Have you ever had a breakfast with a friend, talked about your shared love for books and frustration with how some business subjects are stuck in 50-year-old context and come away having agreed to form a writing collaboration, draft a plan to publish a book, frame some ideas for the first manuscript, and think deeply about who the book is for?
Perhaps it happens all the time.
As we formed Drs Schuster & Oxley, we spent a while reflecting on three questions: (1) What do we want to write about, (2) Do we have something interesting or new to share and, (3) Who are we writing for and why might they be interested in what we have to say.
"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme."--Herman Melville
When we discussed the first question, a list of at least 5 or 6 subjects quickly emerged. We had a lot of joint passion and energy about modernizing and updating subjects like organization effectiveness, leadership, fulfillment and meaning in work, and managing a professional career. When we listed the most helpful books we had read, it was shocking that they all seem very dated. Their context now blurs their messages and makes then much less helpful to a modern audience. Equally, the very nature of organizations, professions, leadership, and fulfillment have different meanings today than they did in the 1980s and 1990s.
“Up in that room I decided that I would write one story about each thing that I knew about. I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was good and severe discipline.” Ernest Hemmingway.
And as Hemmingway famously advised, we both felt a strong conviction that we shared truths about these business subjects. We had studied and lived through some of the most ‘press covered’ corporate events of the last 30 years. Witnessing these firsthand and participating in their postscripts enlightened us both on how difficult it can be to understand the facts as they become buried under the resulting shrapnel of superficiality, demagoguery, vested interests, and spin.
“I'm not so arrogant to think I'm the only guide someone needs ... but I might be the guide that someone needs.” ― Laura Anne Gilman
However, the most powerful theme that emerged from our early discussions was who we wanted to write for. Starting with our breakfast conversation we shared the observation that today’s next generation business leaders and entrepreneurs face some unprecedented challenges. Pandemic, lockdowns, social media distortions, war in Ukraine, popularist political movements, climate emergency, economic volatility, and technological disruption. We talked about how we could help. Whether we could provide helpful, insightful, practical, entertaining advice for this audience.
It is this goal of relevance that inspires us most. Over the coming few weeks we’d like to share more about the big paradigm shifts that we observe taking place across western societies and why we think they have an impact on some rather outdated legacy business practices.
“When writing a novel, that’s pretty much entirely what life turns into: ‘House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day.”– Neil Gaiman
Oh….one more thing we agreed…and something that probably was more important than anything else…. was allowing ourselves to have fun. For those of you who know us, you may be mistaken in believing one of us has a wickedly silly sense of humor and the other is, well, more serious. We think that we both have a similar sense of humor it’s just that one of us shares it out loud.
If we achieve only one thing with this project, we hope it is allowing some others the space and excuse to have some fun. If you enjoy what you are doing, we both believe that joy is infectious. Let’s play that forward wherever we can.