Seth Godin’s ‘Gift Economy’ – Give and Get

In a couple of his books (Linchpin and The Icarus Deception), Seth Godin discusses a concept of ‘gift giving’. He suggests that we use our talents to create art, which we then give to others as a gift.

  • The gift is valuable because we create it with our best talents. For example, if you are a writer, your gift is a book or article you wrote.
  • This gift is not necessarily attached with reciprocation – like a true gift should be. Recognition is a good way to respond to a gift. (When it is professional in context, you get compensated for working – though it is often not tied directly to the gift itself.)
  • The internet makes it easy to give gifts. There are free web services (such as blogging platforms and social media) you can use to give a gift.

A loan without interest is a gift. A gift brings tribe members closer together. A gift can make you indispensable. (Linchpin page 158)

Give a Gift

Give a Gift

What I like about Seth’s ‘gift economy’ is it incentivizes us to create art, especially when we are not directly compensated. I think of my blogging as a gift in this way. I share it with you and you read it for free. The best way you respond to my gift is by writing a comment, liking it, and/or sharing it in social media. I have copyright privilege to the content, but the dissemination of my ideas is not protected.

It suggests ‘creating art’ not based on how much you are compensated, but rather on the depth of your talent. I think it is a matter of attitude – like a painter who only shares his or her masterpiece when it is ready. (Later market forces come into play and should value the painting what it is truly worth.)

I also like the idea of creating art based on our core competencies and values. Utilize your unique skill set and soft skills to create something that is not easily replicable or automated.

I think a problem with Seth’s ‘gift economy’ is a professional (an artist) can be taken advantage of and never get properly compensated. In Linchpin, Seth argues that it is a matter of professionals getting recognized for their talent and then having leaders pay them properly. Problem is that it takes time to build a reputation. Perhaps a professional’s best work is their earlier works or he or she only creates one masterpiece and never has the insight to do it again.

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