Sunday, June 13, 2010

My Review of - Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? by Seth Godin

In “Linchpin,” Mr. Godin has given humanity a gift. My passion and concern are for law enforcement, a profession filled with both, need and potential. I humbly submit that Godin’s gift could potentially meet our cultures most pressing needs and provide our communities the greatest benefits - through law enforcement. To paraphrase Mr. Godin: For generations, we’ve been pushing officers to do something inherently unnatural. We’ve been teaching, cajoling, and yes, forcing officers to hide their empathy and their creativity and to pretend they are fast-moving automatons; machines designed to do the department’s bidding. It is not necessary. No, I’ll go further than that: it’s damaging. It’s damaging to have to put on a new face for work, the place we spend our days. It’s damaging to build departments around repetitive faceless work that brings no connection and joy (page 71). It is as if Mr. Godin somehow peered into the police training academies and looked over, among others, the “tactical communications” training modules.
Despite all this, the best officers have always been some of the finest artists and given precious gifts that change the recipients. Sometimes the recipient knows they have been touched and changed in a significant way, sometimes the recipient is oblivious to the gift they have received. I can think of one woman, a wife and a mother of young children, whose family called the police because she was distraught to the point of hysteria - and had a gun. I do not suppose she or her family know she was given the gift of life that day.
On the other hand, there is much work to be done. Training and management processes are generally archaic, carrot and stick processes that suppress artistry, crush passion, and snuff empathy. In many cases, official systems admonish officers to put on a tactical face for dealing with the public and to use rhetoric to manipulate people. Systems further weight officers with hundreds of pages of policy that dictate down to detail, draining the responsiveness and artistry out of interactions. Further, law enforcement tends to be a profession filled with people compelled to “work overtime to stamp out any insight or art” (page 118). People who have the “resistance so thoroughly entrenched they don’t even realize it’s there. For them this is normal. They think they’re being mature and realistic when they’re actually cowering in fear” (page 122).
While law enforcement has always been a profession blessed with many “artist” and even “linchpins,” it is ironically a profession driven internally to be what Mr. Godin calls the “lizard brain.” I have wondered for years about a paradox in law enforcement. It is a bravery rich culture when dealing with circumstances the average person runs from – such as a person made super-strong and dreadfully violent by PCP. However, when it comes to dealing with internal issues that smother creativity, responsiveness and compromise integrity – the lizard brain rules. Mr. Godin did a great job as he hunted down the “lizard brain” and exposed how it operates. He even provides some valuable insight on how to overcome the “resistance.” For this and many other reasons, I think “Linchpin” has much to offer law enforcement. As the profession prepares to face the unique challenges of the 21st century, we must deliver inspired work, both internally and externally. We must become a culture where giving gifts is the ultimate symbol of the power invested in us, a revolutionary return to a time when power was about giving not getting (page 151). Our art must begin to build community and allow the community to build value and safety for all (page 153). This is what the U.S. military calls building a counterinsurgency environment (COIN). This is a reflection of the founding principles of policing (Sir Robert Peel). Law enforcement must become a culture increasingly filled with artistic linchpins who unleash the power of unconditional respect.

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