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Godin’s Poke the Box and The Domino Project

The job isn’t to catch up to the status quo; the job is to invent the status quo. Seth Godin.

Last year, inspired by the ideas in Seth Godin’s Tribes, I began rethinking how I worked (or might work) in groups at school, with my colleagues, in professional organizations.

At the suggestion of Patrick Larkin, I loaded Godin’s latest, Poke the Box, on my Kindle yesterday.

Godin woke me up again.  His message should resonate for every teacher and every teacher librarian with a good idea.  Any good idea.

Poke the Box is a manifesto about starting.  It’s about initiative–about not waiting for someone to draw the roadmap, but choosing to draw it yourself.

Godin encourages us to consider:

Who in your organization is in charging of starting stuff? Who is in charge of saying yes?

Someone’s gotta say go.  It ought to be you.  Soon is not as good as now.

If you are sitting around waiting to be picked, stop waiting. Pick yourself.

Note to educators: The box of school really needs poking.  The box of library needs poking.  You do not need positional power to say go.  You can say go on both small and large things.

The very publishing of the book pokes the box, pushes change, and promotes a new distribution model for authors with the launch of the Domino Project, a collaboration between Godin and Amazon.  The site explains a new philosophy and model for publishing:

The Domino Project is named after the domino effect—one powerful idea spreads down the line, pushing from person to person. The Project represents a fundamental shift in the way books (and digital media based on books) have always been published. Eventually consisting of a small cadre of stellar authors, this is a publishing house organized around a new distribution channel, one that wasn’t even a fantasy when most publishers began.

We are reinventing what it means to be a publisher, and along the way, spreading ideas that we’re proud to spread. Our core beliefs:

  • Exceptionally high quality ideas, created without regard for what bookstores and middlemen want.
  • Ideas packaged with cogency and urgency in mind, not a word wasted, no filler.
  • Permission at the heart of the model. Ideas for our readers, not more readers for our ideas.
  • Virality first. An idea that requires a direct sale won’t thrive in a world where the most powerful ideas spread from hand to hand. Create content that works best when spread, and then package it so it’s easy to spread.
  • Reward the sneezers who stand up and spread these ideas.
  • No patience for obsolete institutions. Bestseller lists are not worth compromising for.
  • Speed triumphs. Rapid time to market, rapid evolution, rapid response to reader feedback.
  • Format agnostic. Kindle, audiobook, paperback, collectible… all good.
  • Different products for different customers. A variety of price points and formats to match audience desires.

The Domino Project demonstrates what some of those box-poking bullet points look like in action with its free (with generous permissions) PDF study guide, Start Now (Poke the Box: The Workbook),

We’ve filled these pages with quotes, action items, and excerpts to light a fire under you and get you started. There are more questions here than answers. That’s intentional. The answers come from you. This will require you to explore corners of your life where you hesitate, procrastinate, or weasel your way out because you’re afraid.

Thanks again, Seth! My ideas and I are ready to go.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. OK. You’ve chaired a panel at the Library Journal Virtual Summit, “ebooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point” so you are very conversant with the issues regarding ebooks and libraries.

    You loaded Seth Godin’s latest book, Poke the Box, on your Kindle. You love the book. Great. You are a teacher-librarian at Springfield Township High School. You CAN purchase this book for the Springfield Township High School library. But you cannot loan it to your students to let them have the opportunity to share in your enthusiasm. Because Amazon doesn’t allow libraries to loan ebooks. And Mr. Godin has abandoned his old publishers and is selling this book EXCLUSIVELY through Amazon.

    What am I missing? Something in the fine print? Looking forward to your response.

  2. Still looking forward to your response.


  3. Very odd. I apologize if I’ve given offense. I am really trying to understand this mystery. It SEEMS that Amazon has made an attack of sorts on libraries, but I’m hoping that I’m mis-reading the situation and that there is something to be said in Amazon’s defense here. If not, then surely Seth Godin, and J.A. Konrath, two authors who have titles published exclusively with Amazon, are complicitious in undermining the library system. We can’t have a situation where libraries have to tell patrons: Yes, we can offer you that title, but in print only.

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