My guest today is Scott D Anthony. Scott is global authority on innovation and the former managing partner of Innosight, the innovation and strategy consulting firm co-founded by Clayton Christensen. Scott has written several bestselling books and writes regularly for Harvard Business Review. Last year, Scott was awarded the Thinkers50 Innovation Award, which recognizes the world’s leading thinkers on innovation.
I’ve known Scott for a little while now because our innovation consultancies are starting to partner up on some projects, but up until now, I’d never had the chance to quiz Scott about how he works. We cover lots of different topics including:
- The places Scott goes to get his most focused work done
- How Scott makes the most out of time spent on airplanes
- How he breaks his day up into three shifts
- Why Scott finds his office the worst place to do creative work
- How Scott manages his energy when doing long focused blocks of work
- Scott’s process for coming up with his best ideas
- What Zombie projects are – and what to do about them
- How Scott removed 70% of his regular meetings from his diary
- Scott’s strategies for dealing with rejection
- When co-authoring works well – and when it doesn’t
- The advice that Clayton Christensen gave Scott that helped him become a better writer
- How Scott tests his new ideas
See below for a full transcript of the episode:
Scott: I’ll never forget what Clay said. Clay, very kindly said, the way that he wrote his books was to give a bunch of talks. And by giving a bunch of talks, an argument will begin to form in his head, he would write the argument down. Then, he would put additional details behind it, and that was the way that a book would be created.
Amantha: Welcome to the How I Work, a show about the tactics used by leading innovators to get so much out of their day. I’m your host, Dr. Amantha Imber. I’m an organizational psychologist, the CEO of Inventium, and I’m obsessed with finding ways to optimize my work day. My guest today is Scott D. Anthony. Scott is a global authority on innovation, and the former managing partner of Innosight, the innovation and strategy consulting firm co-founded by Clayton Christensen. Scott has written several best selling books, and writes regularly for Harvard Business Review.
Last year, Scott was awarded the Thinkers50 Innovation Award, which recognizes the world’s leading thinkers on innovation. Now, I’ve known Scott for a little while now, because our innovation consultancies are starting to partner up on some projects. But, up until now, I’d never had the chance to quiz Scott about how he works. We cover a lot of different topics in this chat, such as Scott’s go to locations for his own creative work, and what led to him removing 70% of his regular meetings from his diary. Over to Scott, to hear about how he works.
Scott, welcome to the show.
Scott: Amantha, it’s a true pleasure to be here.
Amantha: Wonderful. Now, you’re the former managing partner at Innosight. So, you spent six years in that role, which is 100 person global innovation and strategy consulting firm, founded by Clayton Christensen. And you’ve also written, I think it’s seven books, is that correct? Have I lost count?
Scott: Yeah, seven books is correct.
Amantha: Wonderful. What I want to start with, is I want to know how you balance maker versus manager time. And for those that are not familiar with this concept, this comes from Paul Graham, who’s one of the founders of Y Combinator. He talks about how the world runs on manager time, which is typically in half or one hour increments, because that’s how long meetings go for.
And that manager time can get in the way of maker time, which is typically in increments of two, or three, or four hours. Where people that are building things can really get into flow and get it stuck into focused work. And given you’re, on the one hand, you’re a manager, but on the other hand you’re a maker, particularly with your writing, how were you balancing those two worlds in your life?
Scott: It’s a great question, Amantha, and something that I sometimes would struggle with, like I think many people would. But, at least, for me, some of the things that I try to do to find that balance are, number one, put in place some pretty fierce boundary conditions for manager time. So, make sure that there are walls on the calendar, there are areas that are blocked out, that there is space to go and do some of the maker activity. I think that is a really important thing.
Number two, when you are in one of those spaces where it is time to be creative and, sometimes, for me, that’s writing, sometimes that’s putting together PowerPoint presentations, because those often are rough drafts of the things that I hope to write, I try to remove myself from temptation. Which often means making sure that I’m not in an office, or I’m in a place where I can’t access email. It’s because, the light goes off and you can’t help batter. You’re sitting in an office, someone comes and says, “Hey, do you have a couple of minutes?” So, that will sometimes mean going to a coffee shop, or going to work in some other quiet location, but making sure that temptation isn’t there.
