These are my summary reflections from the Catalyst East Conference in Atlanta, GA.  The theme this year was “The Tension is Good”, so the speakers mostly used their talks to explore various tensions we all feel in Leadership.  I don’t summarize every speaker.

seth-godinSeth Godin first spoke at Catalyst two years ago and really impressed everyone with his Tribes concept.  This year he was back and blew us out of the proverbial with some thoughts from his newest offering, Linchpin.  Get ready…

The Economy always drives our culture (and our religion).  When our society was hunter/gatherer, our religion was a lot more portable (think Tabernacle).  When we had monarchies, we had a strong, hierarchical church.  And now that we’re all capitalists, our church is strongly consumer.

The interesting thing is, however, that our system (of organizing and maximizing) is just that, a temporary system (that’s only about 200 years old).  And in this current (but failing) system, if you have something you want to sell, you advertise (which is basically just trying to yell louder than everyone around you, which ought to make you think of tract or bullhorn evangelists).

Modernism created the Factory system, which requires people to be interchangeable.

So the system created schools that train us to be identical, interchangeable people who obey the system.  No one teaches us how to solve interesting problems or to be creative.  The Factory wants you to conform so it can ignore you.  But in the world of Google, competence isn’t a scarce commodity.  It’s easy to find someone else to do your job better than you can.

Because we’re all more connected than ever before, all that’s left is to matter.
  1. Are you doing work people will miss when you’re gone?
  2. Todays ‘win’ is being more connected.
  3. Failure isn’t scary; in fact, it’s necessary to succeed!
No one joins a boring tribe.  You create a movement by doing something people are talking about.

In a world without bosses, who is setting my agenda?  Art is a human act that changes someone; it’s a generous gift.  Untamed generosity is the heart of genuine relationships.  So in your teams and organizations, ask What are we rewarding?


There’s a small part of our brain that’s afraid of risk-taking, afraid to step out and embrace new opportunities.  Seth calls it the Lizard Brain.  It’s the enemy of progress and growth as our culture shifts because staying where it’s safe creates deniability.  If I don’t step out, if I don’t risk, then it’s not my fault.

If I stay where it’s safe and don’t grow, then it’s the company’s fault, not mine.

Seth ended by encouraging us not to be afraid to step out and do something radical and different.  He closed with this idea:

As the community gets more orthodox, the outliers will always outnumber the insiders.

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