What if you were asked to write a book and genuinely had no intention to do so? As we discuss Tom’s approach to the giant task of writing a book, you’ll quickly learn that he has little to no filter, which makes his book a must read. Adam and Tom share insight on creativity and on getting things done. We had an absolutely delightful conversation with Zenith Head of Innovation Tom Goodwin.
Kogan Page: https://www.koganpage.com/
Not discussed during the show but worth following up on, Adam challenges Tom’s claim to ‘best hair on LinkedIn.’ There can be only one.
[00:00:25] Adam Pierno: Welcome back to another episode of The Strategy Inside Everything. I am excited as I almost always say at the beginning of each episode but more so I have Tom Goodwin.
[00:00:37] Tom Goodwin: Hello there.
[00:00:38] Adam: He’s the EVP, head of innovation at Zenith. We have been trying to coordinate this for a while, which is another thing I feel like I say frequently at the top of these episodes. Tom, how are you doing today?
[00:00:49] Tom: I’m doing well. Thank you very much for having me on your podcast. It’s good to be here.
[00:00:53] Adam: Thanks for making time. I know what’s your calendar’s like. It’s got to be hectic just for us trying to schedule this, I got a sense of it, and I am terrified.
[00:01:01] Tom: In a very exciting way. I think life is sometimes about facing good problems. When you know that people want to speak to you and they care about what you think, that’s the best possible situation you can ever create in life. It does mean that I have to frequently apologize for being [unintelligible 00:01:16]
[00:01:17] Adam: [laughs] Are you an optimist in general?
[00:01:20] Tom: I am actually. The weird thing about social media tends to not necessarily reflect on reality. I think my grumpy twits tend to perform better if more people see them. I am extremely lucky, privileged person who is extremely grateful for everything, and I am also optimistic. A lot of my job is about looking into the future and seeing how things are changing. There is enough stuff causes me concern as well. It’s a very interesting time that we are on this planet at the moment.
[00:01:53] Adam: Yes. It sure is. Before we get to on our topic which is going to be really good one, I want you to give people just a quick rundown of your role and how you got to be head of innovation and a little bit about what that entails because I think that’s a little bit outside the norm as far as what a lot of people in strategy are doing.
[00:02:13] Tom: Yes. Let me try and make this punchy and different and not say the same crap I say all the time.
[00:02:17] Adam: [laughs] Thank you.
[00:02:19] Tom: I think my role is about having better conversations with our clients, I guess. I feel like there are a lot of people in the world of marketing and business that are quite scared and I think they need advice. That advice doesn’t necessarily mean some 60-year old that’s old and wise and understands everything. It can be a 38-year old that’s not afraid to ask questions and not afraid to admit when they don’t know everything. That’s me. I go into our clients, and I try to have different sorts of conversations with them. It’s maybe about the future of retail. Maybe it’s about how to reach younger people. Maybe it’s destroying some concepts that are eating our industry like this obsession we are talking about millennials and crap like that.
Generally speaking, I am there to– ideally, is have good conversations, ideally add value, and then ideally do something about it. That’s proven to be the hardest thing. It’s quite easy to have a profound conversation for our wonderful clients to realize there are other things they can do. It’s just quite hard sometimes putting that into practice.
[00:03:21] Adam: At a media company too. You’re in the middle of it all. At Zenith, you get to touch all the agencies and influence it all. There’s real opportunity to make an impact from an innovation standpoint. It’s not just talk.
[00:03:35] Tom: Yes. It’s fascinating to talk about who has the power these days. I grew up mainly in creative agencies where we always felt like we have the power. I don’t think it’s true to say that because the money lies with the media agencies that we have the power now, but we certainly have a chance to have a seat to the table. I am quite lucky in my writing and my general loudness that quite often I am able to get seats at tables and start these conversations. Quite often, I have cultural permission to be provocative but nice about it at the same time.
I know you put this into your book but having an English accent is actually extremely helpful. One because people think you are smarter than you actually are, which is always going to be good, but, two, people probably think you’re being more polite. You can paraphrase questions like, “What on earth are you doing?” People still think you are this mild-mannered guy from the middle of England. If you say that with a West Coast accent, people think you are an asshole.
[00:04:36] Adam: I know. It’s true. I’m going to start faking an English accent just to see what happens.
[00:04:39] Tom: [laughs] It’s all you need. Do you want me to say how I got here as well or is that just a bit of self-indulging and boring now?
[00:04:46] Adam: No, no. I would love to hear it, and I think the audience would love to hear it. Did you come up through as a planner, or did you come up on the account side, or creative side? Where–?
[00:04:54] Tom: I’ve just being a bit of weird most of my career, to be honest. I’ve just been quite unusual. It would be easy for me to be horrible smug about this whole thing and to act like it was this genius plan and it would be easy for that to be a bit of survivorship bias where I somehow say this as if it’s just a simple as following these step and everything will be great for you as well. I think I’ve had a lot of luck.
