I set myself a tough challenge for 2019: read 100 business books in the year. It was a close thing, but I hit my target (if we allow manuscripts as well as published books, and I don't see why we shouldn't). In this week's episode I've picked out the 10 titles that that have particularly stood out for me and which I'd recommend to anyone who cares about good business books, in the order in which I read them.
Audio books are big news. But they're also expensive and complicated to produce - or are they? Determined to find out for herself, Karen Williams published her latest book Becoming An Authority audio first (in fact it doesn't even exist yet as a print or ebook).
She discovered a huge amount about the process along the way, including how to write in a way that makes it easier to read aloud, the importance of movement, and how to get an audiobook out across all the different channels, and she generously shares it all here and in the accompanying resources.
Writing a book is hard work. One of the best things about this podcast is that so many guests reveal the brilliant, extraordinary, sometimes hilarious strategies that got them through the hard yards of planning and writing and out the other side.
This is one of those podcasts.
From smart public transport hacks to testing concepts out on her mother, Helen Winter tells us exactly how she turned her idea for The Business Analysis Handbook from a twinkle in her eye to an award short-listed book - and how she came out of the the 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge with a proposal that had three publishers calling her up within a week!
This week saw the first ever Practical Inspiration author day. More than 40 authors at every stage of the journey - from just signed up to three years post-publication - to share stories and tips and to support each other.
There were workshops on overcoming procrastination and marketing your book, and a wealth of practical (and inspiring, naturally) ideas, from setting up your writing habit to launching successfully and integrating your book with your website.
If you were there, you'll know just how energising and useful this day was. If you weren't, here's a taste of the brilliantly practical learnings we took away with us. And maybe next time, you can be there too.
There's never been a more entrepreneurial age. The barriers to entry for setting up a business have crumbled over the last decades while our sense of purpose and desire to be in control of our lives have sky-rocketed.
But what does it take to be successful in this new world? Richard Hall and Rachel Bell interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs and discovered that those who succeed aren't afraid to experiment in small ways, learn, adapt, trial and rethink where necessary.
In this conversation they also share how they set the pace for each other as they wrote the book and why their complementary skill-sets helped when it came to marketing.
'It's tempting, especially when you're a consultant, to not share anything. Because you're worried that what you do, what you talk to your clients about, is your secret sauce... it took me about a year or so to realise that that's completely untrue.'
Jono Bacon has written a few books now, and every time he's learned how to do it better. In this conversation he shares all that learning generously, and reveals how open-source philosophy and the power of people have informed not just his career, but his approach to writing a business book.
Accent-spotters will have particular fun with this...
"Half of the reason I decided to do this book was to learn... what does it take to write a book? Not only the process that you go through but what is the personal journey I am going to have to go through to become the person that can write this book? And it turned out to be as expected very difficult, lots of ups and downs..."
Buster Benson is incurably curious, and luckily for the rest of the world, he's also generous and creative in sharing his journey. In this conversation we talk about the power of writing as a daily practice, how he had to learn to draw after deciding he wanted an illustrated book, and of course why learning to disagree well expands and improves your world, the topic of his book Why Are We Yelling? The Art of Productive Disagreement.
When you write business books for a living, writing your own brings an unexpected problem: 'Sometimes I thought it was quite outrageous, in fact: Hang on a minute, nobody's paying me to do this, how can that be?'
But Ginny Carter discovered that she was richly rewarded as she took herself through the process she works through with her clients - articulating the knowledge, expertise and insights that would otherwise remain unexpressed.
In this conversation she lifts the lid on how she went about putting her own book together, and reveals two of her top tips: how to 'seed' your business into your book, and how to use the 'even if' structure to solve the reader's real problem.
Writing a business book is a delicate balancing act between being fully yourself and being fully in service of your reader. How do you "do you" to the max, without tipping over into self-indulgence or over-sharing?
