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The Extraordinary Business Book Club

Alison Jones, publisher and book coach, explores business books from both a writer's and a reader's perspective. Interviews with authors, publishers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, tech wizards, social media strategists, PR and marketing experts and others involved in helping businesses tell their story effectively.
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The Extraordinary Business Book Club
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Now displaying: 2024
Jun 17, 2024

'It's an unfair advantage to have a platform, it massively helps, don't get me wrong. But it's totally possible to do it without one.'

When Hasan Kubba and Ash Ali got together to write 'The Unfair Advantage: How you already have what it takes to succeed', they assumed they'd self-publish. They even put up a 'lean' version of the book on KDP. But as it turned out they had publishers fighting over it (sensibly, as it went on to be named Business Book of the Year), and Hasan has gone on to help other authors achieve the same feat. 

While having a big following certainly helps in the battle for publishers' attention, Hasan argues that it's possible to get a book deal with a major traditional publisher without it. It's not unlike securing funding for a start-up, which is the other area in which he is an expert. 

Discover the vital elements you need in place and the process to follow to get yourself and your book concept in front of agents and publishers with the best chance of success, with lessons for ALL kinds of content creation. 

Jun 10, 2024

'Embrace AI, but also make sure that you evolve as an individual and you understand the art of the possible while still staying grounded in the art of the practical.'

Implementing AI in your business isn't easy, but NOT implementing it could be disastrous. Sol Rashidi is a former C-suite executive turned AI consultant who knows more than most about the real-world challenges and opportunities in AI deployment. She's been in the field since 2011, developing enterprise-grade applications that integrate AI into business processes effectively, and now she's written a book to help leaders avoid the pitfalls and reap the benefits.

But how do you write a book on such a fast-moving technology? You write it FAST, and you keep it focused on principles, not specific tech tools. Sol reveals how she managed to write her book in two and a half months (or 26 years, depending on which way you look at it...), and how she learned to love the challenge of marketing. 

AI can be an augmenter and accelerator in your business, and this episode can do the same for your writing. 

Jun 3, 2024

Henry Mintzberg is quite simply a legend, and my personal business thinking hero. When I was studying his writings for my MBA I could only have dreamed that one day I'd be chatting about writing to him on my podcast - and sometimes when dreams come true, the reality is even better than you dared imagine.

Along with the nuances of management theory and social change, he revealed insights into his own remarkable writing process. And these elements aren't as different as you might think: his insistence on the non-linear nature of writing and the importance of 'cherishing anomalies' reflects his disciplined yet emergent and above all human approach to strategy. 

Despite the fact that he has so many successful books to his name, Henry Mintzberg is suprisingly wide and creative in his use of other forms of content, such as video, in his mission to make complex ideas accessible. I particularly love the 'Irene question': what can YOU do to drive social change - within your personal life, community, business, government, even on a global scale? It’s a profound inquiry that challenges us to consider our own role in shaping a better world.

This conversation felt like an uplifting, enlightening, mind-expanding gift: I hope you feel that way too. 

May 27, 2024

Journalism is changing, which means journalists have to change too. And a great example of this is the way that BBC reporter Dougal Shaw has reinvented his own role from pure video journalism, transforming what started as corridor conversations with business leaders who happened to be visiting the BBC into a high-profile series that runs on rolling news channels, on social media, in radio and podcast formats, and now as a book.

It's a story of intrapreneurship, which is fitting for a series that draws out lessons in both entrepreneurship and corporate leadership from visionary leaders who are often willing to be more vulnerable away from the finance and figures that are the focus of their more traditional BBC interviews. From the power of storytelling to the psychology of interviewing, there's lots of great stuff here for business book writers, and there's pure gold from Dougal's own experience of breaking down the book into writable parts and discovering the interconnections and patterns in the material. 

Not only CEO secrets, but journalistic and writing secrets too. You're welcome. 

May 20, 2024

'This is the moment to embrace authentic neurodiversity inclusion as a core organizational value. It isn't the whole solution to anything, but it is part of the solution to nearly everything.'

As we hurtle towards the workplace of the future, where human and machine intelligence will interplay in ways we can't yet fully imagine, one thing is clear: standard modes of thinking are becoming less valuable to organizations as algorithms become ever more efficient at replicating them. Nonlinear thinking, hyper focus, intuitive leaps and the ability to tolerate social discomfort and resist groupthink - attributes that have until now been under-valued and under-employed - will become more valuable as complements to AI. And that means that neurodivergent people will become ever more valuable within organizations.