Generally speaking, I worked in client side at the very first part of my career. Then I went to creative agencies. Then I went to digital agencies and then I went to media agencies. Most of my life, I kind of been like 50% in planning and strategy but never really properly. 30%-ish in sort of account handling and looking after clients and being their contact. Then also with quite a lot of new business throw in it at the same time. But I’ve just sort of wandered around and generally found where I can be most helpful and been so lucky to have places that took me on where I can add the most value rather than trying to turn me into something which is more normal and probably I’d be crap at.
[00:06:05] Adam: Right. Last question about your background. Jumping from creating agencies, digital agencies, media agencies, what was the specific thing at each time that you were saying, “This is a good opportunity to do this?” Or were you chasing a string or was it just, “This is the next thing, I’m going to go and try it.”?
[00:06:23] Tom: It’s been different at different points. There was a sense when I was working for creative agencies in about 2009. You felt like a little bit like that the best party was happening next door and that house was actually the digital house. I moved as if found like they were having more interesting conversations. For someone in advertising, I’m particularly rude about advertising, and I don’t necessarily feel as proud to be in advertising as I’d like to. Everything that we do encompasses understanding people, and understanding business models, and coming up with ideas that manifest themselves in a sort of advertising-ish way. I like that stuff. The chance to make an app that made it easier to browse your supermarket or the chance to create a better check-in experience with the airline or a chance to find a holiday more easily. All that stuff that’s about helping people I find really wonderful to work on and increasingly that’s away from advertising agencies. It’s more in these other areas.
[00:07:30] Adam: That’s great. That’s a good background, and I’m going to let you off the hook describing your background. I can tell you must get asked these questions a lot.
[00:07:39] Tom: No, I am fine talking about it. It just feels a bit obnoxious really. It’s quite easy to sound smug about this stuff, “I went to America because people wanted me to come here.”
[00:07:48] Adam: [laughs]
[00:07:49] Tom: Then I got a pay rise. I just think it’s– if this is going to turn into any sort of advice, and I am not entirely sure that I am at the best place to give advice, then I think this notion of knowing when to focus and when to go broad. Always being so curious and reading things and chasing further knowledge and developing skills. If there’s one thing that I can quite confidently say from my career it’s that’s been really helpful.
[00:08:21] Adam: Yes. That is great advice and great in practice as well I can say that too. It’s like know when to dive in and say, “Yes, I am going to pay attention to this and really learn it. Master it.”
[00:08:31] Tom: Yes.
[00:08:31] Adam: Let this one go by.
[00:08:33] Tom: I think saying no must be underrated actually. As part of this whole miserableness that I sometimes project, I actually feel like my job is often to say no to staff because it’s not really going to make a difference. Not even joking, having the English accent but also having quite of experience now in the industry I don’t feel like I need to chase everything. I don’t feel like I’m going to look like an idiot unless I’ve made a [unintelligible 00:08:58] this year. I think saying no to staff that is a distraction, that won’t make a difference. It’s actually a key part of every job.
[00:09:04] Adam: I see that a lot too where brands or agencies are chasing a technology that they want to execute. They want to do a chat out of five years ago is everything needed an iOS. Do you think that’s a real thing that people– I feel like I see it and observe it but I hope that really isn’t happening out in the world. Do you think that’s happening?
[00:09:24] Tom: Absolutely. Everywhere.
[00:09:27] Adam: So sad.
[00:09:28] Tom: It’s not 2018 is the time when we are doing it, and we’re doing it with voice, it’s every year since about 2009; this’s been the case. At one point it would have been an app. Then it would have been a web app. Or one point, it would have been some social media strategy about starting conversations. Another point it would have been an AR experience. Then it was a VR experience. Then it was an AR experience again. Then it was QR codes. Then it’s shockable TV ads.
There’s always technology du jour at my most original. I don’t really mean this, but it’s as if someone’s on a kind of a Delta flight. The magazine, there’s an article about how QR codes are going to change everything and the CEO reads it. And then they send an emails to their marketing department going, “Why have we not done this yet?” Then he’ll be like, “Yeah, reproduce. We need to keep our boss happy. Please, can we do this really stupid thing?” [crosstalk] It’s not that this technology isn’t amazing. QR codes are fantastic.
The ability to create some augmenting reality experiences will be game-changing for some industries. Chatbox are great for some situations. I’m not miserable about technology. I’m miserable about us being technology-centric rather than business-challenge-centric.
[00:10:52] Adam: I, 100%, agree. That’s great.
[00:10:54] Tom: [laughs]
[00:10:56] Adam: I want to move in to our topic. We were just talking. You were saying you felt it might be a little self-indulgent. [chuckles] Well, now we’re going to talk about your book.
[00:11:06] Tom: [laughs] I was.
