Former ad man, CEO of both the Granada and Conran Groups and Chairman of Citigate, Roger Mavity is also a renowned author, artist and photographer.
In this conversation we explore the twin struggles of creativity and specifically of writing: the private struggle to articulate the idea, and the public struggle to broadcast it.
And if it's true as Roger argues that 'Virtually everything in the world that happens that's any good happens because there's one really bright person that lights the blue touch paper', how does this Promethean vision of creativity play out in our organisations and collaborations?
A fascinating conversation with one of the world's most colourful and creative business experts.
We've been stuck on the idea of competitive advantage as the key to strategy for a long time now. Paul Skinner thinks it's had its day.
'Where competitive advantage assumes that the way to succeed is by being better than others, I believe the way to succeed is by supporting others and sharing the value that you can create with them.'
Collaborative Advantage is what Paul describes as his 'book-worthy' big idea, and in this conversation he explains how it's unfolded from a principle that he's applied and developed through the various initiatives and enterprises he's worked with over the years into book form.
There's also great advice on creating stories where the customer, not your business, is the hero. Because those are the stories that change lives.
Campbell Macpherson hasn't really stopped grinning since March, when I handed him the Business Book of the Year trophy at the Business Book Awards ceremony. In this week's show we talk about the impact of winning such a prestigious award (or even just being shortlisted), and how your book can plug into the heart of your business.
(We also note how good it feels when, on the night, you come back to sit at your table clutching your award to rapturous applause, and the commissioning editor who turned your book down leans over and says: 'I don't always make the right decisions.')
"I don't want people to buy my book."
That's a sentence I honestly don't think I've heard an author say before, ever. But Barbara Gray's vision for her second book, Secrets of the Amazon, was very different to that of most authors. It's part of what she calls high fidelity, and she argues it's the only response to today's retail economy.
"You can't compete on a functional value basis anymore. You can't compete against Amazon in terms of price, convenience, variety or choice. They will kill you on that. Whether you're retailer or whatever you're doing. So you have to move up one layer; it has to be about creating an emotional attachment with your customers."
Barbara was a guest on this show back in September 2016 talking about her first book, Ubernomics. It's fascinating to hear how her writing and self-publishing journey has evolved since then, and how she's walking her talk as a financial analyst through her books.
Networking is (quite literally, it turns out) a 'dirty word', but Dr David Burkus brings together studies and stories that show how we've got it wrong: we don't 'do networking', we ARE a network.
This is invaluable for anyone in business, but David also describes in detail how he gets from idea to finished, best-selling book, including the systems and tools he uses, so if you're also writing a business book you can't afford to miss this.
"People feel like, if they haven't been 'chosen', then 'Who am I to write a book?'... I just think: don't wait to be chosen. If this is something you want to do, just do it."
Denise Duffield-Thomas, author of Lucky Bitch, helps women overcome their hang-ups about money. In this episode, she helps writers overcome their hang-ups about, well, writing and life in general. It's packed full of practical tips on getting over yourself, connecting to your motivation, finding the title that works for you (even if it's controversial), and organising your life - apology-free - so that you can Get Stuff Done. Including writing the book that will change your business and your life.
Listen up, girlfriend. (And blokes, you need to hear this too.)
"There's this comfortable way of thinking that we're programmed by evolution to enjoy, which is thinking in patterns. That makes life so much easier and so much more approachable, when we rely on lessons we've learned in the past, when we observe other people and we do the things that they're doing, when we create predictability. It all just makes life easy to process. It's pretty good when the world stays still. The problem is, what feels safe is actually really dangerous if the world is changing around us."
And that's what prompted Jonah Sachs, storyteller, author and entrepreneur, to write Unsafe Thinking: How to be Creative and Bold When You Need It Most. In this episode Jonah reveals how he went about researching the book by interviewing high-profile unsafe thinkers ("I realised if I wanted to get them to talk to me I'd have to say I was writing a book...") and explains how he uses stories to translate facts and findings into a narrative that readers will connect with, and therefore understand and remember more easily.
There's some profound wisdom and practical tips for would-be business book writers, and some thoughts on what writing means for a 21st-century business owner.
This is pure gold. Put the kettle on and listen up.
Another helping of best bits from recent episode: we're talking about 'fast books' and 'slow books' - which kind is yours? - writing with a co-author, and how doodling can help you come sideways at a book.
Tune in, sit back, and listen to insights and inspiration from these superb writers:
Steve Scott started writing and publishing to build his business, but pretty soon his business became writing and publishing books: he now has more than 60 to his name, all focused on helping internet entrepreneurs succeed.
In this week's podcast this multi-bestselling author reflects on what he's learned about the process and where he goes from here, and generously shares his best tips for producing and promoting books. I learned a huge amount from our conversation - I know you will too.
Something a bit different this week: I interview myself to pull out some of the learnings from the process of writing This Book Means Business, a book about writing a book to build your business written to build my business. Meta, huh?
Discover how and why this podcast began and some thoughts on how podcasting might work for you, what happened when I faced the fear and took the advice of my guests, and what's next now the book is out.