That's the argument of Dr Maureen Dunne, cognitive scientist, neurodiversity expert and member of the neurodiversity community herself, and it's also the topic of her new book. As well as making this case, she also shares her own neurodivergent approach to writing: an interdisciplinary, visuospatial 'conceptual synaethesia'.

A rich and extraordinary conversation, at every level.

May 13, 2024

'We can't really understand what failure teaches us until we achieve success after failure. So it's the success actually, that is more instructive.'

If you're navigating business or personal growth challenges, this episode could be a game-changer.

Rob Hatch challenges the widely accepted narrative that failure is our greatest teacher. Instead, he argues, the most useful lessons come from our successes. Instead of studying what to avoid, let's try to better understand what to repeat.

If you're curious about the underlying forces that drive success, or if repeated advice about learning from failures doesn't resonate with you, this fresh perspectives on 'learning from success', together with his simple, practical ideas for how to start, might be just what you need.

May 6, 2024

At this risk of going a bit meta, this is a brilliant conversation podcast about how brilliant podcast conversations are…

Michelle Glogovac is an author and host of the My Simplified Life podcast, and a frequent guest on other podcasts. She’s passionate about the special, intimate connection that podcasts create between authors and their readers, and the triple win of a good conversation: great content for the host, great marketing for the guest, great insights for the listener.

If you’re sitting there waiting to be asked to be a guest on a podcast, then that stops today: discover exactly how to pitch yourself effectively to your perfect podcast host. And if you’re thinking about hosting a podcast of your own, then this is just pure gold.

Apr 29, 2024

‘That last pillar before you go make your decision: is it ethical? What's the effect it's going to have? The feedback I've got from a lot of people was, oh, I never really thought about that.’

While ethics has become more talked-about in business, it might not be something you’ve considered as a factor in your business writing. But you should.

In this Best Bits episode, I draw together insights from a wide range of recent guests that show how the moral position you take – in work and life – informs your writing, and the impact that has on both your reader and yourself.

Nothing heavy and duty-bound here, just a joyful, thoughtful exploration of how we can write and work in a way that benefits the world, those around us, and ourselves.

Hear from:

  • Corey Keyes on the opposite of languishing;
  • Alison Taylor on why business ethics matter to all of us;
  • David McQueen on being braver about decision-making;
  • Lucy Adams on why HR is about allowing people to flourish rather than being responsible for them doing so;
  • David Roche on the obligations we have to our leaders;
  • Louise Brogan on taking an ethical, human approach to social media;
  • Meredith Norwich on why publishing is an industry full of principled people.
Apr 22, 2024

‘So they go, “Hang on, I've got to look confident… I have to have all the answers,” which is the worst place to come from.’

Becoming a first-time CEO is a lonely experience, and David Roche (who’s got that particular t-shirt himself) believes every new CEO should be assigned a coach and mentor, because if we expect our leaders to have all the answers, we’re setting them - and ourselves - up for failure in a complex, fast-moving, uncertain world. 

David has been involved in the book trade for many years, but that didn’t insulate him from the hard work of authorship, including the paranoia of wondering if his draft was ‘good enough’… 

Merging the personal with the professional, and storytelling with business strategy, this is an episode that offers coaching insights and writing wisdom – and which will be particularly interesting if you’re aiming for or already seated in the CEO's chair, or writing for those sitting in it. 

Apr 15, 2024

'We basically treated legal compliance as a proxy for ethics, which has never really been a particularly good fit.'

I think we can all agree the world is ready for some fresh perspectives on the ethical obligations of the business world: Alison Taylor is here to provide them. 

All too often there are stark differences between company statements and their day-to-day actions, as they perform the delicate dance between ethical decisions and turning a profit. Alison questions long-standing business beliefs, including the assumption that compliance is a proxy for ethical behaviour, proposing a new approach that accounts for companies' internal systems and also their role within broader society. 

She also reveals how she went about writing her book 'Higher Ground', including how she workshopped her thoughts in the classroom and sparked dialogues online as a sounding board.

Insightful, challenging, practical and energising - classic Extraordinary Business Book Club stuff.

Apr 8, 2024

"Do what you can in the circumstances you are given right now. And don't wait for the systems in the world around you to change in order to get some life into your life."

Most of us are only too familiar with 'languishing' - the opposite of flourishing. It was when Adam Grant wrote his famous 2021 New York Times article that we all recognised it as the defining post-pandemic emotion, and it continues to dominate discussions of wellbeing.