Then, the third thing, and the thing that I think is unexpected, is the manager part of my life, some of that is managing the professionals who work in our organization. Some of that is doing the day to day of being in managing consulting. Either of those requires often getting on an airplane and going somewhere. And the airplane time, if you manage it with discipline and you use that as a good maker block of time, for me, at least, has been tremendously productive time. Where I really can sometimes get a good two, three, four hour block to just disappear in something.
Those are at least some of the things that have worked for me. I guess, if I said one other thing, when you have truly great people who are working with you, it makes the manager time a lot easier. Because you don’t have to do their work, because they’re really good at doing their work. I’ve been very, very fortunate to have great colleagues who I can just get out of their way, and that makes things really easy, sometimes.
Amantha: I want to delve into the airplane time, because that’s definitely a common theme that comes up in this podcast. How do you prepare for a flight, where you want to do maker time, to get the most out of it?
Scott: That’s a great question, Amantha. To me, there’s a couple factors that I think help. Number one, you go into the airplane time with a defined task that you’re working on. So, if I know I’ve got a big presentation that I’m giving, and I know that presentation is going to be more creation than curation, so I’ve got new thinking that I got to do on that, I will make sure that I look for the flight that’s coming up, and essentially mentally block off a piece of time to work on that activity. So, basically, it’s looking at that chunk of time in my calendar as a real gift to go and work on that activity, or it might be a book chapter, an article, or whatever.
The second thing that I’ll try to do is to clear the decks as much as I possibly can, going into the flight. That is, I know there’s not a pressing deadline for a manager activity that’s sitting over my head. Because if it is sitting over my head, even if my time allegedly is focused on the maker task, my brain is going to be buzzing with the word manager focused activity.
Then the third and final thing is, and this is a little bit of a weird one, if I know I really do have to be working on a creative task, I will consciously choose a flight that doesn’t have Wi-Fi on it. Because, once your phone is connected, it’s just really hard to help yourself. Yeah, I’m reasonably good at being disciplined and just turning the phone off, and all that. But if you, again, remove yourself from temptation, you truly have no choice. And, sometimes, that’s your friend.
Amantha: Do you set yourself goals of what you want to achieve on flights?
Scott: I’m a big list person, so I will go into it, when I’m on one of my super long haul trips. I live in Singapore, I averaged about eight trips to the United States a year, over the last six years. And that is depending on how you go, that’s 20 to 26 hours of travel. I will begin those trips by coming up with the task list. Usually, I will balance tasks that I know are going to be longer, more involved tasks, with a couple quick wins. So that I can have a few things that I could easily scratch off the list.
Because, you know, sometimes, you’ll say, “I want to come up with a first draft of an article. I want to do major revisions on an article.” And you’re not going to accomplish that, because, sometimes, it just, it doesn’t want to get done in that time period. You don’t want to feel deflated then, at the end of the flight, so I make sure that I give myself a few things that I know I can do when my brain just needs a break. So, at the very least, my six item list will get down to three items, and I’ll feel better at the end of the flight.
But, yes, I do very much go in and set myself a task list so that I’ve got a way to focus my time and attention. And two, I recognize, like all humans, I can’t work uninterrupted for X number of hours. I will consciously manage flights in basically two or three hour chunks. I’ll do more manager like tasks for two or three hours, I’ll watch a movie for two or three hours. I might sleep for two of those chunks, I might eat for a little bit, whatever. But I consciously, thinking about those cycles, to make sure I maximize productivity on the trip.
Amantha: That’s really cool. And I’m curious, when you’re not in flight and you’ve got a normal week in Singapore, let’s say, do you have daily or weekly rituals that you find just set you up for a successful day or week?
Scott: So, I do definitely have rituals that I follow when I’m in Singapore. Which is, I essentially mentally think about it as a three shift day. Shift one is when I wake up, and professionally, at least … Yeah, I’ve got the personal side, where I help to make sure the kids get off to school, and all that. But, professionally, I will look at email and triage, to see what came in overnight from the United States, that needs reasonably immediate attention, and what didn’t. So, I make sure I don’t have that, again, hanging over my head. That’s shift one.
Shift two is the normal day in Singapore, where you might have internal or external meetings. Shift three, then, is when the United States wakes up, and there might be a couple or three hours of phone calls, or emails, or whatever, just to manage some of the activities in the United States. So, that ritual of thinking about the three parts of the day and the different things I will be accomplishing in each of them, just helps me get mentally prepared for the day.