[00:11:07] Adam: The irony. The irony. But we’re not going to talk about your book as dissection of the concept. I’m arm off the top going to say I’ve heard amazing things about Digital Darwinism, your new book. I have not yet read it. I have to admit that now. I just have a stack of books and it’s on the file.
[00:11:24] Tom: [laughs] No worries. I’m [unintelligible 00:11:27]
[00:11:28] Adam: We were chatting about the idea of the strategy behind putting together a book and what all goes into it and what all touches. For listeners, Tom mentioned my book. What’s really funny is that from my distant contact with Tom, I saw him as he was preparing to put together a book. He was making comments like, “Oh, this should make a great idea for– a shorter format would be good for a book. This would be good for a book.” I was keeping those notes and saying, “Oh, yes. That’s a good idea.”
I was able to execute the book because we published independently. Then Tom got into the publishing world and he had a different experience. This should be a good way to compare notes here. I want to hear from Tom. Overall, what was the biggest thing you learned through the process of putting this book together?
[00:12:14] Tom: [laughs] So many things. I like how you describe how you’re with me throughout the whole book because it makes me feel like you witnessed my mental breakdown.
[00:12:23] Adam: [laughs]
[00:12:25] Tom: The weird thing about writing about a book is everything that you do next appears to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Getting the book dealer appears to be like the ultimate in difficulty and that things are going to be easier after that. Actually, writing it is harder. Writing the first page is actually easier than writing the last page. Then you get all sorts of questions from the publisher and fact-checking. “Are you sure you’re right? I think you’re an idiot for thinking this.” They see it also as a doubt that comes in the last stage.
Lots of boring work to do with research. Just when you’re kind of smug about the whole thing and you can sort of drink champagne and feel like a published author, you then have to promote the bloody thing.
[00:13:05] Adam: [laughs]
[00:13:07] Tom: Which is actually being the hardest thing because you just feel like simply a dickhead the whole time because you just feel like a horrible person who just goes around basically saying, “Give me money. Spend time in my brain.” I think that’s a horrible feeling.
[00:13:21] Adam: It’s very hard for people to get, but it is a weird kind of guilt that you feel when someone– when you say, “Hey, let’s talk about my book.”
[00:13:30] Tom: [laughs]
[00:13:31] Adam: You’re kind of that asshole that’s like, “Hey, let’s talk more about me. You’re pretty interesting, but did you know I wrote a book? Do you want to hear about it?”
[00:13:37] Tom: Yes, I know it feel very strange. I’m extremely, with that offending smug, I’m extremely glad that I had a publisher throughout this whole process because I never would have done it. If nothing else, it’s because it sort of given me a bit of confidence that it might be worth promoting. It’s given me a bit of validation and a bit of reassurance. I kind of feel that when I am being asked about it and promoting it. It’s called Digital Darwinism by the way. [chuckles] I’ve read a book from old good bookstores.
I feel like when I’m saying things like that, it’s kind of okay because that’s what I’m supposed to do. That’s what my publisher sort of paid me to do. It’s not really me doing this. It’s just me sort of [unintelligible 00:14:17] be carrying out my employment.
[00:14:20] Adam: Well, there’s nothing wrong with promoting a book. That’s the crazy part is we put it in our head that there’s something wrong, whatever. We feel guilty about it.
[00:14:28] Tom: Yes. I have this huge problem with this idea for leadership and personal brands. I do quite lot of tweeting, but it’s normally like a stream of consciousness rather than anything strategic. When you do realize that you’ve got broken that you should probably have some sort of marketing plan and you should probably orchestrate tweets at particular times. I don’t know. I just feel like there’s something sort of very one way and slightly sort of abusive about turning your twitter feed into that kind of thing.
I don’t know. I’m probably just very English and very strange about the whole thing. It seems kind of riddled with things that are on the edge of being quite unpleasant for a British person to do.
[00:15:09] Adam: No. Totally, I’m tracking with you. Let’s talk about the strategy. How did you approach– You got a publishing deal. You’re committing to writing this book. How did you start? What was your– Before you wrote, did you do an outline? Did you know what the book was going to be? Did you have an abstract for it? How did you start the entire ball rolling?
[00:15:31] Tom: Yes. Maybe this is not a very wise thing, to be completely honest about. I’ll tell you, in all honesty, what happened. I don’t know how it comes across. For about four years, people occasionally say, “Tom, you should really write a book.” Each time that would happened, I’d sort of laugh it off awkwardly. It kind of build to a point about a year ago where actually about five times a week, people are saying, “You should write a book.” I had no interest in writing a book. The idea was horrific to me. I don’t read many books.
I don’t like books that much, but my head is completely optimized to the age of 140 characters or 280, whatever it is now.
It was kind of bubbling away in the back of my mind for quite a long time. Apparently, the world might be interested in a book but I didn’t like the idea. A publishing agent came to me and said, “I think you’d write a great book.” My first reaction was to think he was some sort of fraudster that was going to ask me for money to represent him and then he was going to disappear off to Mexico or something. I researched him. I couldn’t find anything about him at all.
