Review – Poke the Box by Seth Godin
Poke the Box by Seth Godin is a very short book focused on one key idea: “Get off your butt and start something!” More specifically, Godin tells his readers to not wait for permission from others, to not worry about failure, and in general to buck both corporate and personal inertia by trying something new.
Poke the Box is more like a sermon, or a motivational speech, than a traditional business book. Godin calls it a “manifesto.” There are no detailed case studies, no research findings, and precious little hard data of any kind. Like any good speaker/writer, Godin does include some stories to illustrate his points. Basically, though, the book is Godin telling you what you need to do and why.
If that makes Poke the Box sound like a waste of time, let me assure you it’s not. Just about all of us benefit from being told what to do. Millions listen to sermons (in a religious context) or expensive keynote speakers (in business settings), not because these orators are presenting stunning new information, but because they remind us what’s important and motivate us to move in the right direction. The best of these speakers seize and hold our attention, and, when they are done, leave us in a frame of mind to change our behavior. This is what Godin does in Poke the Box. For an investment of under $10 (or $5 in digital form) and an hour or two of time, Godin provides the shove many of us need to get off the dime.
I’m not usually a fan of single-idea books. Despite its phenomenal (and continuing) sales, one of the worst business books of all time is Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese?. Not only can this book be summed up in a sentence (“Don’t reject change, embrace it!”), it is written in a style that implies the reader is a moron. The mouse/cheese analogy is worn out after the first page, and by the end of the first chapter most readers are likely saying, “OK, I get the idea; tell me something new!” Fortunately, in Poke the Box Godin doesn’t talk down to his readers, and while the book does focus on one concept, it is never repetitious.
If you’ve got personal goals that aren’t being accomplished, or if you are mired in humdrum tasks at work while the company is starving for innovation, Poke the Box is what you need. Spend an hour with Godin and his thinking, and you’ll be ready to take on the world by the time you get to his closing word, “Go!”