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Experiences of a New Author | Jeremy Utley

Experiences of a New Author| Jeremy Utley | 475

What comes after a business book is published?

An interview with Jeremy Utley that originally aired on November 2nd, 2022, as part of our Leveraging Thought Leadership Live series on LinkedIn.

Writing a book can take a year or more, followed by months of planning, strategizing, and launching.

Once the book hits the shelves — What’s left?

Jeremy Utley is the Director of Executive Educational at Stanford and adjunct professor at Stanford’s School of Engineering. Recently Jeremy worked with co-author Perry Klebahn to put their experience into their first book call titled “Ideaflow: The Only Business Metric That Matters.”

At the time of this recording, Jeremy’s book had been on shelves for eight days! Jeremy expresses the gratitude he feels toward those that have come forward to thank him for the book, and the actionable ideas it contains. In addition, he shares surprises he has experienced during recording the audio version of the book.

Marketing a book takes a tremendous amount of coordination, even with the resources a publisher offers. The bulk of the work lands on the author’s shoulders. Jeremy talks about having to get over being self-conscious about telling people he’s an author. He also explains the massive amount of help a launch team can be, in spreading the word about your book, and also in keeping you excited when your personal energy is running low.

This episode has some great insights into the experience of a first time author that don’t often get shared.

Three Key Takeaways:

  • A launch team is comprised of people that are excited and happy to share the word about your book. They often come up with marketing ideas and help keep the ball rolling.
  • When writing a book, write the book you’d want to read.
  • Don’t start your writing journey trying to write a book. Start with a blog, getting in the habit of writing every day to build your skill and create a wealth of material you can draw from.

If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.



Peter Winick And welcome, welcome, welcome. This is Peter Winick. I’m the founder and CEO at Thought Leadership Leverage. And you’re joining us on this LinkedIn Live, which is an extension of our podcast, Leveraging Thought Leadership. And today and today only is my guest, my guest is Jeremy Utley. Jeremy is the coauthor of Idea Flow, which just came out last week, and he’s a director of executive education at Stanford’s D.School and an adjunct professor at Stanford’s School of Engineering. And he is a friend. So welcome, Jeremy. So here we are. You are now a published author for, what, six days now?

Jeremy Utley Eight? It’s been eight days. How long? Eight days, Peter?

Peter Winick It’s been a long eight days. Okay. So tell us what those first eight days have been like, because it’s been, what, a year of writing the book, you know, six months of planning and then eight days of nonstop stuff. So what’s been like?

Jeremy Utley Oh, it’s been incredible. I mean, to the book has been in my heart and the stories have been in my head for so long. Mine and my coauthor, Perry Claiborne, that it’s been really fun to get it out in the world and to have people interacting with the ideas. You know, we’ve been cherishing these memories and these stories and this research for so long that it kind of you become overly familiar to it in a way. And so to be hearing from friends from high school and college and grad school and former clients and, you know, people in the neighborhood and church and all sorts of people, you know, reaching out. It’s a huge compliment to I have a construction worker friend, for example, who just the other day sent me a photo. He bought a new notebook and a pen. And he said, thank you for writing a spectacular book that I could understand. And I thought, Yeah. So all in all, that’s, say, people coming out of the woodwork to really say thank you, to appreciate and resonate and to start applying some of the tools we teach has been really rewarding.

Peter Winick So one of the things I always find interesting once a book is released is, you know, the authors are typically close to close to it to be objective number one. And sometimes because the way publishing cycles work, you finished writing it almost a year ago, a year ago, it’s not as top of mind as it was. Right. Because there’s this calm before the storm. Are there things that are resonating with folks that you didn’t expect any surprises in terms of people saying, wow, this is the thing that I that stood out the most for me?

Jeremy Utley You know, I would say the thing that’s been most surprising to me has actually been how my own thinking has continued to evolve. What I’ve learned is a book is almost a snapshot of your knowledge at a point in time, but you keep learning. You know, as we recorded our audio book more recently and I’m reading through it and in my mind, you know, we have a subject like experimentation, you know, as, as kind of a core mindset and toolset. I’m reading the chapter, you know, in the studio for the audio audiobook, and I get to the end. I’m like, wait, we don’t tell the, you know, blank the Netflix story. And I’m like, Oh, I learned that. Which is a perfect encapsulation. After the manuscript’s locked, right? So my mind’s not locked in the same way that the manuscripts like. So I continue to interact with the world with inputs, with inspiration, with stories, and they become a part of my repertoire, so to speak. When I’m talking about a topic, I can’t help but mention the Netflix experimentation story. And yet when I look in the book, I had this experience last night. I was at a big dinner with a bunch of VCs and entrepreneurs, and one of the VCs was talking to me about procrastination and how important he finds it. I said, Oh, there’s a whole section and there’s this amazing research. Donald MacKinnon, a World War Two spymaster who studied creativity. He found that delaying decisions is a hugely effective strategy. And I go to the index in the book. I’m like, Let me show you where it’s not there. This is where.