But I met him and he was a very wise and mature man from the world of publishing. He basically said, “Yes, I think–” [chuckles] I feel like I should dramatize this. I should say that he had a cigar in his mouth, and he said, “I’m going to make you a star.” [chuckles] That’s not why he did it. We sat and we had a cup of coffee at Starbucks and he said, “I think you’ve got a book in here.” Then he said, “Write the first three chapters and then I’ll take it around various publishers.” I said, “No, I can’t do that because I don’t really know how to do that. I don’t have any time.” So I [crosstalk]–
[00:17:07] Adam: Now, wait. Do you write in long form? Do you blog? Have you ever written these longer form pieces? Even the first three chapters, did that sound like a horror show to you?
[00:17:20] Tom: I’ve gotten quite good at writing 800 to 1,000 words. I’ve probably been published about 400 times with a thousand words.
[00:17:28] Adam: Blog post length or article length?
[00:17:31] Tom: Yes. The weird thing is that’s actually an extremely different writing concepts. I’ve never made films of recorded music before, but for me, it’s almost like the difference between photography versus making a film or something. Where it’s quite easy to have one idea that runs the show at 1,000 word piece. It is very approachable to sit down and whack out a thousand words in an hour or something. Whereas, you realize that you’ve got like 10 hours of someone’s time and that you need to make it worth their time. You need to have a narrative that gives it structure.
It’s a very different exercise. I was lucky in a way when I said no to writing the first three chapters as obnoxious as that sounds. They then said, “Well, why don’t you write an outline and we’ll make decisions based on that?” I created this outline, which I guess if you’re doing a painting or something, this became the pencil sketch. At that stage, the act of spending a weekend doing that, that I realized that I did probably have enough, in a way, of ideas. I probably did know what I wanted. This will stop people off and take people.
At that point, the whole thing became quite manageable. That sort of got shopped various different publishers and various different ones. There was lots of sort of backings and for once. Then I agreed to write it.
[00:18:56] Adam: At that time, were you surprised that you could– Were you surprised when you finished the outline and you realize like, “Oh, I do have a lot ideas. I think I have a direction for this.” Were you kind of like, “Oh, I didn’t realize I had that.” Or were you just like, “Okay, I did that. What’s the next step?”
[00:19:11] Tom: Yes. In all honestly, I wasn’t surprised that I had lots of ideas. I was surprised that I could fit them into a structure that made sense. When I kind of rather obnoxiously say that I don’t like books, it’s often because I feel like most books are really one or two ideas that someone has inflated enough to make the book heavy enough so it becomes the physical construct that is the book.” I often feel like authors that maybe have 10 ideas, rather than making one book with all 10 ideas, they just make 10 books. Then they can make 10 times more money and 10 times more speaking gigs.
I got to inquire. I’m really good at this selfishness that all of these show. More than anything else, I was pleased that I could probably get the right balance between the number of ideas and density of information without just being like I’m running stuff down people’s throats. In retrospect, I’m quite surprised at how similar the book stayed to that original outline.
[00:20:13] Adam: That’s pretty cool. One of the things that you had said earlier on when — not earlier on for you, but earlier on before I had thought of even writing a book, you said this a couple of years ago on twitter, you said, “Why are business books so thick, when its really one idea. It can be so much shorter and an easy read that people would breeze through?” I had bookmarked that in my mind of just, “Yes, that’s a great point.” I always end up buying these books
I always end up buying these books and I read half-way through and I’m like, “Didn’t you already write this chapter three times in this book, and I’m on chapter four?”
[00:20:45] Tom: Yes, it’s very strange to me. I imagine your average listener is going to be very successful. Therefore, their average hourly rate is going to be $ 50, 100, 150, 200 per hour. Probably a typical book takes maybe 10 hours to read or something. When we think that we pay $ 15 for a book, we’re actually paying 150, $ 500 per book with our time. That sounds like a very strange way to think about life. But generally, if it is a business book, there is a degree to which it works.
It just struck me as very odd that you can’t buy 1000 page book for $ 1 and a 10 page version of the same book for $ 100, because actually it will be way more effective to have the second one. Its bit likes of music, this need to produce albums and the need to bundle it into something that’s bigger and more physical, we have the same thing in the world of books.
[00:21:48] Adam: Yes, that’s absolutely true. Its like any other product, it become something that as just for sale and how do we monetize it, how do we get the most out of it?
[00:21:56] Tom: One other thing that’s quite interesting, which I’ve not told anyone before about my book is, I wrote in quite a strange way in that– most people, they write a book and they take extracts from it and those become articles, which promote the book. Then they send out tweets that then link people to those articles. It’s like a pyramid structure. Mine is almost like a diamond. Again, this wasn’t me being particularly smart.