Grant's article credited research by Dr. Corey Keyes, a distinguished professor emeritus and a leading voice in the study of mental health and human flourishing. In this week's conversation, Corey explains the personal and professional reasons why he's spent his career advocating for a more proactive approach to fostering mental health — and the profound implications of translating a lifetime of research into a book that can change lives.

This extraordinary conversation will reshape how you think about mental health, not just in business, but in every facet of life.

Mar 25, 2024

'For an academic book, you are looking to demonstrate that you stand on the shoulders of giants. For a practitioner book, you ARE the giant... But you're not the first giant.'

Meredith Norwich is a senior acquisitions editor at Routledge, part of Taylor and Francis Publishing, and she has seen a LOT of business book proposals. What makes a proposal stand out for her? You might be surprised...

Packed with valuable insights for first-time authors and behind-the-scenes glimpses into the publishing industry, this is essential listening for anyone contemplating writing a business book. 

Mar 18, 2024

I’m just back from an exhausting, exhilarating few days at London Book Fair. My ears are still ringing slightly, my feet hurt, I need to spend a few days on my own in a darkened room and I can’t even tell you how many follow-up actions are on my to-do list – in other words, it was a great Fair.

But what does that mean? As publishers, we at Practical Inspiration Publishing are all about selling books, but we don't actually sell our books at book fairs: so what DO we do? Here's an insider's guide to what actually goes on at London Book Fair for book trade professionals and for authors and illustrators, and what you can expect (and what you can't) if you decide to rock up to Olympia next year.

Mar 11, 2024

Louise Brogan helps entrepreneurs and professionals elevate their LinkedIn game. In this week's conversation she explains why LinkedIn is so important for businesses and why most people are so dreadful at it. From fundamental mindset to the most effective tactics right now, it's a masterclass in maximising your profile on LinkedIn without losing your soul.  

She's also in the throes of writing her first business book, so this is a great report from the frontline if you're in that place and want some comradely advice and support. 

And finally, Louise's no-nonsense, super-helpful LinkedIn how-to videos have also made her something of a YouTube star, so I made sure to ask her all about that too... 

Mar 4, 2024

"It was fantastic, just as a sheer exercise in putting something out there and being brave and saying, these are my thoughts, what does everyone else think?"

Lucy Adams spends her days helping HR leaders reimagine their profession, and her classic work HR Disrupted and its sequel, The HR Change Toolkit, are critical to this mission.

Her message is simple: treat employees as adults. But the implications are profound.

In this conversation, we talk about how HR is changing (or not), the impact of COVID on the profession and on Lucy's decision to write a new edition, the delight of writing and the grind of editing, and the exhilaration and terror involved in opening your freshly minted book for the first time...

Feb 26, 2024

'The beautiful part of it, which is also the hardest and the most painful part, is the editing... [if] you put a book out into the world which will be around longer than you, you might as well put in the effort to get it right.'

David McQueen has never been one to shy away from tough conversations. In his book, The BRAVE Leader, he challenges all leaders to lean into the difficulty, to be more courageous and ambitious in their decision-making for inclusivity. 

And it turns out that willingness to engage and that refusal to settle served him well when it came to writing his first book. More at home on the stage than the page, David found this a steep learning curve, and he's open and honest about what he discovered along the way. 

But just like those tough conversations, the hard work of writing and editing paid for itself in spades, and the book is now the 'centre of gravity' for his talks and other activities.  

If you need to be braver with your book and/or your leadership, this week's episode is for you... 

Feb 19, 2024

Following last week's quadricentennial episode, a slightly belated but still brilliant best bits episode, showcasing the shiniest gems from the last few Extraordinary Business Book Club conversations. 

The theme is pushing through discomfort, and it brings together extraordinary stories, illuminating insights and gloves-down challenges from: 

  • Errol Doebler on emotional regulation and the discipline of writing; 
  • Sir John Tusa on the traits of people who Get Things Done;
  • Bonnie Wan on writing her way out of the darkest moments; 
  • Andy Brown on taking ideas further; 
  • Sara Dalrymple on getting through the discomfort of selling; 
  • Gillian Camm on getting through the discomfort of editing; 
  • Naren Aryal on breaking through the trust barrier; 
  • Sara Lloyd on how publishers, and writers, face up to challenge. 

Includes ice baths, coffee, deep breaths and showing up. 

Feb 12, 2024
  • How can I start running when I absolutely hate running?
  • What's your one big, albeit lesser known, tip for writing your first book?
  • Have you tried smoked chili peanut butter yet?

When I put out the call for questions for this quadricentennial episode, I could never have imagined the response. From the playful to the profound, these questions have got me thinking and I hope they, and my answers, will get you thinking too. 

