If you needed to write a detailed story of your life you’d have no problem writing a three-hundred page book—the content is there. However, let’s imagine you have a big idea like ‘the world is flat!!”—is a big idea the basis of a book?
“The Geography of Bliss” by Eric Weiner is based on a big idea ‘what are the happiest countries in the world?” The author, a professional writer, had the idea, then did a lot of research and happiness and travelled around the world visiting countries that had some claim to bliss. The lesson of this is that a big idea is what launches you into a long period of research, not what launches you into writing a book.
Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton, authors of “It’s not the big who eat the small, it’s the fast who eat the slow” have a big idea about leadership. They are going out to identify and interview a hundred leaders to provide the research for the book. The good news is that they don’t have to spend months travelling around the world but they are doing research, not writing a book.
Professional writers and academics have the time to do extensive research before writing a book; however most consultants and managers are better off writing from their own experience. If you decided to write a novel rather than a management book you would be better off writing one set in a modern corporation than in ancient Aceh. If you were doing historical fiction it would take a year of research before you could even begin.
- An experience book is easier than a big idea book. If you are not going to have time to do a lot of research, see if you can find build your book around your own experience rather than just the big idea.
- Test if the idea is big enough for a book. Quickly write out a draft elaborating on your big idea as much as you can. Short term memory overflows at about 7 points; it can be hard to tell whether a big idea is a 1000 word essay or a 1000 page book. The draft will help you test if there really is enough to say to create a book without a lot of filler.
- Do the research before you begin to write. If the book is going to require research spend the time doing that before you sit down and think “OK now I’m going to write.”
- Mindmap and outline relentlessly. It takes a lot of work to convert that big idea into the basis for a book. Normally, it’s not a matter of just writing the outline one afternoon and saying “Ok, I’m ready to write.” You should create and recreate mindmaps and outlines (the two are similar but using two different format can aid clarity).
- Write sketches. “How can I know what I have to say until I say it?” If you want to make a big idea real sketch out the ideas in a few paragraphs. I use the word sketch rather than draft because this is like a sketch on a napkin, not a first draft of the book. Plan to throw these away, they are to get your ideas in order
The bottom line is that a big idea maybe where you start doing your research and gathering your ideas. It could easily be a year or two of consistently investing effort into research and pulling the ideas out of vague mental form into something solid.
Since this is a barrier you may want to consider writing from experience. You may know how to use RO principles to design a performance management program. A book on that may be a far more realistic goal then a book based on a big idea.