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Guest Thinkers

Are you sheepwalking or are you innovating?

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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