Creativity is essential to business today, particularly when the things that differentiate all of us from our competition decrease each year. A creative approach to business, to art, and to life will serve any individual well moving forward. I have written five books to date and will soon deliver number six. It occurred to me that I have learned a few things writing these books. Today, I’d like to share some of my insights with you.
#1: Allocate quality time for contemplation and concentration.
I don’t consider myself a creative type. So when I need to be creative, I have to focus on it. So, I lock myself away to think. Bill Gates talks about having a “think week.” I am like that. It’s how I come up with ideas, it’s how I write, and it’s how I decide what to speak about at my next conference. When writing a book I need to have a sustained period where I am not thinking of anything else, free from distractions and removed from the hustle and bustle of my regular life and ideally in a place with an inspiring view. The final trick is turn off email and social media and don’t get distracted. Focus, focus, focus.
#2: Create the backbone of the book.
I often don’t have a clue what I am going to write until I start. I know my publisher would cringe to read that, but it’s true. However, once I start, it is cathartic. I come up with ideas and then more ideas. The problem can be, however, that I get too many ideas! Because of this fact, it becomes essential to create a backbone for the book. In my first book, Building Great Customer Experiences, it was the seven philosophies; the next one I used our Naïve to Natural model for establishing Customer Centricity of organizations, and so on. These “backbones” help you organize your ideas and drill down to the main message you want to deliver in your pages.
#3: Get lots of input and feedback along the way.
When you have a new idea, it’s like coming out of a fog. Everything becomes clear and you realize that you have made a significant breakthrough. This happened with our book, DNA of Customer Experience: How emotions drive value in discovering the hierarchy of emotions. However, you have to test things along the way. I have had many great ideas that end up not being great ideas! When you explain your idea to people and find yourself struggling, it’s not great. I have a team I have cultivated to challenge me, to say, “Colin, that isn’t a good idea because of XYZ.” I place great value on their input. I always say, “None of us is as clever as all of us.” I am also a proponent of the group brainstorm where there are no silly ideas. We all know some of them are silly, but all of us can also admit some of the ridiculous ideas either become our best or inspire the best idea. In this way, nearly all of my books end up becoming collaborations.
#4: Challenge yourself to dig deeper and think again.
By my self-described style of starting with no end in mind, I’m sure you can imagine that not everything I produce is good literature or, frankly, even coherent. As such, I have a practice of looking at an idea from every angle. I advise all writers not to accept the first thing that comes to mind; challenge your ideas and dig deeper to make sure you are communicating something worthy of your reader’s time. I do this so much that it carries over into my real life—and drives my wife Lorraine around the bend!
#5: Keep it conversational.
When I write, I imagine I am having a conversation with someone. I like to keep my books simple and use everyday examples to demonstrate a principle I want to impart. By keeping it real and grounded in the everyday, you communicate better with a wider audience. And isn’t that the point of writing at all, to communicate?
So there you have it. Five books and thirteen years of writing summed up in fewer than 800 words. May it serve you well and help you harness your creativity to communicate your latest ideas to your wider audience.
What do you do when you write? I’d love to hear (and learn) from your examples, too.
If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:
- Science Proves What Really Makes People Happy
- Discovering What Customers Don’t Know Themselves
- Is Your Customer Experience Accidental
Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Colin is proud to be recognized by Brand Quarterly’s as one of the ‘Top 50 Marketing Thought Leaders over 50’.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX