Seth Godin on Organizing

I’ll tell you a story about how I think about organizing.

I went to the engineering school at Tufts for college. One of the classes I took there was an invention design class.

Our first assignment was to build a case for all the freshmen to organize their tools in.

Back then, every freshman was given about 30 tools to help them do their work — things like a protractor, a mechanical pencil, and a fancy ruler. And we had to build a case for them.

The freshmen would use the case for two weeks, and then we would get a report back about whether it was useful.

Everyone else in the class spent hours and hours building these ornate, beautiful cases that had custom foam inserts that were cut out to organize just the right tool in just the right place. So you’d have a space exactly cut out for your protractor, and a space exactly cut out for your ruler. And everything would be neat and tidy and organized.

But I didn’t do that. What I did was I went to Harvard Square, got a paint box that artists use, and then put a piece of foam on the top of the box and a piece of foam on the bottom of the box.

The way it worked was you just throw your tools in the box and then you close it. Your tools wouldn’t move because the two pieces of foam held them in place, and when you opened the box again your tools would be just where you put them.

I worked on it for a total of seven minutes, and then I handed it in. The students who used it loved it. They said it worked great.

But my professor gave me an F on the project. So I went to him and said, “Why did you give me an F?”

He said, “Because you only worked on it for seven minutes.”

And I said, “Yeah, but it’s not an arts and crafts project. It did exactly what it was supposed to do.”

So my professor changed my grade to an A. And that’s my philosophy on organizing.

Organizing is like building a case to hold your tools. You don’t get points for making it fancy, you get points for doing the work.

About David Smith

One of the guys named Smith who was once a consultant. This is not his first rodeo. Or his second or third.
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