Adopt vs. Adapt: Countering Seth Godin

I admire Seth Godin and his writing: how he simplifies the chief aims of marketing and branding into simple, practical, even pithy explanations. His prolific Seth’s Blog is particularly impressive for the voracious attention it requires to produce a daily lesson for his disciples.  I have followed him intentionally to allow his philosophy to help shape the crafting of my brand and the authentic public persona of my private world.

However, today I disagree with Seth.  Perhaps in his rush to put out a daily decree to his tribe, he simply confused some meaning. In any case, I thought he got things a bit mixed up in his claims about Adopt vs. Adapt.  Of course, he is so Adept at his craft that I offer my perspective with reverence for his body of intellectual capital still intact.

Seth writes:

“An early adopter seeks out new ideas and makes them work. An adapter, on the other hand, puts up with what he has to, begrudgingly. One is offense, the other is defense. One requires the spark of curiousity, the other is associated with fear, or at least hassle.”


Adopt = take up or start to use or follow (an idea, method, or course of action)

Adapt = make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify

I suppose if you are looking to create the Great Minion Tribe, those Adopters that Seth describes might be desirable.  They will learn your ways and put them to good use.  Nothing wrong with that.  Adopters will be grateful, loyal followers.  The product of an Adopter – whether success or failure – will always point back to you.

It is with his depiction of the Adapters that I take exception. I hardly understand how Adapters are defensive, “putting up with” what they have to, “begrudgingly”.  Adapters are creative by nature. They aren’t copiers or mere followers. Adapters are anything but victims – they innovate.  I describe innovation as “the practical application of a creative idea” – not necessarily your own idea.

Both Adopters and Adapters make things happen, but both use offensive tactics. Adapters may not produce the legacy you are looking for; if so, I would encourage you to stick with Seth on this one.  Adapters will likely re-purpose your idea.  They completely own their success and failures. Adapters will extend your legacy in new ways that lack your signature, perhaps; in so doing, they may expose greater potential of your idea than you even imagined.

I think you have to eventually become an Adaptor to be a Linchpin, borrowing another one of Godin’s repurposed terms. (Godin is most definitely an Adapter!)  Adapters “want to start stuff”. They want to put things together based on what they understand, not by following the directions that come in the package. They want to Poke the Box, as Godin encourages us to do.

So, in the end, I agree with Seth that “it’s not easy to sell to the adapt community,” but for much different reasons.  Adapters will always consider your ideas at The Intersection of THEIR Purpose and Now – not yours.

About pdncoach

A Go-Giver business coach working with leaders whose success depends on the performance and productivity of others. I coach individual leaders and their teams... in small to mid-size businesses, ministries and non-profits... to accelerate their results and achieve dreams by getting past the difficult, strategic challenges of their current realities.
This entry was posted in Adapt, Adopt, innovation, Purpose, Seth Godin. Bookmark the permalink.

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