Then, the second thing in the … The second part in the normal working hours, if, again, there is a maker task that is required, there is the conscious creation of an open block of time, ranging from two to six hours. And the conscious removal of myself from anywhere where I’ll be tempted to get back in a manager mode. So, you will not find me sitting in my office working on these tasks, you’ll find me in a Starbucks or a Costa Coffee, or remembers, locally here in Singapore, the American Club. It’s got a great place on the third floor, where I can disappear for a little bit behind my headphones, or whatever it is. You’ll find me somewhere else doing it.
Finally, when I’m in that mode, I tend to bounce, because I know myself. I know after about 90 minutes, my energy begins to go down. So, I’ll go to a Starbucks for 90 minutes, then the American Club for 90 minutes, and maybe even a pub for 90 minutes, to get a little dose of creativity from a beer, as I start to transition to the third phase of the day. So, there are clearly some ritualistic elements to all of those things.
Amantha: That’s very interesting. Obviously, a large part of your maker is writing. I remember reading, in one of your books, you said that a publisher said to you that 90% of business books that customers purchase are never read, which is quite a disturbing statistic, but it definitely resonates. What motivates you to write books?
Scott: Well, so, 90% are never read, but 10% are. So, to those who actually pick up and read the books, and find the books to be useful, there’s that portion, you know? Writing allows you to reach people that you will never meet, never see, et cetera. So, there certainly is that. For me, a lot of writing is organizing the thoughts in my brain. Sometimes, I can’t figure out how to communicate something, and so I have taken the effort to actually write it in reasonably long form. Some things I can do rough drafts of, in presentations, in PowerPoint, and so on.
But, sometimes, the discipline of writing is the only way that you can truly figure out what it is you’re trying to say. Then, finally, when you write something in long form, you’ve got lots of snippets that you could then shoot off in short form. So, once you get something in a longer argument, you can go and create the 280 character tweets, or the 2,000 word LinkedIn posts, or the three minute video you’re going to post, et cetera. But until you’ve done the longer thing, you can’t do the shorter thing. So, those are some of the reasons why I do it.
And, I guess, the last thing I’d say, I do intrinsically enjoy the process. I find writing sometimes frustrating, when you get yourself stuck and you don’t know what you’re trying to say. But often, it is when I truly find myself in flow, when I’m just trying to wrestle with an argument and trying to get the thing to come together on a piece of paper, or on a screen, or whatever.
Amantha: I think that one of the things that you’re particularly great at is finding unique and really sticky ways to express ideas. Like, I really like your Seven Deadly Sins of Innovation, I think that’s a really lovely way of expressing some of the problems that companies run into with innovation. I want to know, what’s your process for coming up with these ideas and frameworks, I guess? What does that look like, for you?
Scott: So, I would say a couple of things about this. First, I have the great privilege of just getting lots of stimuli. And that stimuli comes from being in the field as a consultant, which means you get to interact with lots of companies in lots of places. We have spent some time in Singapore, running a venture capital business. So, I’ve gotten the opportunity to look at lots of startup companies, invest in a few of those companies. Both through the organization known as Innosight Ventures, as well as some of my private activities. I’ve got some incredibly smart colleagues, where you can just bounce lots of ideas off of. I’ve got four young kids that are a constant source of stimuli for me. I like to read a lot, I get to travel to lots of places. So, I have this barrage of stimuli. That’s the first part, you just have this stimuli coming at you all the time.
The second part is, I do like to experiment when I’m working on a new idea, or I’m trying to find a way to communicate a complex topic. So, when I’m giving a talk or running a workshop, I will almost always use these as vehicles to try new things. I will find myself getting ready to do something and say, “Okay, I’ve been struggling to communicate it, what if I do this as opposed to that?” The speaking engagements and workshops are great ways to rapidly prototype ideas and get feedback on those ideas.
Then, finally, I would say, being based out here in Singapore has been a great boost to this. Because I find myself, in many occasions, presenting to audiences were English might not even be the second language, it might be the third. Which means you’ve got to find a metaphor, or you have to find a really simplified way to explain things. Because, if you start talking in traditional English business language, and you talk at a pace like this, there’s no way that anybody’s going to understand it. So, it’s really forced me to try to get to the essence of some of the concepts that we try to communicate, and try to find different ways to explain them.