So for one week only, to celebrate this 400-episode milestone, you're asking the questions in the Extraordinary Business Book Club and I'm in the hot seat. Very strange, but very fun! 

Feb 5, 2024

"You have to get in front of what you're writing. You have to look at it and you have to type a key. If you don't, it's just not going to happen."

Errol Doebler knows a thing or two about discipline. He's been a Naval Surface Warfare officer, Navy SEAL officer, FBI special agent and SWAT operator before founding his leadership consulting firm Ice Cold Leader, which is also the name of his new book. 

Why ice-cold? Because ice baths form a key part of his own self-regulation regime, and because managing emotional responses is so foundational to effective leadership. Errol had to develop a conscious process for emotional regulation after a traumatic injury robbed him of that area of his brain; that process turns out to be valuable for anyone facing the stress and emotional discomfort that accompany leadership. 

Prepare to be challenged and inspired in roughly equal measure.  

Jan 29, 2024

"We've been innovating forever, before digital formats came along... in a way we have some of the natural abilities we need. We need to remember that and not be too scared when new things come along."

Publishing is an industry that runs on creativity and intellectual property. So how are book publishers responding to the challenges and opportunities of generative AI? Can the book, one of our oldest technologies, survive this latest technological revolution? And if so, what are the implications for authors? 

As the first Global AI Lead for Pan Macmillan, one of the world's largest publishers of trade fiction and non-fiction, Sara Lloyd is grappling with these very questions. In this week's conversation she sheds some light on the conversations taking place in the industry, and the ways that publishers themselves are using AI. She also gives her best tip for authors writing their first book, and it's probably not what you expect... 

Jan 22, 2024

'It's an uncomfortable struggle to land that title of the book, land that sharp, sticky center of the life brief, but it is so worth it.'

As a brand strategist, Bonnie Wan knows how to put together a creative brief that makes meaning out of mess, that goes straight to the essence of what a company is really about. So when she reached a moment of crisis in her own life, she reached instinctively for that skillset.

The result was The Life Brief, not a document but a 'practice of permission' she has adopted in all areas of life now for cutting through the noise and finding what really matters to you, the vision you recognise at a visceral level when you unearth it. 

Along the way she discovered the power of exploratory writing, the power of developing her ideas through speaking and workshops, and the art of leading the reader step by step through an experiential book. 

You're going to love this. 

Jan 15, 2024

"The vast majority of business owners would happily spend 99% of their time creating and recreating and tweaking and iterating on the product side of things, because we know how to do that, we feel of service when we do that. But in order to help people, or to do the work that you love, you have to also talk about it."

For many small business owners, 'selling' feels deeply uncomfortable. So too often they don't do it, and the result is the business struggles along or even fails because not enough people know how great their product is. Sound familiar? 

Sara Dalrymple sees you. Not only that, she has empowering and energising news for you: your sales skills are already better than you think, and you don't have to spend hours of you day selling. In this week's episode, she tells me why our assumptions about selling are outdated, and what effective, zero-ick, 21st-century small-business selling looks like. 

(And also how she came to write a book by accident.)

Jan 8, 2024

'It's the stories we respond to in life. It's people's stories we respond to, and then... you can tease out the lessons. You don't go for the theory head on.'

There are many, many books about creativity: what it is, how to do it, what steps to follow. When journalist and arts administrator Sir John Tusa turned his attention to the topic, he took a rather different approach.

His book is dedicated to 'bright sparks who refuse to become damp squibs', and it tells the stories of people who match that description. Around the world, against great odds, overcoming ridicule and opposition and invariably making many people furious along the way, these individuals achieved extraordinary creative success. From these varied experiences, we see the commonalities emerge and we can't help but be inspired to do things differently. That is the power of storytelling, and this is a masterclass in how to go about it. 

Jan 1, 2024

"If you're thinking about writing a book... that's a gorgeous, sexy goal, but it's very unlikely to happen as long as it stays an outcome, a goal, in that form. But if you start to ask yourself, Okay, what's the process that's going to lead to that outcome? Then it starts to get real.'

When you tell people you're a publisher, you discover pretty quickly that a significant proportion of the population wants to write a book some day. And no wonder. Writing a book is one of the most significant, rewarding uses of your time on the planet, it will challenge and stretch you, deepen your thinking and allow you to connect to the top thinkers in your field, and that's all before the book itself is out there, building your reputation and reach. 

So if you're determined to achieve that goal this year, how will you go about making it happen? Here are some ideas on first steps that will help you turn that dream - or indeed any other - into reality. Happy new year; let's make it count. 

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