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News, insights and resources for thought leaders and writers
On 9 February we celebrated the official launch of Think Write Grow in style, with drinks and presentations at a fantastic venue overlooking Sydney harbour. Even the rain held off!
Tim Harcourt, author of The Airport Economist and the J.W. Nevile Fellow in Economics at the University of NSW, kindly agreed to launch the book. He also spoke about his own experiences, including the rewards and difficulties of being a thought leader.
The full text of my speech can be found here. It touches on the main reasons why I wrote the book:
- to help experts become better communicators and more successful in business
- to invite respect for the genres that are useful for thought leadership writing, and
- to celebrate great ideas and great writing.
And here is an extract from Tim’s kind comments:
“There are many important principles in Grant’s book.
“Firstly, writing a book, opinion piece or lecture is hard work, and it’s not for everybody. But if you have the inclination, Grant’s book is a great guide … I wish I had read his book before I started on the journey of being an author.
“Secondly, as Grant points out there are many of you out there with technical talent but the real game is explaining to people and persuading them of your cause or discovery.
“Thirdly, being a thought leader has to be about mastery of a subject, but also passion. Grant himself has it in abundance, as well as a clinical logic that makes this a book of such high quality. You have to find your own passion, your own niche, your own patch, your own voice.
“Fourthly, being a thought leader does attract mixed reactions from others. The Depression era Premier of New South Wales, old Jack Lang, once remarked about a Caucus colleague: “I don’t trust him, he reads books.” So just wait until you start writing them.
“Finally, on the up side, being a thought leader opens doors in so many ways. As I have found, there’s a whole new world out there that you will discover, simply from being a generator of ideas. For instance, a prestigious university may even offer you a job.
“There are many pieces of great advice in the book to choose from – both practical tips and inspirational words – but the one I loved most was on page 136 from Dr Seuss, (and Grant quotes lots of doctors) which sums up my personal experience of being an author in my own particular line of work, and I expect Grant’s too."
The more you read, the more you will know … the more you learn, the more places you’ll go.
During my university days, I studied film. I learned a lot but it completely destroyed my ability to enjoy a good movie because I had become so conscious of the technical aspects of film making.
History is repeating itself with Think Write Grow. Now I can't pick up a good non-fiction book by a thought leader without analysing its structure and writing style!
A case in point is a New York Times bestseller called Brain Rules by John Medina. It's an easy read about how the brain works by a top molecular biologist and research consultant.
It includes some advice which is immediately useful to would-be thought leaders, such as the biological necessity to repeat information if you want your audience to remember it and that humans don't pay attention to things that bore them.
However, it is also interesting structurally. There have been quite a few books about the brain and much of this one covers much of the same ground. To create a fresh way into this material, Medina performs the neat trick of condensing his observations into 12 rules.
These 12 rules either describe how the brain works, or can be easily translated into action for the reader. For instance, Rule #1 is that 'Exercise boosts brain power' and Rule #7 is 'Sleep well, think well'.
Medina also employs many of the devices that I discuss in Think Write Grow (he did this before my book existed so note I'm not taking any credit!) These include interleaving complex science with stories and anecdotes, many of which are personal. I'm a fan of that approach, though I have to confess it does sometimes seem a bit forced because the stories he chooses don't always tie back very clearly to the material in a chapter.
But I'm not here to criticise because there's plenty to learn from this book. The thing Medina does really well is propose a better way forward in both education and business. This is his act of thought leadership - his mission - and is based on his lifetime of work reviewing how the brain actually works.
He also expresses himself in a wonderfully clear and succinct way that Americans seem to do better than anyone. And he moves all his citations to his website. This makes the book accessible, though Medina is careful to spell out that any facts that he includes are well supported.
Here is his thesis and a sample of his writing from Brain Rules. It follows a brief description of studies about the brain:
What do these studies show, viewed as a whole? Mostly this: If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you would probably design something like a classroom. If you wanted to create a business environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a cubicle. And if you wanted to change things, you might have to tear down both and start over.
That's the question that Chris Markham, owner of UK firm BizFix and a leading blogger asked me in the following 20-minute audio interview.
As Chris and I discuss, whether you're selling high-end computers or gardening services, buyers want to feel that you know your stuff and one of the best and easiest ways to do that is by publishing thought leadership material on your website.
The interview is available for streaming here.
I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a new book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts by US author Susan Cain. It gets released on 24 January so I'll write more after I've read it, but the gist is that true innovation and creativity often stems from people working quietly and alone.
That's a theme that certainly resonates with me. As I explore in Think Write Grow, thought leaders are often solitary individuals and brilliant thought leadership material is rarely written by committee. Writing itself is certainly a largely solo pursuit.
But there's another reason to watch this book, which is that it already looks like a great case study in thought leadership writing. The book has a simple and distinctive idea at its core - that we should value introversion - and Cain is packaging and releasing it well.
Like Nancy Duarte in my book (who promotes an end to boring PowerPoint slides), Cain is also positioning her idea as a revolution that can be joined, rather than just a dry observation (which in this case has been made many times before). The 'opposition', and what makes the book topical now, is people who talk more than they think. That includes, as far as I can gather, most of the people clogging up the public domain and especially those using social media.
(A comparable book which I'd thoroughly recommend is Smile or Die by Barbara Ehrenreich, which punches a hole in the cult of positive thinking.)
Cain's biggest coup so far is a column in The New York Times called The Rise of the New Groupthink that has since been syndicated worldwide, but her website is also very well done. It might even be time to dust off Graham Greene's The Quiet American for another read...