And they don’t always work. You know, The Seven Deadly Sins, I have found it to be a very helpful way to explain things, but every once in a while, I explain them in a context, and people say, “I’m offended by this. It is a religious metaphor, and it doesn’t fit the way I look at the world.” That’s okay, you learn. You say, “Okay, in this context, I won’t use that.” Or I, sometimes, as you know, Amantha, I will talk about zombies and zombie projects. Some people love it, other people really don’t. You just have to start to learn audiences and learn what works in what context.
Amantha: I particularly love the zombie project concept, we talk about that a lot with our clients, as well. I want to know, can you explain what that idea is, to listeners that are not familiar with it? And where did that idea come from, because it’s really unique and it’s very interesting?
Scott: Gosh, to the latter part of the question, I actually, I do not remember the origin story of it, nor can I claim with great degrees of confidence that I was the originator of it. I very likely stole it from one of our clients. Again, we get the privilege to work with really smart people. Sometimes, you just hear people say something, you say, “Oh, that’s really good, I’m going to borrow that one.” It’s possible I came up with it myself, it’s possible I borrowed it from someone, who knows? So, actually, I cannot remember the origin story.
But what a zombie project is, essentially, it’s the walking on dead. It is the shuffling lingering project, that if you are honest about it, will not ever have material impact, but it’s the thing that is sucking all the innovation life out of an organization. Or, it’s the thing that’s killing your ability to do new things, because you’re working on all these zombie efforts that are taking all of your time and all of your energy.
I found that that idea really resonates inside large organizations, because they have a lot of these things. Because there is such a stigma about raising your hand and saying, “The idea that we’re working on is stupid, the idea that we’re working on is never going to work. We really should stop this.” There’s such a stigma around it, that the zombie shuffle and linger on, and the organization says, “We wish we could innovate, but we have no time, space, or capacity,” when, of course, they do, if they could put the zombies out of their misery. But that’s easier said than done.
Amantha: I’m interested in, in your own working life, what are some zombies that you’ve identified for yourself and successfully killed?
Scott: That’s a great question. Well, when I went through the transition, earlier this year, from going from the managing partner role to really transitioning that role to one of my US colleagues, Patrick Viguerie, and really focusing in on activities here in Singapore, it was a great moment for me. Because it allowed me to step back on my calendar and say, “Which of the regular standing meetings that I have with colleagues, who I love dearly, by the way, which are ones that are really things that are great investments of my time, for both me and the other person? And which are ones that had just become routines, that we did because the calendar told us that we should meet every X number of weeks?”
So, it was a cleansing moment that allowed me to say, “There are a couple of these things that I think make sense on both sides, for us to keep, and there’s a whole range of things that have gotten into the level of rituals. That if you asked either side, ‘Does it actually make sense for us to be talking with this degree of frequency?’ They would actually say, ‘No.”'”. Both sides would. And that was something that I found, again, this great cleansing moment, because I could actually remove 50-70% of my standing meetings, and nobody really noticed.
They appreciated having more time, but they didn’t notice that the meetings weren’t happening. I had the ability of a transitioning role to do this, but it taught me that we all should do this. We all should step back and say, “What are the rituals that I’m doing, the routine meetings that I have, that actually don’t really have a purpose anymore? And how do I get rid of them?”
Amantha: Can you give me an example or two, of those meetings that you’ve now gotten rid of, and no one has even noticed or cared?
Scott: One of the ones that I would point to is, we had a standing operations update, that I would have with my colleague, Jean Ramsey, from the United States. I love Jean dearly. Jean and I go way back, we’ve worked together for 14 years. And we have a standing update call, and we would have a call as dutifully, try to find agenda items to go through. But it turned out that Jean and I could handle those agenda items really well by email. So, we just stopped having the calls, and we started doing email updates.
And Jean is just a ferocious task manager, and she gets her job done exceedingly well, without requiring those calls. There you go, it just gets done. That is one example where we learned, from doing this, that email allowed both of us to save time and didn’t impair the effectiveness of either one of us. Again, I bet you, if anyone looks at their calendar with some degree of, I guess, objective skepticism, you’ll see the equivalence of the Jean Ramsey update call.
Well, once you’ve got a call, you’ve got to prepare for it, you’ve got to set an agenda for it. Someone’s got to send a follow-up note, and so on. If you just say, “What would happen if we didn’t do this?” It ends up that the world just keeps on turning. The world just kept on turning, and, again, Jean knows that I am a long-term friend and big supporter. So, she knows exactly what I’m saying when I go through this example.