In the last few episodes of The Extraordinary Business Book Club we've explored this question from a number of angles. In this Best Bits episode, discover:
Kelly Glover is the queen of podcast promo. She's booked thousands of authors, entrepreneurs and experts as guests on top podcasts and taught them how to make the most of the opportunity, drawing on her own media experience as a radio producer, talent agent and podcast host.
In this episode she reveals the secrets of being a great podcast guest: how to get the gig, how to prepare and perform, and how to squeeze every last bit of value out of the opportunity. And it's not just what she says, it's how she says it: Kelly walks her talk and this is a masterclass in how to be the perfect podcast guest.
Another Frankfurt Book Fair, another series of fascinating book-related conversations, but this year I managed to capture just a few of them for the benefit of Extraordinary Business Book Club listeners.
If you couldn't make it in person to the Messe, this is the next best thing.
At the start of 2019 I set myself the ambitious target of reading 100 business books in the year. Now we are 78% of the way through the year, and I am 60% through my list. So really, who am I to be offering reading tips?
But the fact remains that you don't consume 60 books in less than 10 months without picking up some useful learnings. Here, then, are a few reflections on what I've discovered so far, and some practical thoughts on how to supercharge your own extraordinary business book reading.
'It sometimes feels like I get to see every business book published.'
As managing editor and business book reviewer for the Financial Times, not to mention the coordinator of the annual FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year award, Andrew Hill reads probably more business books than anyone else on the planet. It's worth a listen to this just for his personal recommendations.
But he's also a writer, and so his reflections on the value of books in the 21st century are doubly valuable, since he's reflecting on them both professionally and personally, and as both a creator and a consumer.
Fascinating and thoughtful insights into the world of top business books from one of its most influential figures.
'But that's really vulnerable. I don't really want people to read that.'
'Well, that's your story. And if you really want to give this your best shot, you've got to go deep.'
When financier, businesswoman and philanthropist Nancy Youssef decided to entitle the book about the lessons she's learned in her life Fear. Money. Purpose. she didn't realise just how appropriate those words would be for the act of writing the book itself.
In this conversation she reveals how she took up the challenge, invested in the process, and transformed her original play-it-safe manuscript into a powerful personal story that wowed her publisher and transformed her own life.
'We build the road and the road builds us.'
Sometimes, writing a business book can be a profound experience of self-discovery. Karen Skidmore describes True Profit Business: How to play your bigger game without burning out, as her 'becoming' book, and what she discovered along the way has transformed her own business.
But how can an author extend that gift of deep engagement and transformation to readers most of whom, let's face it, have a stack of unread business books on their bedside table already? Karen's answer was to create a launch book club, inviting readers to engage with her and with each other over a period of six weeks and holding them accountable for taking action on what they read.
Genius, no? Find out more here.
Writing a book is rocket-fuel for your profile, of course. But what happens five years later, when your thinking and your business have moved on and your book just won't stop selling? That's where Marianne Cantwell, author of Be A Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills, found herself.
Find out how she came to write a new edition and what she discovered on the way - the authors on this podcast make the mistakes so you don't have to. And along the way enjoy Marianne's thoughts on being free range, finding your own way, working with editors, and the vital importance of the Best Friend Test. Top-quality listening.
There's a lot of hot air expended on the topic of leadership. It can seem as though 'leadership' is a complex, arcane concept far removed from the reality of most of our lives. Here's the antidote: Chris Hirst's No Bullsh*t Leadership: Why the World Needs More Everyday Leaders and Why That Leader Is You.
In this conversation we talk about the power of language to hide or reveal the truth, the importance of writing generally as a business skill, and writing a book specifically as a thinking tool, and the importance of pushing through.
If you're writing, you're a writer. If you're leading, you're a leader. Here's how to do both a little better.
If you need some encouragement to write in your own voice, this could be just what you need. Norm Laviolette could have called his book 'Developing a Creative Mindset': instead, he stayed true to his roots and wrote 'The Art of Making Sh!t Up'.
In this conversation we discuss finding your voice, taking control of your life, and seeing what comes up. And also softball coaching, because improv, creativity and business success are all based on noticing unexpected connections and having the courage to act on them.
