Seth Godin keynote

Seth Godin: Will You Choose to Matter?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

“What do you make?” posed entrepreneur, bestselling author, and speaker Seth Godin during Tuesday morning’s keynote address, “Dancing on the Edge of a Revolution.” What you do, he continued, is make “work that matters for people who care.”

Talent development professionals tell stories designed to make a difference, to make change happen. “Development” is an operative word, and it is very different than training, he noted. Training happens instantly, whereas development “is the generous persistence of showing up again and again for the people we seek to change.” Further, he pointed out that education is done to us—it’s mandatory. But learning is something we choose to do, and we do it happily.

Public education was designed to make a compliance-based workforce. Godin called out that we first learned in grade school and then as we grew we learned that teachers, supervisors, and managers will keep asking for more. That constant asking for more engrained in workers a proclivity to hold back.

It’s a new day
But the industrial model, where people needed to be trained to work on the assembly line, is gone forever. Instead, in the world of the Internet, everyone is a competitor—both for your talent and for your customers. Of change, new business models, and competition, Godin warned: “If you think it’s not coming for you, ask a travel agent.”

Figuring out what to do next in this new paradigm is development work. After talking about the wide availability of ways and places to buy everything from smartphones to insurance to yoga pants, Godin stated, “It’s only when you offer something magical that people will cross the street and come to you.”


With that competition, talent developers’ and leaders’ mindset should no longer be about offering a tangible product at the cheapest price; it needs to be about offering a feeling, a feeling that is worth something to your customers. He asked attendees: How will you know what that magical thing is? What will create that feeling?

It’s always too soon
Godin said this new reality requires leaders who are willing to move forward even if they’re not sure it’s going to work. Management, which is all about authority, worked back in the Industrial Age. However, Godin asserted that now leaders need to move forward with a mindset of “I’m not sure how to get there. Who’s going to join me on this journey?”


It’s only when you move forward that you see what happens. Johannes Gutenberg launched the printing press when a large segment of the population couldn’t read, when there were no reading glasses. Many people likely thought it was foolish—that he should have waited.

Today, Godin urged, “It’s always too soon!” To make a difference, you have to take that leap and be willing to fly higher, which he noted is a privilege—“a privilege to do better.” Not more, mind you, but better. More was the Industrial Age way of thinking.

Will you be a leader? Will you be the one to decide how change happens?

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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