Peter Winick You’re selling Volume two. That’s what you’re doing very early. So couple of thoughts on the book, because you and I have been working together for a little bit over a year on the book and a bunch of other things is that, you know, the is there’s no place better when it comes to innovation, right? Yet when we look at the business literature on innovation, part of there’s been a couple of issues that I’ve seen right. As the outsider. One is everybody loves innovation. There aren’t too many anti innovation people like, let’s go back to the fax machine or I love the rotary phone. Haven’t met yet. Maybe the Amish will. But no offense to my friends. Right. But there isn’t an antique innovation crowd yet. Very few people actually own the function in their organization or write words like on their business card. SVP, Director of Innovation. So it’s really hard to find that place where it fits. And one of the things I love about the book is the subtitle, which I see here. You know, the only business metric that matters because a lot of the literature on innovation in the past has been not bad, but it’s abstract, it’s cool. The creative part is really, really sexy. This is really somewhere between sort of Six Sigma meets like. White boarding or something, Right. So you want to talk about it’s.

Jeremy Utley Meant to be pragmatic, for sure.

Peter Winick Yeah. Which is implemented. Yeah. So in most innovation books aren’t that. So do you want to give sort of a, a teaser or the highlight of what might that only business metric that matter be? I mean, is anyone from buying the book go buy the book now.

Jeremy Utley Yeah, well, thank you, Peter. Yep. The basic premise is when most people think about the task of coming up with solutions to problems, ideas are simply solutions to problems. They think in terms of good. And what the research would suggest is instead of thinking in terms of good solutions or good ideas, one should first think in terms of more. What I need is actually a volume of solutions, a volume of possibilities. The single greatest determinant of the quality of an idea is actually the quantity of ideas. And so what.

Peter Winick Of that problem, though, is well, now I’m self aware, right? Because every idea I put out, I want it to be good if I have to. If the metric is volume, oh, I’m going to be vulnerable. I’m going to put out stuff that silly. I might be might.

Jeremy Utley As well obviously if you want to folk, if there’s an area of focus on volume, it’s actually generating bad ideas and people go, Wait, want bad ideas? I go, Yeah, you like Steve Jobs every day. I would sit down with just a Johnny Ive and he would say, you want to hear a dopey idea. And Johnny said, most of the time they were really dopey. In fact, a lot of times they were truly terrible. But every once in a while they take the air out of the room and leave us breathless in wonder. Right. And the point is, when people try to come up with good ideas, that’s the wrong goal. The goal should be to increase the volume and variation of your thinking and actually pushing yourself to come up with that ideas is a great way to increase the variability of your thinking yards new. The dopey is how you get to delightful. You know, when we think of Steve Jobs, we don’t think he’s dopey. We think of disruption and redefining categories. But every day he’s sharing what he thinks are dopey ideas with a really smart collaborator. And so if you want to come up with more ideas, actually allow yourself to come up with that idea. And in so doing, you actually give yourself permission to increase the variability of your thinking and you increase likelihood of discovering really tremendous ideas as well.

Peter Winick Got it. So the metric is the is the volume, and that’s going to be the secret sauce of what it is. Do you actually have a metric here?

Jeremy Utley Well, it’s very simple ideas. Over time. You can measure it in a minute. You can measure it in an hour, you can measure it in a month. I mean, a simple activity that we recommend in the book is fine. An email that you need to write that you haven’t written yet. Ordinarily, you know, if I’m going to write Peter a note, I put Peter in the to field and then the subject line, I start writing the subject and then I move on and I don’t ever even think about alternative subject lines. We say, Hey, for an email, you know, you need to write, set a timer for a minute and come up with as many subject lines as you possibly can. That is, you’re.

Peter Winick Right, because we’re all writing hundreds of emails a day, a minute in the context of a subject header for an email. Would I have to try? It would probably feel like an hour, probably feel like a long time.

Jeremy Utley Why would I spend a minute? Right? That it’s just a minute. What you learn really quickly is what I mean. It exposes a lot of cognitive biases that keep us from creativity in a lot of other places, which is when you think of a solution, it’s called the installing effect. When you think of a solution, your brain stops looking for other solutions. And yet there’s no evidence to suggest that our early solutions are our best solutions. And in fact, there’s evidence that suggests just the opposite that identifying one solution prevents us from seeing better solutions. One goal two quantity rather than quality. You actually change the definition of success.