The last few episodes of The Extraordinary Business Book club have included some extraordinary conversations about business and books, and one thing that's become clear is that you need to be fuelled by passion to write a business book that makes a difference. Discover how these award-winning writers tapped into their deepest values and motivations, and how you can too:
'Today, if you always do what you've always done, even if you do it faster, you're going to get left way behind... it's not knowledge that's power and it's not even the use of knowledge that's power: it's the creation of new knowledge that actually leads to something different.'
As children we are naturally, unselfconsciously creative, but by the time we start work most of us have put ourselves into a box and find it almost impossible to think outside it. Chris Griffiths, founder of OpenGenius, is on a mission to help us rediscover our innovation mojo.
The Creative Thinking Handbook is part of that mission, setting out a process ('innovation isn't an event, it's a process and any process needs structure'). But in this conversation Chris reveals the creative process behind the writing of that book - we discuss the interplay of writing and visualisation, the mechanics of collaboration, and the role of technology, from paper and post-its to mind-mapping software.
A brilliantly practical and thoughtful discussion about thinking, writing and creating something new and worthwhile.
'We wanted to create a monster global sisterhood of amazing women who have each other's backs.'
Old Boys' Networks have been the invisible scaffolding on which high-flying men have build their careers for centuries. Debbie Wossock and Anna Jones - high-flyers themselves as both executives and entrepreneurs - decided it was time that women had an equivalent space and support network. The result was AllBright, a women's support and success network, and the first women-only private members' club in London.
But to reach as many women as possible with their empowering message they did the only sensible thing: they wrote a book. In this conversation they reveal how their writing collaboration reflected their core values - mutual respect, optimism, humour, and gin.
Jonathan MacDonald is extraordinary in many ways: a victim of bullying as a child who grew up to practise 'radical forgiveness', the youngest ever Chairman of the British Music Industries Association, the current British heavyweight jiu-jitsu champion.... Oh yes, and an advisor, award-winning, best-selling author and keynote speaker. How? Find out here.
We talk about diversity, change, structuring and writing a book, metaphor and coin-flipping - to name just a few - and he makes an incredibly generous offer to Extraordinary Business Book Club listeners which you'd be a fool to pass up. Get the kettle on and get ready for some top quality brainfood.
'The discovery process is everything. It's the whole project.'
Andrea Clarke describes the three months she spent writing her book as being in 'a pure content vortex... I felt like I was on a natural high.' Discover why, and maybe catch some of her energy and enthusiasm to reignite your own writing mojo, in this fascinating conversation.
As well as talking about the skills that make humans 'future fit' for work, we also touch on the power of audio and the need to 'get over yourself' if you don't like the sound of your voice, the importance of having a 3-dimensional network, and why it's sometimes better NOT to ask for feedback.
'We've got more ways to communicate with one another than in any time in human history, and yet we've completely forgotten how to communicate with one another, or at least how to communicate in a meaningful way.'
Charlie Corbett is starting a revolution. He wants to end corporate-speak and the lazy thinking behind it. Instead, he calls us to think hard and speak plainly as communicators, and challenge meaningless jargon and obfuscation as listeners.
The same goes for writing a book, and he has great advice on how to get over yourself and get started. Brilliant, bracing listening.
'If you ask people do they have a plan for the week, do they know where they need to be, do they know the clients that they'll be meeting, they've prepared for that... Then you say, "What are you going to have for lunch?" And they go, "What?"'
Most of us know exactly what we should be eating, few of us are actually eating it. Too often we fuel our working day with a quick-fix mix of carbs and caffeine, without realising the price we're paying in fatigue, poor decision-making and low productivity.
When Productivity Ninja Graham Allcott starting working with wellbeing expert Colette Heneghan, he was astonished at the impact on his energy and output. Together they're written the book for everyone who wants to give themselves an unfair advantage at work. In this episode we talk about things-on-toast, finding the gap, writing with a co-author, and beating the blank page.