Amantha: Now, in the world of consulting, and also in the world of writing, there are a lot of rejections and setbacks to deal with. I’m wondering, what is your strategy for dealing with those rejections and setbacks that are an inevitable part of the line of work that you do?
Scott: Oh, certainly, it is a large part of the world. A large part of the world. For example, one of the places where I’ve had the good fortune of publishing a few articles is the print version of Harvard Business Review. For every article that I’ve gotten in, there have been at least two, and that sometimes it’s gotten to full graphs that have been rejected, or have been what I thought were quite good, actually, as they got rejected. So, there really are two things that, to me, are important.
Number one, “The best way,” Linus Pauling once said, “to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” So, I’m always working on a bunch of things, and if one of them doesn’t work out, that’s okay, there’s another couple that come behind it. The other is to just have other vehicles to express the ideas. So, there was something that HBR rejected, about 18 months ago, that I had a friend over at Sloan Management Review, that was looking for a forward to a book. I said, “Hey, I got what I think is pretty good content, might it work in this location?” And they said, “Sure.”
I had another thing that HBR rejected, that we just decided to self-publish on innosight.com. I scratched the itch of having something that was fully formed out in the world, that I could send to people. And sometimes, you just write them for the sake of writing them, and people say, “That’s really great, not for a publication. But, you know, at least, you’ve gotten it off your chest.” I had something that I wrote recently, it was about a 6,000 word thing, about innovation lessons I learned from my children. I didn’t think, honestly, anyone was going to publish it, but it was great fun to write it, and I at least have it now.
Sometimes, you recognize that the point of writing isn’t to get published. The point of writing is to just give birth to an idea that’s in your head, and it’s okay if it just lives on your laptop. That was really, the lessons from the kids was, I really like the way it came out. I knew no publication … It’s too self-promotional, no one would ever publish it. But it was a ton of fun to write it, at least.
Amantha: Have you published it on the Innosight website?
Scott: No, no, no, no. It’s just, it’s on my laptop. And that’s only because there actually is a shard of it that I think will be the basis for something else that I do. And that’s, I guess, another basic piece. Both of us, we tell our respective clients that when you go and try something and it doesn’t work commercially, that doesn’t mean that you fail. Because, often, the learning that comes from it will open up new avenues to grow.
Lots of people have written and talked about this. And this, I think, will be an example of it. So, the innovation lesson from my third kid, Harry, I think, actually, will be something that will be an anchor of one of the next articles that I work on. I have hesitated to publish it because I want to use a piece of it for other purposes.
Amantha: That’s cool. With your writing, a lot of your writing is done with co-authors, which I imagine is a pretty unique type of collaboration. Personally, I’ve never done it myself, but I’m very curious, how do you co-write an article or a book? What does that process, in terms of collaboration, look like, for you?
Scott: That’s a great question. So, at least, for me, the thing that leads to successful co-authoring is, if it is very clear the different roles that people are playing in the process. Sometimes, when I am co-authoring, I am the one who owns the pen, or owns the typewriter, or whatever … typewriter, the keyboard, or whatever. I’m the person who’s doing the original drafting and the colleague, who’s the co-author, is a sparring partner. They’re providing lots of input and helping to shape things, et cetera.
Sometimes, it’s the other way around, where my role is to provide feedback and comments, et cetera. Where I’ve seen it get off the rails is when everybody thinks that they are the lead author, or they’re the one with pen in hand. Or nobody thinks that they are, and you send a lot of emails back and forth, but no one actually goes and integrates that together into prose. And somebody’s actually got to go and do that work.
When you get the right process, when you get the right clarity of roles, you can have something really powerful. Because, you’re getting lots of thoughts colliding together. When you don’t have that clarity of roles, you can just get chaos and confusion, and that’s not particularly fun for anyone. So, again, and I’ve seen both of those. I’ve had some would be collaborative efforts that have never gotten anywhere for those reasons, and other ones that have been huge successes.
Amantha: That’s interesting, getting that insight. Another question I have for you is, what is something, like a way of working, that you maybe used to do but stopped doing? Like, what’s something that you used to do, in terms of, I don’t know, it might have been a habit, or a strategy, but you now find that it no longer works for you, and you changed?
Scott: It’s a very interesting question. I will channel some advice that I got from our co-founder, Clayton Christensen, that, gosh, 16 years ago, to explain this. So, the first book that I wrote was with Clay, was a book called Seeing What’s Next, came out in 2004. The way that I wrote that book is classic writing. I went and did a bunch of research, read a bunch of things, did a bunch of interviews. Wrote a draft of the manuscript, and then shared that draft with Clay. And because this was something where my role was to be the first person who put words on paper, and Clay’s role was to be a sparring partner, and get his voice in, and so on.