Peter Winick And that’s really the flow part of idea. Flow is letting yourself get into that place where you can just sort of not crank them out for the sake of cranking them out, but being in the zone.

Jeremy Utley That’s right.

Peter Winick Yeah. Awesome. So thank you for that highlight. So give us a sense now of I think I want to spend a couple of minutes here, if you would. So we’ve talked I’ve talked to lots and lots and people of people over the years about how hard it is to write a book. So we’re not going to go there. But I want to talk about how hard it is to get ready to get a book to market. And then you’re in the very early stages with a very full calendar of activities. So talk about sort of how I don’t know if difficult is the right word, but how much energy, effort, etc. and the teams involved in thinking about what needs to be done to get this book out there, tapping into your friends, tapping into your network, tapping into your communities, because this is the stuff that people don’t really talk about enough. In my humble opinion.

Jeremy Utley No, There’s a tremendous amount of coordination that happens on the back end. And you think, well, the publisher markets a book and definitely there are tremendous and incredible resource. There’s a marketing team, etc. a publicist, you probably a PR folks, etc. And even with all of their effort, there is an enormous amount of responsibility on an. Individual author to galvanize their friends and family and their followers and their clients and help people understand that the opportunity is out there, you know? I think the tendency for, at least for me, is to feel very self-conscious of mentioning the book, or because I go, Oh, people already know. And the truth is, I already know, you know. But actually, very few people do, because the way that social media algorithms work and otherwise even email open rates, it’s highly unlikely that a message that you put out there is being consumed by anything more than a very, very, very small percentage of your audience. Are you.

Peter Winick Sure? Okay with this for a minute. So a lot of because I think you touched on a key point. A lot of folks are reluctant. It feels awkward. I’m not in sales of asking their friends and such to help them promote the book and spread the ideas and get it out into the universe. And I think what most were pleasantly surprised about is how receptive people are to helping you. They know you, they love you. They’re a fan of the work. They appreciate you. And it’s no big deal for someone to post something about the book or whatever. So how is how is the perception of that? Or was that difficult at first? And have you gotten better at that?

Jeremy Utley Yeah, I think I underestimated how many people would be enthusiastic to contribute to be invited into the effort. And so that’s been that’s been a delight to realize, is it’s a joy for people who love you, for people who feel close to you or who feel close to the work. It’s a joy for them to get to contribute and to get to be a part of it. And there’s no limitation on the number of people who can be involved. Right? So to have a launch team, for example, you can have a lot of people on the lunch team that people really enjoy being able to be a part of a lunch team, for example.

Peter Winick Yeah. So a launch team for Provokes is, you know, you recruit folks to help you launch and it’s not a compensation thing. It’s, you know, rooting for you. And they’re doing they’re not doing a lot of heavy lifting, but it’s promoting on their social networks, engaging people that they know about it, you know, etc.. And then what happens is it’s like rooting for your favorite team when you’re on a launch team, even though you don’t have a financial horse in the race, you’re like, I want this book to win. It’s really cool. And right when it’s picked up on LinkedIn, it’s really cool when another thought leader comments on it or whatever, and now you’ve got this whole sort of cheering squad that’s behind you and all you really have to do is ask and they’re happy to do it.

Jeremy Utley And the thing that I would say has been really surprising to me is to see how much other people’s enthusiasm refills my tank. Yeah, I didn’t realize, like it is a tiring endeavor. You know, your work. I actually was just talking to an author. I’m on a web series that I run at Stanford, and he was saying, I love this quote. He said, The launch is like the sprint at the end of a marathon. It’s like you don’t have the energy for it. It’s exhausting. But if you don’t sprint, then it’s like you didn’t run the marathon.

Peter Winick Right?

Jeremy Utley And he said it’d be a real tragedy to not sprint at the end. And I get it. Which is to say, you know, you think about the like the end of a marathon, right? There’s all those people with the little cups of Gatorade, right? Everybody in my life, they’re just carrying this little cup of Gatorade. You know, they give it to me. And it’s it just it’s refreshing. And, you know, I get on the phone call doing all sorts of stuff, and I get with my lunch team, it’s my people and my people are rooting for me and they’re excited about what I’m doing. And they they’re coming up with, you know, harebrained ideas. And just when I feel like I go, You know what, let’s just go to bed. You’re like, We got to try this. And that’s it’s an incredibly special community that you have the opportunity to rally around you, that you don’t really realize it.