This was just how I ended up being where I basically — I’m always writing tweets and sometimes people seem to find them interesting and they retweet them. Then when that happens, I tend to think, maybe there is an article there. So I’ve used my tweets to then write articles. This is all much more subjective and creative and random than it sounds, but the general dynamic has been to then write articles. Then when I’m asked to do some speaking gigs around the world, I tend to collect some of the thoughts from those articles.
You can see in real time, it’s a bit like being a really crap stand-up comedian, where you can see what resonates with people.
[00:23:01] Adam: You get the feedback right away.
[00:23:03] Tom: Yes, make sure you get real time feedback of, one minute you’re talking about how in the 1990s you had cassettes and you had to spin them round on a pencil to rewind them. Everyone is in hysteric and so paying attention. The next minute you’re talking about how exiting the Dyson vacuum cleaner was and everyone looks bored and they take their phones. You get real-time feedback on what’s interesting.
It’s based on a four-year process of just using all these material and seeing what people like and then was able to feel my way through this book and to expand on some of the articles that have done well. Then now in theory, I should do the triangular thing of promoting it with the same techniques as other people do. Yes, it makes my book potentially quite different in how it’s made through other peoples.
[00:23:51] Adam: You said that the diamond shape, you mean it starts with and ends with twitter, is that what the — is that what you mean?
[00:23:55] Tom: Yes, we should tell twitter that, maybe they will sponsor my next one.
[00:24:01] Adam: [laughs] I bet you could probably work that out.
[00:24:04] Tom: [laughs] Yes, I’m a big fun of twitter I would say, but anyway.
[00:24:07] Adam: I am too and I’m actually I’m trying to recover from twitter, I am on it too much. It has few, just about every guest of the show, so I should probably not complain about it.
[00:24:20] Tom: How does my process compare with yours? What is — are we not supposed to be talking about your book?
[00:24:26] Adam: We could talk about it, its not a secret. I didn’t have someone in the Starbucks to talk me into it, I just got the idea and I didn’t know if I could do it same as you, or I thought I could do it but I didn’t know if I had the content for a book. Then I really I wrote the outline and then I just started skinning the outline, just dumping content into different parts. I started by writing short, just expanding the outline and making the outline just longer and longer, with certain fragments and ideas and links.
Then I went back and really the words just poured out, once it got to a point where I said, this outline is pretty much done. The words just came pouring out, but I didn’t have an editor look at it until I completed a draft, or at least everything except the conclusion. I wrote the final chapter well after it’d been edited a couple of time.
[00:25:23] Tom: Okay, that make sense.
[00:25:24] Adam: Did you have somebody checking in periodically and giving you notes, or were you free to write, or how did it shape?
[00:25:31] Tom: Yes, my publisher was actually very good. They were a bit like stabilizers on a bike, where the idea was that you don’t really need to use them, but they’re there if you need. One, they gave me belief that I’m not an idiot for trying to write a book, two, they would have periodic check-ins. The fact that you knew there was going to be a check-in, meant that you just have to get the work done.
There would also be times when they would realize that they can’t force these things, so they would give me more space. I would go so far as if I didn’t have a publisher, there would have been 10 different reasons why this book didn’t work and didn’t happen, not at least just a complete inability to actually force out my brain. It sounds like you found it much, much, much easier than I did to write a book. I think maybe some people just pass through this than others.
[00:26:23] Adam: No, if I could compare though, your book I think you’re putting forward a new approach and a new theory that’s based on past contract, but my book is more of a — like here is tools that already exists and I am repackaging them in a way that people have just forgotten about them and why they are good tools and value. In a way, mine was get it right, because I wasn’t imagining — I wasn’t focusing anything.
It was really like, hey, we haven’t been using these tools but they exist already and they make sense, let me just remind you about them.
[00:26:56] Tom: I don’t know why I feel the need to say this, because it’s disgusting, but for me writing a book was a bit like having a dumb. There are times when you just be in a bar having a conversation with someone and you’re thinking, “Oh my God, I really need to go to the loo now.” You would get out your phone and you’d speak into it and express some ideas. Then there were just weeks of constipation where you’re like, “I don’t even think I can do anything now.” It’s just sort of know when you’re able to pass fecal mass or when you’re not.
[00:27:28] Adam: I wrote an entire chapter in the hotel room at Disney Land with my family. We came back from the pack and the kids were calm and taking a nap, and I just was like, “Oh, I have this idea.” I wrote an entire chapter. You’re exactly right, it’s just, “Oh, I got the urge. I better go do this.”
[00:27:43] Tom: Yes. [laughs] Sorry for all the listeners that are eating at the moment.
[00:27:48] Adam: You were not the only person to compare my book to shit, so we’re good. Hey, you mentioned audience and you mentioned this hourly math of figuring out people’s rates and figuring out the value with their time. I’ve heard Farrison and he is a big proponent of figuring out the math and people’s attention. How much were you thinking about the audience when you were writing it?