I’ll never forget what Clay said. Clay, very kindly said, the way that he wrote his books was to give a bunch of talks. And by giving a bunch of talks, an argument will begin to form in his head, he would write the argument down. Then he would put additional details behind it, and that was the way that a book would be created. It was a very kind way of him saying the writing was too dense, and too complicated, and the argument wasn’t very cohesive. Which, he was right. The book needed a lot of work, and even the final version of the book, I look back on and grit my teeth, because it’s just too dense and complicated.
But, of course, at the time, 2002, I was 27 years old, nobody was asking me to give talks anywhere. So, then, I couldn’t really do anything with it. The next couple books still were kind of seeing what’s next, where, really, it was more trying to synthesize the field experience and write it up, and then revise the book. But as you begin to get to the 2012, and on books, I really did shift the habit from writing first and then presenting, to presenting first and then writing. And Dual Transformation, the latest book, was the clearest example of this.
So, I knew I was ready to do the first draft of the book when I had done about 15 presentations on the topic, and had something that hummed together. I think that’s one reason why it feels just a little bit more conversational than the prior books, because it really did start as a presentation first. So, that’s an example of a pretty major paradigm shift in how I explored at least book length ideas; moving from writing first, to presenting first. And, of course, there’s still research base behind it, but it’s just done in a very different sort of way.
Amantha: I guess that then begs the question, how do you create a presentation?
Scott: Well, every presentation starts with a blank slide, right? You sit there and you stare at a slide, and you try and figure out what’s going to go on to it. But, at least, for me, this is one of the benefits of now being in this field, I would argue, for about 18 years now. Going back to about 2000, when I was still in business school, but started thinking about innovation, growth, and related topics. I got a lot of slides in which I can draw. So, when I’m giving a talk or a presentation, there is always a curation component of it. One of the other things that I’ve done in the past, that I can leverage on, to at least begin putting the scaffolding together.
Then you start thinking about, “Okay, what are the new twists? What are the new things that I want to do?” As an example, Monday of this week, in Singapore, I had a 75 minute presentation, where I was describing Dual Transformation, and then going into some of the how tos around it. So, about two weeks ago, I found myself in the American Club, one of the places where I feel like I can get creative tasks done. I opened up a blank presentation, I started pulling some things from previous presentations.
I had a couple big gaps, where I said, “Okay, I need to figure out what I’m going to say here.” I dummied up a few slides. I asked a couple colleagues who are smarter than me in areas that I needed to get smart and fast, “What’s the best thing you’ve got here?” I pulled their material, put it in there. Walked away from it for a little bit, looked at what worked and what didn’t work. Refined it, and then gave the presentation on Monday. 80% percent of which I liked, 20% of which I want to do differently next time I give a similar talk. And, here we are.
Amantha: Excellent. Now, I want to finish the interview with a few questions around what you’re currently consuming. Because I think it can be so hard for the average person to know, what should they consume in terms of books, and podcasts, and so forth. There’s so much information out there. So, to start with books, what are a couple of great books that you’ve read recently?
Scott: When I am reading, and I am a reasonably heavy reader, I track all these things. I read, on average, about 40 books a year. And I read because, to the question that you had before, 90% of the business books I have read, I feel professional obligation, whenever I start a book, to actually finish a book. Because I know what it’s like to write something, so I really do get to the end of just about everything that I start. But I tend to balance between reading mind emptying fiction, and business books, and biographies. I’ll go back and forth between those three things, just so I’m getting lots of different stimuli.
In at least the business book category, the couple of things that I’ve read most recently, that I found to be most interesting, The Principles book, by Ray Dalio, I thought was a really interesting read. Just because it is an example of trying to create a scale organization that operates on principles, algorithms, or whatever you want to call it. I found it to be just a very interesting read because of that. Then the other thing I would nominate in the business category, that’s relatively a recent read, is The New Leadership Literacies, by Bob Johansen. He’s from the Institute for the Future. He’s been a futurist for 50 years, doing 10 year forecasts. Rolling 10 year forecasts for 50 years. And so, he’s outlived a lot of his forecasts.
