decided to trade in his Purple Cow for a Purple Sheep. As Godin explains, Sheepwalking refers to the process of just going through the motions and being afraid to fail - and this type of activity even happens at places like Google:

"I define "sheepwalking" as the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them a braindead job and enough fear to keep them in line...

It's ironic but not surprising that in our age of increased reliance on new ideas, rapid change and innovation, sheepwalking is actually on the rise. That's because we can no longer rely on machines to do the brain-dead stuff.

We've mechanized what we could mechanize. What's left is to cost-reduce the manual labor that must be done by a human. So we write manuals and race to the bottom in our search for the cheapest possible labor. And it's not surprising that when we go to hire that labor, we search for people who have already been trained to be sheepish."

Thankfully, of course, not all organizations encourage sheepwalking - but these organizations are the exception rather than the rule:

"What happens when you build an organization like Goretex [editor's note: W.L. Gore & Associates] or the Acumen Fund? At first, it seems crazy. There's too much overhead, too many cats to herd, too little predictability and way too much noise. Then, over and over, we see something happen. When you hire amazing people and give them freedom, they do amazing stuff. And the sheepwalkers and their bosses just watch and shake their heads, certain that this is just an exception, and that it is way too risky for their industry or their customer base."

[image: Purple Sheep]

 

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