Were you thinking about what would delight them and what would make sense, or was it just in the back of your mind, I better make this valuable, re-writing it with that pressure to deliver something good.
[00:2824] Tom: That’s extremely good and important question. I actually thought about them a lot. Again, that’s how the publisher helped me. They made it clear that there was no reason for this book to exist. No one is put on this planet and they have a book in them and they have to. You have to earn the rights to write a book. You have to be incredibly mindful of what you’re trying to say, but also who you’re trying to say it to.
It helps if you come from a marketing background, because the whole time you are trying to imagine, if you are a 45-year-old CEO of a printing plant in Germany, is this interesting to you? If you are an 18-year-old girl that’s just graduating, what’s in it for you? Gaining the focus between depths, and width, and technical prowess, that was almost the big thing that I was trying to get, because you can easily make a very big and wide book, but not contain enough to really provide a new meaning to anyone.
It’s also quite easy to do a deep dive into one particular area and then lots people don’t find it very interesting. I try to get that balance. I’ve been slightly offended in some of the reviews, where people have said it’s a great book, beautifully written, pleasure to read, didn’t really learn anything that new from it. It makes me feel like maybe I should have put a bit more stuff in it.
[00:29:57] Adam: Did you have — yes, we don’t read the reviews. That’s one piece of advice I can give you right off. That’s not going to help you. Did you have a persona that you were writing for? Is it written for CTOs, or CMOs, or is it written for planners?
[00:30:13] Tom: They made me do that, and I got out of it slightly by saying, “Here are three different groups of people.” The primary audience is a leadership position of some nature within either a large or small company. Maybe the CEO of a hundred-person company. Maybe the CTO of a thousand-person company. Maybe even the chief marketing officer of a massive company or maybe, hopefully, one day the CEO of a massive company but these we’re the primary audience but to be written as something that they might read on a beach on holiday and not think of as work but just think of this totally linked to their career. [crosstalk]
[00:30:56] Adam: You meant it to be leisurely and easy to read without having to have a PhD and-
[00:31:05] Tom: Yes.
[00:31:05] Adam: -really focus with a [unintelligible 00:31:05]?
[00:31:06] Tom: Yes. Definitely and to not feel like work. I didn’t want anyone to dread picking it up. I wanted this to feel like a nice salad rather than a big pile of cabbage. But I still wanted there to be substance in it. I didn’t want it to be a big [inaudible 00:31:21]. Then the second group of people were just general people in the marketing sphere of any seniority. And then I was quite aware of– I thought about people like my sister or my mom and dad or people from school that have got nothing to do with marketing at all, and I just thought how could I write something that they might find quite interesting as well.
[00:31:41] Adam: What kind of response have you gotten from non-marketers?
[00:31:46] Tom: Actually a very good one. In spite of what we’re talking about that people will say it’s just really nice to read. They say it’s quite funny, and quite gentle, and quite approachable and interesting. I think so.
[00:32:01] Adam: If that’s what you were going for. If someone came back and said it was funny and you were like, “What are you talking about?”
[00:32:08] Tom: I really emphasized the degree to which I was originally quite reluctant about writing a book. To some extent, this is not going to be the back burn of my career. My ambition is not about that I write this book and I spend the rest of my life writing books or talking about this book. They took a lot of my time, and I took very seriously, but it was still a side project that was there as a let’s see what happens and if people like it then that will make me feel happy. There’s no commercial imperative behind it.
[00:32:43] Adam: You had an audience and you, obviously, you have a strong voice. Tom Goodwin, the person. You’re not afraid to voice your opinion. You have a great sense of humor. Did you have trouble channeling that onto the page or was it I’m just going to write what’s in my head and my voice is going to come out and it’s going to sound like me and that’s what I want? Did you try to have a different tone that was somehow translated into book form?
[00:33:08] Tom: Yes. No. The beautiful thing about all of this stuff that I do is there’s no thought behind it. I’m just me. I mainly get into trouble for being me and the next day I think, “Oh my God. What an idiot,” for saying that. I’m not so smart or strategic enough to think, “Oh, is this useful to my career? Is it sensible to criticize banking when one of our biggest clients is one of the world’s biggest banks?” I tend to be quite stupid about this stuff. But, yes, there’s zero part of me that sits down and they think, “What’s the Tom Goodwin voice here?” “How do I get the tonality of being curious but also provocative on this page.”
Now I just have without carrying on the dumb [unintelligible 00:33:51]. I basically just produce this stuff and it comes out of me and it’s my material and that is how I am. We live in this horrible age of the personal brand, and I actually think well we really have our personalities. If people have a strong personality and they are funny, then great, but there has to be the output of them being who they are rather than some desire to take out that people have after meeting them. I don’t think I’m especially funny. I just think I don’t really care that much and it comes across in my writing a little bit.
[00:34:25] Adam: Well, something else that you said. I told you were smart and you replied, “Well, I don’t know if I’m as smart as much as I’m lucky enough to have the time to think about stuff.” Do you think that’s true?
