September 26, 2019

‘When I want something interesting to read I write it myself’ (Attributed to Oscar Wilde)

Following the publication on Amazon of my latest book, The High Performance Customer Insight Professional, I have had a number of people asking me what the recipe is for getting underway with a business book, and finishing it? There is no silver bullet, magic, one size fits all recommendation. But one central issue to address for me was to get the balance right between promoting new thinking and curating existing best practice.

Clearly, it is always important to ensure that you have done your homework and are building on the excellent ideas of others. However, curating other people’s work – even when you succinctly explain their ideas – is rarely enough to create a book that adds value. It is important for an author to get into thought leadership mode and be prepared to put forward their own ideas. But, this can be nerve-wracking.

So, writing a business book is about connecting up with the best of what has gone before. But you need to go beyond this. At the outset, you do need to have your own core unifying idea, a vision for what you want to change, improve or challenge. You need to be confident in setting out your own ideas, taking some risks and not fearing criticism.

In my case, within the insight industry, the challenge was just how far should I go in promoting the concept of the holistic analysis of data – sensemaking – as a way of weaving together multiple, often imperfect, sources of evidence into a compelling narrative. In doing this, I was aware of the possibility of undercutting the value of the traditional methodological and statistical approaches that have served us so well in the past. Ultimately, it came down to a judgement of what I believe to be best for the future of the insight industry.

So, returning to the Oscar Wilde quotation (which he may have adapted from Disraeli!), we should be aware of not being too arrogant and ignoring what has gone before. But by the same token we need be bold and have the confidence and belief to express a fresh point of view.

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