Peter Winick Yeah. And I think, you know, the other thing is that most books and certainly a book like this is an evergreen book. So, yes, there’s a sprint element to the launch to get that flywheel going. Right. But my instincts are with this book and I know it quite well, is that we’re going to see this book around for several, several years. It’s not time sensitive. It’s not like, oh, it’s going to go out of vogue in oh, more people are talking about work from home today than they will be in six months or an hour or something like that. You know, And when you can connect thought leadership and I think there’s always sort of two variables here is what are the evergreen principles? Well, they’re chock full of them in the book. Right. And then what’s going on in the real world that you can connect to. So now, for example, if you know we’re going into a recession, well, what is you know, what does recession mean? It’s Latin for do more with less. It’s not really Latin. Right. Well, if you have to do more, more with less, what better time to innovate? We get out of a recession. We go back to growth mode. Great. Now we got all this capital to experiment. Great. Innovate. So it’s making sure that you can connect to what’s going on in the real world and the business cycles and all that sort of fun stuff. You know, when we had challenges last year with Supply Chain, there were some really interesting innovation going on of people now on shoring and having to manufacture in this country. Things like books. Publishers really quickly realize like, Oh, I can’t get a book out there if it’s sitting in a port in Long Beach for months. We forgot how to print in the states. Right. We’d better figure out how to do that quickly. Oh, yeah.

Peter Winick If you’re enjoying this episode of Thought Leadership Leverage. Please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about our podcast. Please leave a five star review at rate this podcast. Dot com. Forward slash. L. T l and share it with your friends. We’re available on Apple Podcasts and on all major listening apps as well as at Thought Leadership Leverage dot com forward slash podcast. What else could you share with us in terms of I mean, it’s early in the journey, but what else would you share if someone’s out there thinking, you know, there’s a book I should write?

Jeremy Utley Well, you know, for me, one of the things that’s come up a lot, people say, Why did you write the book? And I say, one part of the equation is it’s an expertise I’ve been cultivating for the last dozen years, an obsession I’ve been cultivating for last dozen years. So I am uniquely qualified to write the book. But the other reason I wrote it is, as they say, write the book you want to read. And yet for me, this, I had the experience while reading the audiobook that multiple times I had to pause the recording because I wanted to take notes in my own book, just as it’s a book I wanted to read. Right? I mean, there’s nobody’s walking around with a book in their head, right? So stumbling over stories and research that I’d forgotten, I knew at one point, right? So that was exciting. But to me, if you’re thinking about writing a book, then the question is, well, what kind of book do you which you really wish was in the world? And for me, this book is a book that I wish was in the world. You know, like I remember the old men’s hair club, you know, that New Yorker, you know, and that I’m not just the president, I’m also a member. And I feel like I’m not only the author, I’m also I’m also the student, you know, And there’s a part of it that is Guru esque in that there’s a there’s a unique and differentiated knowledge that I’ve been fortunate enough to acquire through collaboration with many others over the last dozen years. But then it’s also it speaks to a need that I have. And one thing that I’ve seen in my own life, I mean, I had this experience the other day. I’m driving around running some errands and the car is packed full and I had a cooler that was probably a £50 cooler that was like sitting there like a Jenga brick of death right over my right shoulder. And every time I turn to the right, it slams into my arm. And I’m just, you know, and I kind of jam my arm there while I’m driving to kind of give myself some relief. And I’m honestly thinking I’m in the car for an hour as it’s going to damage my rotator cuff. I mean, it was really pain. Yeah, my brother called me. He’s in construction and roofing in Texas, and he called me. We’re chatting on the phone for a couple minutes when he said a very brotherly thing. He said, Why do you keep grunting? And I said, I’ve got this stupid cooler. You know, it’s just like it’s killing me. Time my turn. He goes, Have you buckled it in? And I go, Oh, my goodness. He goes, Yeah. I mean, whenever I get a bench gear in the truck, I don’t want to roll around. I just buckle it in. And I in one minute my problem that I thought I was going to deal with for an hour was solved. Right. And I actually had.

Peter Winick Been there before.

Jeremy Utley Writing a photo of that, because, by the way, I’ve already written a book on creative problem solving. There’s a whole chapter on seeking input from people, from different disciplines. And if anybody knows to ask my construction working brother for help in a moment of need, it’s me. And yet in that moment, I fall prey to the very same cognitive biases that everybody else does and law, which is to say, I need the material as much as anybody else. And I think if you’re thinking about writing the book, writing the book you need and doing the work to assemble the research and the and the expertise, to be able to be a credible contributor to that, that sphere is really, really a source of motivation and source of inspiration.