You can also listen in to the short talk given at the launch itself on 26 March at the Free Word Centre in London, and join in the toast to us - may we be the authors our readers need.
Leadership expert Jurgen Appelo's advice to first-time authors is simple: 'Iterate.'
He goes on to explain: 'You need a feedback cycle. You need to know as soon as possible whether it is making sense, what you're writing. People have to read it.'
Jurgen walks the talk, building his community as he wrote #Workout and selling 5,000 highly illustrated books immediately to his own fan base, before it was picked up by a traditional publisher.
This interplay between traditional and self-publishing is one fascinating aspect of this interview, as is the importance of building a platform and community as you write, but there are many other gems such as Jurgen's approach to illustrating his own book and his up-front permissions policy.
On 16 March 2018, the inaugural Business Book Awards ceremony took place in London. It was an extraordinary occasion, bringing together the top names in books and business in the UK and beyond, and with shortlists including books from the biggest traditional publishers to the smallest independent presses and even self-published authors.
This was the culmination of founder Lucy McCarraher's vision, and as Head Judge I was closely involved in the journey. In this week's episode I talk to Lucy about how she turned the idea into reality in partnership with ThinkFest, the details of the judging process, how it all turned out alright on the night, and the lessons we learned along the way.
The 2019 awards will be even bigger and glitzier, so if you're planning to publish your business book in 2018, find out more and maybe next time we'll be talking about you...
Something a little different this week: a report from the bleeding edge of the publishing industry, also known as the IPG Spring Conference. This is one of the most exciting and diverse events of the publishing calendar, bringing together publishers from all genres of publishing and from all sizes of houses, from one-person microbusinesses to key players such as Bloomsbury and Kogan Page, and with an outstanding reputation for big name keynote speakers with big ideas.
It's a packed programme over three days, and this was the first year I've managed to attend from start to finish.
Here are the key messages I came away with - essential listening for anyone interested in publishing, but with many interesting insights for entrepreneurs in any discipline:
DISRUPTION - what's happening out there, and what might it mean for publishers?
DIVERSITY - how can we better reflect the full range of expertise and experience in the world?
DIGITAL - what's next in the transformation of our businesses?
DATA - why does it matter, how do you get it and what the heck do you do with it?
DEDICATION - the secret weapon of independent publishing: passion, creativity and entrepreneurial flair wrapped up in steely determination
DISTRIBUTION - how can we get books to the readers who need them?
Have you ever thought of business as art? Edgar Papke and Thomas Lockwood, experts in organizational culture and design respectively, wanted to encourage leaders to design their businesses consciously for innovation and collaboration. And what better way than to write collaboratively? This is a masterclass in writing with a partner, which when done right can create a whole that is so much more than the sum of the parts.
Discover whether you need a 'writing partner prenuptial', and why post-its and coffee are central to the collaborative process.
Music notation may seem a world away from business books, but the parallels are striking: when music editor Elaine Gould wrote what was to become the classic reference work Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation, her focus was relentlessly on the musicians who had to use those marks on the staves in performance. Good notation allows the composer's vision and the performer's skill to be translated without interference into the music the audience experiences.
'My greatest joy is going along to a concert, and the composer dashing up to me from the other end of the room and saying, "Thank you!"'
When you're translating your expertise into a book, that focus on how the reader is going to experience and use your message is equally important. Her rigorous attention to detail is inspiring, and her reaction to seeing the finished book heart-warmingly honest - I for one can empathise with this:
'When [they] handed me the first copy off the press, I was just so overwhelmed. It was wonderful. I hugged that book all the way back on the train to London, and I think I slept with it beside my bed. And in the morning, I looked up to see, was it really there? After all these years, was it there? And then it was there, and I thought you know what? For the rest of my life, I haven't got to write that book again.'
We like to think of ourselves as rational beings. But over the last 30 years or so behavioural science and psychological research has conclusively proved otherwise: the bit of our brain that makes decisions does so mostly on the basis of stimuli and associations, and pretty much all the meaningful action takes place below the level of our consciousness.
One of the pioneers of this research, and perhaps the first to bring it into the mainstream and particularly into business thinking, was Robert Cialdini, whose classic book Influence: The psychology of persuasion was published in 1984.
I wrote an essay on Cialdini's theories for my MBA: it felt surreal to be interviewing him on my podcast about what's happened since Influence was published. How have the principles he articulated more than 30 years ago held up in a world that is almost unrecognisable? (Spoiler: surprisingly well.) And why did it take him 30 years after the publication of Influence to write his second solo-authored book, Pre-Suasion?
The answer turns out to be a radical statement of integrity in a world that demands more new stuff from us at every turn.
'I always wanted to write a book... but it was never my time. My husband wrote a book, my father passed away, I have three little kids, I mean, I have a business, you know, life gets in the way... And then finally, one day... I thought: I want to grow my business this year but I don't want to fly anymore.'
And almost by accident, internet marketer Morra Aarons-Mele discovered a new way of working that suited her as a 'hermit entrepreneur': instead of getting on a plane to meet potential clients and drum up business, she set up a podcast and wrote a book.
