Seth Godin was riffing on the concept of expertise and passion today. He was basically making the argument that some positions in an organization do not have to be filled by people who are driven by a passion for the product that is being produced. I concur with that and I have a personal story to support it.

Several years ago, I left my soul sucking job at a huge sawmill for a job as the roaster at a fair trade coffee cooperative. I have some enthusiasm for coffee (the tangible product) and also for social justice (the intangible product), but I wasn’t extremely PASSIONATE about either. My skills were developing efficient systems, performing repetitive tasks efficiently and implementing quality control.

The man and wife founders are PASSIONATE about their products. When their baby of a company outgrew mom and pop style management, one of them bit the bullet and went to school to learn how to be a general manager. I was with the company during a period of major growth. When I recently checked on its progress I was pleased to see that it appears to be thriving in ways that I couldn’t have predicted three years ago.

I can’t think of any instances where slightly mismatched worldviews caused problems between me and my coffee-making coworkers. When the entire production crew was given the day off to support and participate in an anti-Bush demonstration, I chose to stay at the roastery and perform some maintenance. For the record, I am not a fan of GWB. I just chose not to protest a foreign leader who was on an official visit to my country. That, and it was time to sweep the chimneys.

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