Peter Winick So let me ask you this, because a lot of folks say, you know, this this is work you’ve been deeply, deeply involved in for a dozen years. So there is more that exists in your head, in your life experience than made it to, you know, whatever, 200 and whatever pages. So one of the things that I hear from folks, the from the book writing process is, wow, it forced me to get concise. It forced me to codify my models and methodologies in a really tight way, because in order to write it right, you can’t like when you’re when you’re teaching or you’re front of the whiteboard, you can kind of bounce and get it out there. You got 20 different stories drawn, whatever, but you’ve got a chapter on a topic and you’ve got, you know, 2000 words or whatever the allocation is. Yeah, you’re on a budget, right? You know, a lot of words, right? So did you find that the strength of the printed page helpful or challenging or how did that work for you?

Jeremy Utley You know, the challenge a lot of the work is actually in sequencing, you know, what is the proper. Kind of a progression of ideas that leads someone to appreciate what we’re trying to express. And one thing I noticed is the way I would approach a lecture, for example, the kinds of things I emphasize in, say, a TED talk. You can’t you get the transcript to a TED Talk is an HPR article, which is great, but it’s not a book. You know, it’s not laying out your thinking like that, right? And so while you should be able to take a book and put it into a TED, talk to take a TED talk and try to extrapolate it to a book, it’s a totally different animal than the way you approach the challenge of expressing the information is very different. And so.

Peter Winick Well, a lot of books have done that. They expanded a TED Talk 18 minutes or whatever to a book. And there’s a lot of breadcrumbs in the meatball. You’re like, okay, I got it. I kind of got it like this. This was fine. As a TED talk. It’s not a reflection of the quality of the thinking per se, but it’s like the format a book is, you know, 50, 60,000 words. A book is 250 pages. It’s very different.

Jeremy Utley Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But having the space actually to tease apart those things and to put them in their proper place is a is a real gift is a real luxury.

Peter Winick Got it. Cool. Any other as we start to wrap up here? Thoughts, reflections, thing you want to share on the journey? And I know it’s early. It’s very early in the process, not in terms of time of day, but any other things that come to mind as you’re going down this path?

Jeremy Utley Well, you know, like I will just show, you know, this is my I’m in my home office here. But you can see ideas are everywhere. Right? And I would say in the journey, one of the things that’s been that was phenomenally helpful for me is to develop a habit of writing just a daily blog. You know, it’s something Seth Godin is mentioned as something that Austin Kleon many, many have mentioned, but the value of learning to express your ideas in writing. You can do it too, that a book isn’t the first thing you know, first letter writing something down and don’t think about what’s the outline or what’s what are you know. For me, I give myself a challenge of 30 minutes a day, you know, Can I crystallize an idea, an observation, a piece of research or an insight or a story 30 minutes a day and share it? I share I share with the world on my blog. I write a blog every day, but it’s very useful to get in the habit of committing things to paper or things to the page. Because then beyond getting in the habit of actually writing, you have a wealth of material that you can start to draw on and say, Well, how does this fit and how does this fit in? And you know, things like hyper linking, for example, like I find my blog is basically an external hard drive for my brain cells. Any links there that if I go there, I start linking to stories and ideas that I had forgotten the connections that I had made. Right. And so having a place like that, it’s a little bit different. I’ve got Evernote notes. If you talk to Stephen Johnson or Dan Paine or famous author, you’ve got logs, they’ve got notes, they’ve got files where they keep inspiration. I find there’s something about the hyper linking functionality of a blog that’s actually really useful and allows you, even as a researcher, to attract track, you know, streams of thought in an unexpected way.

Peter Winick Now, it’s also Well, I appreciate your time. I appreciate you. It’s a great book. You should run out, not you, because you already have one, but everyone. But you should run out and buy a copy of it.

Jeremy Utley If it works for the website right now. Idea flow dot Design. They can also get a free chapter of a bonus chapter called How to Think Like Bezos and Jobs, which is a really great summary of some of the ways in which Bezos and Jobs approach problem solving. That’s free on the website.

Peter Winick Cool. Well, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today, Jeremy.

Jeremy Utley My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Peter Winick To learn more about Thought Leadership Leverage, please visit our website at to reach me directly. Feel free to email me at Peter at and please subscribe to Leveraging Thought Leadership on iTunes or your favorite podcast app to get your weekly episode automatically.

Peter Winick has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. He is the CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Peter on Twitter!

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