'Hiding in the Bathroom' has become a rallying call for anyone who's ever felt overwhelmed by the non-stop, always-on, fast-paced world of business and wants to do things differently. And Morra discovered (as I have) that 'the coolest thing about having a podcast, or writing a book, or having a blog is that you can really contact interesting people and say, will you talk to me?'
In today's episode we talk about how podcasting and books allow entrepreneurs to develop their business and their network on their own terms. But - spoiler alert - we conclude that no matter how wonderful it is that you can do this stuff in your yoga pants, writing a book also means getting out of the bathroom and hitting the streets to tell people about it.
Join me to celebrate 100 episodes of The Extraordinary Business Book Club! I puzzled over how to mark this milestone for a while, but in the end I decided to keep it real: three business people just like you, carving out the time to write from the demands of the day job, none of them professional writers, all working out how to do this one step at a time.
Each of them shares what they've discovered on the journey, and their incredibly practical advice for anyone in the same situation. Each one of them inspires me with their passion for their message, and how they can make the world a little better, one reader at a time.
I can't think of a better way to celebrate 100 episodes of celebrating extraordinary business books.
'We're all continually learning. Learning is a kind of scaffolding. To me, that's the most beautiful metaphor for writing a book and for learning in life, that you're continually building scaffolding. That scaffolding is expanding your capacity.'
Daniel Coyle is a New York Times bestselling author, and in this interview he reveals not only what he discovered about leadership in his latest book The Culture Code (and what happened when he put it into practice in the school writing squad he was coaching at the time), but also HOW he writes, the starting point and the tools and systems that take him from initial idea to finished book.
There's also some exciting news about my own book, and I announce the winner of the 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge. Make a cup of tea and settle down to the last ever two-digit Extraordinary Business Book Club episode!
'If five years ago somebody had said to me, "So you know, Kate, are you ever going to write a book?" I would have said, "No, no, no, no, no. I don't write books. I draw pictures."'
But when Kate Raworth doodled a doughnut shape to capture her vision of how economics is bounded by human and ecological constraints, she unwittingly started a revolution in macroeconomic thinking.
In this conversation we explore the extraordinary power of drawing for opening up thinking. And as Kate points out: 'You don't have to be Picasso to create something that has massive impact.'
We also touch on video, animation, the 60-second summary and the one-page overview - high-impact ways of getting your message across quickly and memorably - and the importance of bringing your own humanness to your book.
Shortlisted for the FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year in 2017, Doughnut Economics is an extraordinary book. And here's how it happened.
David Roche has seen publishing from pretty much every angle: publisher, bookseller, author, reader, mentor, consultant and industry maven. He's been on the boards of HarperCollins, Waterstones and HMV, was CEO of Borders and Books Etc, he's the chair of New Writing North, non-exec chair of the London Book Fair, and executive chair of the publishing industry's online magazine, BookBrunch. And he's just published a crowdfunded book of poems.
So today's conversation is a look at where the industry's going from someone with unrivalled insights, plus a very personal - and very funny - view of what happens when the gamekeeper turns poacher.
Audio, crowdfunding, subscription models, marketing, book events: bring yourself up to speed with what's happening in the industry in the company of publishing's most entertaining expert.
How do you turn a great talk into a great book? It's not as easy as you might think.
Miranda West is the founder of Do Books, which originated with the Do Lectures in Wales, focused on smart working and slow living. But as she explains, taking a message from stage to page involves more than mere transcription.
This is also an inspiring story about what can happen when you have a crazy idea and go ahead and send the email...
Joe Pulizzi is 'the godfather of content marketing'. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute and author of five books (one every two years), he has a clear vision of how books fit into a content strategy.
It all starts, he says, with the platform, and his sane advice will be music to the ears of any entrepreneur struggling with the overwhelm of multiple channels and messages.
'We've been built our advertising around our products and services when we should really build around: "Who's our audience? How do we love them? How do we know better than anyone else?" Deliver value to those audiences, great experiences to those audiences on a daily basis, and if you do that you will be rewarded in multiple ways outside of what you can even fathom today. That's the potential and that's why it's the best time to be in marketing that's ever been right now.'
On a personal note, this episode is dedicated to the memory of Lorraine Keelan, a great friend and former publishing colleague lost way too soon.
Welcome to 2018 - what are you planning to do with it? If the answer - in part at least - is 'some worthwhile writing', this episode is for you. I've pulled together some of the best thinking and most practical advice from past podcast guests, and sprinkled in more tips from members of the Extraordinary Business Book Club.
Let's make 2018 the year you stop with the procrastination and overwhelm and false starts. Let's make it the year you put in place your new writing habit, the year of making a difference.
Let's make 2018 count.
Pour a glass of sherry, munch on a mince pie, and put your feet up with a few of my absolute favourite moments EVER from the Extraordinary Business Book Club.
I hope you enjoy this (not-very) seasonal selection box as much as I did. And whatever you're doing and whoever you're doing it with, have a very happy Christmas Day.