[00:34:39] Tom: I think so. I don’t know. Talking about our smartness is quite odd because you get quite introspective and then it makes you go nuts. There’s some quote that I can’t remember, because if I was particularly smart, I would be able to remember it. I think when you speak to creative people about being creative, they get quite embarrassed because for them it’s just how they are.
[00:35:03] Adam: It’s just something they’re doing. Yes.
[00:35:04] Tom: Yes. Maybe it’s a Steve Jobs quote or something or even artists. There are lots of people who will work in the field of art and it’s just how everything is moved and if you were to try and get them to self-explain it, they can’t really explain how they are able to do that. There must be something a little bit smart about me because I did all right in school and I seem to write pieces that people find quite interesting. I’ve never had that many people tell me that I’m stupid but more than anything else I think I’ve got a couple of things that are very lucky at my disposal.
One is my job allows me to travel quite freely and I think a lot of the things that I have access to and a lot of the dots that I’m able to join together come from that ability to travel.
I think access to really remarkable people is something that people don’t think about enough, whether it’s the ability to sit down with 10 speakers and find out more about their areas. Also phone up a specialist in blockchain and know that they might take my call. I think that’s another thing that I’m lucky to have. Thirdly,-
[00:36:14] Adam: That’s huge.
[00:36:14] Tom: -just all confidence as well. The reality is that I do have I think 600,000 followers or something, and that means that you feel less vulnerable with expressing a viewpoint that might be contrary because there’s an element of benefit of the doubt that you’ll get and reassurance and people just correcting you nicely if you say something stupid.
[00:36:45] Adam: I have to come to politely instead of just bashing.
[00:36:48] Tom: They don’t all, but there’s a degree of gravitas I guess that you get a little bit of or they remain on the internet is brutal anyway. More than anything else, you get quite a lot of validation from the things that seem to be successful and seem to be interesting to people, and that gives you the confidence to express viewpoints that other people might not want to say. I can say things like millennials. What a completely stupid principle that is. And I think a lot of people would be thinking the same stuff, but they wouldn’t necessarily have the balls to say that out loud.
[00:37:24] Adam: Right. Yes. That the blowback could be bad. If we decry the cult of the millennial. Geez. They’re killing everything, Tom. They use avocado toast and just live at home, I guess. All 80 million of them. They’re all the same person.
[00:37:40] Tom: They don’t own anything either. Nothing exists in the world anymore.
[00:37:43] Adam: No. Of course not. No. They rent drills. Hey. I want to actually segue from what you’re just saying about confidence and access. How did that effect editing then? You turned in a draft and you got feedback from editors on the publishing side who have a lot of experience with these kinds of books and particularly your publisher does a lot of business books. They’ve seen a lot of these Kogan Page. How did you process that? Was the feedback helpful? I know this is weird to say, but did it hurt your feelings or were you like, “Shit. How do I rewrite this thing?”? Was it pretty–
[00:38:24] Tom: Yes. Either they’re not very good at their jobs, or I did a good job of writing it, or they felt like they can tell me off. Generally speaking, pretty much everything I ever wrote, they were like, “Great stuff.”
[00:38:42] Tom: I didn’t know what that means. Maybe they were just being nice to me. It was not like Simon Cowell on The X Factor or whatever show he’s on. It was like maternal, sort of Ozzy Osbourne’s wife. It was like that sort of stuff. “You’re lovely. Keep on doing this stuff. You got a great voice.” That was the metaphor for how they treated my stuff. Towards the end, they were like, “We need more proof here,” or, “Did you really need to say that?” Or, “Don’t swear,” or, “We need more evidence here.” It was very much shaping rather than fighting.
[00:39:24] Adam: It was just steering it and helping you get it sharper more than anything else?
[00:39:27] Tom: Yes. Pretty much. Yes.
[00:39:30] Adam: You didn’t cry at all is what you’re saying?
[00:39:35] Tom: I’m trying to think. There actually were times that I cried.
[00:39:40] Adam: It could be stressful.
[00:39:41] Tom: It’s just really hard to get it out and you just be really tired and jet lagged and you be there hotel in Columbia and you’re like, “I could be out in a bar drinking mojitos right now and instead I’m in a Sheraton writing about blockchain.”
[00:39:57] Adam: Although Sheraton is the number one brand for writing about blockchain, I think we all know.
[00:40:00] Tom: [laughs] There’s something about it, but yes.
[00:40:03] Adam: Yes. Something about the Sheraton that really brings out that.
[00:40:05] Tom: [laughs].
[00:40:06] Adam: Watching goodness.
[00:40:07] Tom: Yes.
[00:40:08] Adam: Not so much cryptocurrency, though, curiously.
[00:40:10] Tom: No.
[00:40:10] Adam: You’re more of a Hilton guy for that.