The New Leadership Literacies talks about, not just what leaders need in today’s uncertain times, it also talks about Bob’s journey. Which made it, I think, just a really interesting read. If I look at fiction books that I’ve read recently, well, there’s a whole bunch of things that I would point to, that just caught my attention. The most recent book I read, I’m looking at my Kindle now, to make sure I don’t make this up. Most recent book that I read is Lost Empress, by Sergio De La Pava. Which was a pretty fascinating borderline metaphysical book that I just got really engrossed in. There’s some really trashy fiction as well, that I will not name, because it can make people think less of me. But sometimes, you need that too, you need to empty your brain a little bit.
Amantha: Definitely. How about podcasts? What are a couple of podcasts that you’re consuming at the moment?
Scott: It’s interesting that the podcast revolution, at least for me, has just not really caught. I’ve participated in podcasts, I’ve listened to specific episodes tied to those podcasts in which I participated. Innovation Ecosystem, in Europe, anything that Amantha does, I would highly recommend. But I’m not a regular podcast listener.
The audio stimuli I receive is music. I listen to music when I’m in between things, but I really like to read. I don’t process video information, I don’t like listening to things. I really like reading, because it’s just the pace at which I consume things, it’s faster than those other two forums. So, I’m not really a big podcast connoisseur. In fact, I’m not a podcast connoisseur at all.
Amantha: Oh, given you like reading things, are there any newsletters that you subscribe to, and actually look forward to receiving?
Scott: The things that I regularly, I read three magazines with almost religious discipline. So, religious discipline might be an oxymoron, but, whatever. I read with discipline. I read The Economist Harvard Business Review, and Entertainment Weekly. Again, trying to keep balance of perspective, so, with a great degree of discipline. Newsletters, I get the Economist Daily Update newsletter, which is great. Venture Pulse is another one that I like to read.
Then, I browse a lot. Just looking at what you see in the Apple newsfeed, or what are some of the links that will take you to various places. I do try to make sure, with a degree of discipline, that I flick. Flick through what is going on in Twitter, flick through what you see in the Apple newsfeed, and try to just follow a little bit of randomness. Is, you just never know where that will lead you.
Sometimes, it’s the really random article about what’s going on in this random social media stars life, that sometimes will create a connection that you didn’t anticipate. So, yeah, sometimes I really do like to follow the back links and just end up in a very strange place. Because, again, it just creates a connection you didn’t expect. Which can then sometimes lead to a metaphor, or a story, or a way to communicate a concept, that you didn’t expect.
So, I can’t tell you exactly the way it is going on with the Kardashians, but it can help, sometimes. Sometimes, you will find things where you don’t expect them. And it’s important to follow those threads, I think.
Amantha: Definitely. Definitely. And what are your favorite tools for testing new business ideas?
Scott: So, favorite tools for testing new business ideas is … This is, again, the Christensen’s advice from so many years ago. It’s being in front of real people and talking to them about it. I mean, a lot of my prototyping is mental prototyping that will lead to some form of a PowerPoint slide. Which might be nothing more than a picture, that I can use to then tell a story. To me, it’s a great way to test new ideas, it’s just talking them out with people.
Of course, sometimes, we will go a little bit deeper and try something out as a new consulting offering, or process, or pedagogy, or whatever. But, at least, for me, a lot of it is presenting, listening to myself trying to explain the concept. Because, if you can’t explain it, then it probably isn’t going to work that well. Seeing how people react to it, and then going from there.
Amantha: Awesome. Finally, Scott, where can people find you, and learn more about you, and Innosight?
Scott: So, my Twitter feed is @scottdanthony. At LinkedIn, I’m LinkedIn profile, Scott D. Anthony, www.innosight.com. My email address is email@example.com. I live a quasi public life, so it’s not that hard to track me down.
Amantha: Fantastic. Fantastic. Well, look, I’ve loved this chat, Scott, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Scott: Now, thank you very much Amantha, I appreciate the time as always. And it’s a real privilege to participate in this discussion.
Amantha: Hello there, that’s it for today’s episode. If you liked it, there are plenty of others that you might also enjoy. Such as my chat with Mia Freedman, about her trick for overcoming procrastination. And my interview with Rachel Botsman, who shares her one minute alternative to mindfulness.
Finally, it’s great getting feedback from listeners, such as yourself. So, feel free to give this podcast a review in iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you like this episode, make sure you hit the subscribe button, so that you can be alerted whenever new episodes are released. See you next time.