It’s not every day that business owners are willing to share the keys to their success, but that’s exactly what Tom Tuke-Hastings, Director of All About The Idea, has done with his latest project ‘It’s All About The Idea’ – an instructive book on the benefits of creative thinking in the work-space.
The book aims to help companies transform and improve their practices over the course of a year – a goal that I had the pleasure of learning more about from the man himself.
So, why write the book?
This is not my first book, but the other three have been on cookery… I felt it was time to move into a more challenging market and wanted to write a book on marketing. Having always had a red thread of creativity through my career, a book on big ideas was a natural choice. Getting the book written and published was a tangible goal that I could move quickly on, to build some momentum, so I went for it.
What is the book about?
At its heart, the book is about big ideas and how to come up with them. I am very conscious that business people lead very busy lives and often struggle to take business texts and put them into process. So the book is broken down into 52 bite sized pieces so you can try one out every week for a year. The aim being that it brings more creativity to your company over a year.
How should people use the book?
The first thing to do is obviously read it through. Due to its bite sized nature, it is a quick read. As you read through, you will hopefully find bits that call to you. Treat it as a menu, rather than a definitive guide. There will be areas that are more interesting and important to you, so select the bits you want to know more about, or feel would work for you.
Each section has a URL at the bottom that takes you to a worksheet, use these to help implement the section and evaluate how useful it is to you. Use as many or few sections as you feel relevant and don’t feel afraid to go over them repeatedly if it does not work for you first time.
Is it theory, or does it work in the real world?
I think it has a very pressing need in the real world of business.
As I heard in a talk from John A Bryant, CEO of Kellogg’s, large companies are finding it hard to innovate and keep up with the rapid changes out in the marketplace. Their systems are slower and less flexible than start-ups and challenger brands. This often includes the stifling of creativity. It is not that the big company people are less creative, it is just that they do not have occasion or the habit to use their creativity. In this case people need a big nudge to help kick start the process and get them coming up with ideas. The book is meant to be an aide to recreate the Corporate Creativity Workshops I carry out for clients, to let people do it for themselves.
Increasing creativity is not just about sitting on beanbags dreaming ideas up, you need the systems to support ideas and let the flourish. I am a great fan of planning and planning not to plan. By this I mean those moments that pop up and create a big opportunity. You need to be prepared for them even though you don’t know what they are yet. We worked with HTC to build the protocols to make this happen, a cache of handsets to give out, a small amount of discretionary budget and a streamlined approval process to give super-fast, streamlined sign off. This enabled them to react quickly to the type of opportunity that they had been missing. An early success was getting a rock band to film behind the scenes and on stage with Steel Panther at one of their big gigs.
A great example of a company doing this well is Oreos at the Super Bowl, when the lights went out they tweeted that you can still dunk in the dark. The content itself was not particularly exciting, but the timing was spot on. It went viral and was more talked about that the coveted advertising spots.
Can you always come up with ideas?
Ideas are not always there on tap, sometimes it is harder than others. There are also days where they just flow out and there is no end to them.
When it is hard, I like to change location and get somewhere I can concentrate and block everything else out. For me the biggest problem is too many distractions, so I cut out email and people disturbing me. Sometimes you are having an off day and whatever you do, you just can’t think of anything. That is fine, if you are always at your best, you are by definition mediocre. So the lows are as important as the highs. Use this time to do other tasks and come back re-energised to try again.
What was the hardest part of writing the book?
It has been said that the hardest part of writing a book is the first and last pages. Like starting a business, it is easy to talk about doing things, but much harder to put things into practice. I find that telling people I am doing something helps. The idea is out there and I need to get going to make it happen. This tends to get me off the starting blocks and onto that first page.
The book started life as a wide selection of ideas across various subjects and deciding what the book was about and who it was for was a key decision.
Once you have started, finishing is also hard. A book has so many options off what can be added in or taken out and you want to endlessly polish it. Some authors delay for ever as they think it can still be a bit better. It probably can, but unless you ship something, you have nothing. I have found setting a hard deadline helps.
I decided to launch the book on the 29th of Feb. This was a once in every four years moment, a leap day. For the salaried is an additional day that companies get for free and I believe that companies should use it to think about themselves, their strategy and where they are going. So with that in the diary and various senior business people due to turn up, the book had to be there. This lead to some inevitable late nights, but the book was ready and it shipped.
If you want people to take one thing from the book what would it be?
I think it would have to be around positivity. I live by the mantra that “It’s going to be great!”
When you approach things like this, it normally is. Everyone is capable of creativity and you just need to believe in yourself and go for it.
Having published this book do you have plans for any more?
I have really enjoyed this book and being right in my core area of expertise has helped a lot. I am very interested in another aimed at entrepreneurs and helping them to find their gap using creative ideas as well as business strategy and modelling.
What advice do you have for anyone who want to write a book?
First off, I would say go for it. There has never been a better time to start writing, with endless ways that people can read and interact with your content. You can start small with a blog or work on a huge novel aimed at a multi-million book deal with film rights. Whatever your topic, think about your audience, who do you want to read your book? Define this and keep this in mind as you write to ensure it stays true to this. A common slip-up is to write with no audience in mind and the content becomes flabby and does not appeal to anyone in particular.
The other key thing to work out is; how do you want to get the content out there? You can get a publishing deal from an existing publisher (normally through an agent), self-publish on hard copy, print on demand or epublish. All have their pros and cons.
Lastly I would say, you need to do it for passion or promotion, as very few people make much money out of writing. With globalisation, there are fewer and fewer bestsellers. The flip side being if you can make it as one of these, the rewards are huge, but the chances are slim.
Tom’s Book: It’s All About The Idea is available now from Amazon for Kindle, Amazon.co.uk for UK print and www.BritishBusiness.School for global print copies at £9.99 with free postage.