[00:40:11] Tom: Hilton’s great for cryptocurrencies, definitely.
[00:40:16] Adam: Then, we move on to promotion. That is the next kind of, “Oh, shit, I didn’t realize I was going to have all of this,” but you already were out speaking, and you were already out writing and being Tom, and promoting Zenith. How is it different? Is it different or is it just amplified? Or is it just, “Now, I’m talking about this subject and–“?
[00:40:37] Tom: Well, I haven’t done that much of it, to be honest. I’ve got people that are helping me out a little bit and lining up interviews and stuff.
[00:40:49] Adam: That’s great.
[00:40:49] Tom: Yes, so that kind of doing it. Yes, I mean, I don’t really want to be the person driving it because I feel a bit like if this is good, then the world should figure out a way for it to succeed. I think the environment of success is more democratic than before. The reality is that this is for sale in most places that people might want to buy it. I feel a bit like they should just let people read the book, and if they think it’s good, they’ll tell their friends, and if their friends like it, they’ll buy some for the company they work at. Maybe I’m being so stupid or lazy, or giving up.
[00:41:28] Adam: No, that’s a very Seth Godin philosophy that you’re espousing, if I’d argue with that guy.
[00:41:35] Tom: If the book’s terrible, then it shouldn’t do very well, and it shouldn’t waste people’s time. I feel like it’s my job to orchestrate an environment where enough people got decent chance of hearing about it, and to do a little bit of retweeting here and there. But it’s not my job to try and double down on something if it’s not really going to change the world.
[00:41:58] Adam: Well, yes, and it’s not your full-time job, it’s not even really a– It’s a side project, “Here some thoughts I have.” How much energy can you really put into it?
[00:42:09] Tom: Yes.
[00:42:09] Adam: You want the thing to be successful, but I share your approach. If people like it, they’ll tell somebody, and if it’s not that good, then it’ll just quietly disappear. And that’s okay too.
[00:42:18] Tom: Yes [laughs], I think so.
[00:42:21] Adam: Better than getting bashed online with one star reviews and people telling you’re the worst in everything.
[00:42:26] Tom: That is true, it’s true. I think as long there’s a chance to succeed, there’s anything.
[00:42:33] Adam: All right. I’m going to ask you now– This is my last question. I’m going to ask you now on the record, you can change your mind later, but on the record today, do you think you’re going to write another book?
[00:42:44] Tom: Maybe.
[00:42:47] Adam: Maybe? What kind of answer is that? I need a binary yes or no. Come on.
[00:42:54] Tom: [laughs] Yes, probably. I mean, when I–
[00:42:57] Adam: Do you have the idea already or just the rhythm of it? You feel like you’ve got the rhythm of it? [crosstalk]
[00:43:01] Tom: No, definitely not. I think it’s a bit like a simulation theory where if you think that we could only be the only possible species on the only planet, it’s almost quite arrogant to suggest that there’s not another way for life to exist anywhere else. I don’t think it’s a 30-year-old bit plans on having quite a lively brand for quite a long time. If I think about it in terms of probability, it’s quite unlikely that there’s not going to be some point in my life again where I think I’ve got nothing to say. So I think I’d probably write another thing of some sort.
I’ve got no idea of what it’d be on. It might be– I feel like writing a coffee table book about reception areas in offices, the more that says about the business, or just a book about ready fun bars to go to. So it might just be a book about something completely different. Yes, it’s noticeable that the moment I finished the book, I definitely said to myself, “I’m never ever going to do that again.” [laughs].
[00:44:06] Adam: That’s what I was looking for.
[00:44:06] Tom: Yes. Then, I think it’s quite nice in a way to be asked to speak about events, and it’s quite nice to have a chance to start conversations with people. I’m lucky, in the moment that I do quality of writing on one of the platforms, anyway, and I go on TV sometimes, but it’s certainly quite likely to be the case in a few years time [unintelligible 00:44:27], I think.
[00:44:30] Adam: Yes. Eventually, over time, you’ll figure it will come back and maybe you’ll write an erotic thriller? Is that something that you have in your picture or–
[00:44:36] Tom: I will put money on that. Definitely. [laughs]
[00:44:40] Adam: Yes. All right. Everybody stand by for Tom Goodwin’s erotic thriller. We’ll come up with a title on Twitter together.
[00:44:46] Tom: [laughs] Let’s do it.
[00:44:47] Adam: Yes. [laughs]. All right. Well, this has been awesome. I want to get you off and running before your– I’m sure you have a next meeting that’s-
[00:44:53] Tom: Yes. A little but, yes.
[00:44:54] Adam: -probably pacing around outside of your door? [laughs]. Yes. Thank you very much for making time. This has been wonderful to finally talk in person, or semi in person. Beers when I’m in New York in June [crosstalk]
[00:45:07] Tom: Sounds great. Been really good to be on here. Thanks, Adam.
[00:45:43] [END OF AUDIO]