‘I’d done a lot of reps before I started writing the book, and that helped enormously.’
Ollie Henderson would like to talk to you about work-life balance. Specifically, he’d like you to understand that you will NEVER reach a state of perfect equilibrium, so why beat yourself up about it? Instead, he’d like you to consider the idea of work and life as a flywheel, working together, moving you forward.
In this conversation, he shares some deeply personal insights about what that has meant for him, and also how he pivoted not just his work/life but his approach to writing as a way of exploring ideas and building community. If you’re considering starting a newsletter, launching a podcast or writing a book in 2023, this is for you.
Future Work/Life site: https://www.futureworklife.com/
Ollie on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/olliehenderson/
Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky
The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge January 2023: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=proposal-challenge-jan-23
WriteBrained: A 28-day exploratory writing adventure: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=writebrainedcourse
The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/
Power Up Your Writing Workshop, 23 February: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/power-up-your-writing-workshop-tickets-473591162917
Alison Jones: I’m here today with experienced founder and CEO Ollie Henderson, who pivoted his career while juggling the pleasures and the pressures of raising a young family. He believes that work life balance is a myth, and that rather than seeing career and personal life as two opposing forces, the secret is to design an integrated approach that allows them to work in harmony.
His weekly newsletter Future Work/Life provides news and analysis to thousands of people interested in the future of work. And his new book is called The Work/Life Flywheel: Harness the work revolution and reimagine your career without fear.
Welcome to the show, Ollie. Great to have you here.
Ollie Henderson: Thanks. Thanks for inviting me.
Alison Jones: Oh, it’s brilliant, we want to get into the flywheel thing. So, I mean, work-life balance, it’s a bit of a tired, old phrase, but what’s interesting about it is it’s kind of static, isn’t it? It’s this point at which you are balanced and it never happens, we all know that. But the flywheel implies a very different, sort of more dynamic, forward moving sort of thing.
Where did that all come from?
Ollie Henderson: Yes, I mean, as you say, work-life balance, everybody I speak to it seems nowadays is a bit bored of that idea and it’s partly because it’s just become lazy. I think we just assume that everybody needs to achieve work-life balance. And people have a really complicated relationship with it. I think primarily because nobody achieves it, as you said, and I’ve certainly had that feeling in the past.
Part of the reason I left my last business was because of burning out several times, and this feeling that I neither spent enough time at home nor at work, and I never achieved the elusive work-life balance. And I’ve subsequently realized that nobody had it actually, I think I was under the illusion that everybody else was achieving something I couldn’t.
And the more I thought about this, the more I studied it, the more I saw that most people actually, even if they could achieve a perfect equilibrium, that actually doesn’t represent how they feel about their lives in general, but particularly about their careers. Ask anybody who’s ambitious, who is really engaged with the work that they do, and they feel like they’re making progress. They feel like they’re constantly moving forward.
And being a business book geek, like yourself, I leant on a phrase, which of course, Jim Collins came up with, the flywheel effect. And you know, I talk a lot about this with the businesses that I work with, often talking about technology businesses and the data flywheel.
And it just came to me one day and other weird people like me might be familiar with this, but it just came to me and I bought the domain immediately and sat on it and didn’t really know what I was going to do with it. And it was only when I went through your business book proposal challenge, I thought, well actually this is what I’m trying to articulate. This is how I’m trying to help other people think about their careers.
And actually, looking it from my own point of view, this is what I was trying to visualize about what I wanted to do, about how I wanted to make progress in my career. So that’s how it came about. And I spent a lot of time thinking about this idea and validating it because of course, you come up with these concepts and think is this just something that I believe, is this just something that’s relevant to me. And the more I explored it, the more I saw it represented how a lot of people think about their work lives. But definitely those who are thinking about making a change can implement it. It’s an idea that people really latch onto and can recognize that making small incremental steps builds up to something greater than the sum of its parts.
So that’s the background of it and how I developed the idea.
Alison Jones: Yes, and I want to pick up on so many things. I’m trying to like prioritize them, like the idea of the incremental steps, that sort of thing, everything with a synergy, like the idea of the forward movement. And I think actually I’m going to go there because there is so much talk about living in the present and I’ve always found that a little bit kind of we do, yes, it’s true in a way and…
And I think you really make that point because it’s okay to also be living in the future because that’s where you’re heading. And so just, you know, in a sense I guess, give us the antidote to that, you know, live in the present, give us the ‘and’ that says, well, how do you live in the present while keeping one foot in the future, as it were?
Ollie Henderson: Yes, and by the way, I definitely believe in living in the present. There are times in your life where you have to stop and pause and reflect. And actually that’s a really important part of the flywheel model I’ve outlined in the book, and I’ll just jump to the end of the book quickly before I return to your question, which is actually, in order to make breakthroughs, very often we do need to stop and pause and reflect and realize the progress we’re making and that does definitely involve stopping living in the present and reflecting what’s happened in the past.
But you know, I think the reality is things have changed so significantly over the past couple of years particularly, it’s difficult not to be thinking about what the future looks like. When everything around you has changed, provoked by the pandemic, and of course the huge changes in our work lives, you know, you need to be thinking about what’s next and it’s difficult, I think, sometimes for people to take that step, often because they’re very busy. So, I’ve got three young kids and a busy family life. And I’ve found myself getting locked in the present. You know, you can’t see beyond what’s happening day to day.
And I think having a plan and realizing that that plan doesn’t mean fundamentally changing everything in your life immediately, you can do it step by step, it’s reassuring in a sense. So as you said, having one foot in the future means simply thinking about what you want your future to look like and developing a strategy to get there.
And as I said, I think that’s why, again we’ll return to it, I’m sure, the incremental aspect of a flywheel, you know, as Jim Collins outlines it for a business, there’s no single part of a business model which makes that business successful, which actually… the individual incremental parts which feed into one another, they become interdependent. And just feeling like you are moving forward in some small way is ultimately what gives you the momentum.
So yes, there’s not a simple answer. I mean, definitely believe in living in the present because it’s really important. And again, reflecting on my family life. I have to take myself out of work mode in order to be able to spend quality time with my wife and my kids.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not constantly thinking about where I’m heading towards. And I think that’s where I’ve got clarity actually, through writing the book. You know, as I’ve developed the model, it’s been this sort of meta experience for me where I’m both advocating this way of thinking, but also constantly reflecting it back on what I’m doing and it definitely helps and it’s, as I said, it’s reassuring to know that you don’t have to revolutionize your life in order to be thinking about a better future.
Alison Jones: Yes, lovely play on words there, I do like that. I think it’ll be actually really useful for people who perhaps haven’t read the book yet just to break down, because we’ve talked about a couple of the stages, we’ve talked about reflection and we talked about breakthroughs and so on, but just quickly whip through the entire flywheel for us. What are the components of that and how do they fit together?
Ollie Henderson: Yes, so I’ll start by saying everybody’s lives are very different. Everybody’s expectations about work, everybody’s experience of family life, everybody’s stage of life are very different. So, the way in which you build each of these parts will definitely vary depending on your circumstances.
But having done a huge amount of research for the book, I recognized common characteristics, which is why I identified these buckets, these elements, which I think based on having validated with many people I’ve spoken to, I think most people will recognize, and the first is mindset. So I don’t think there are many people listening whose mindset about their work and life, that intersection between the two, hasn’t changed over the past few years. I think everybody, everybody was forced to reflect on that and now have different expectations. They just think differently about it. And for me, mindset is that first step because you’re saying, well, what do I want from work? What do I want from my life? And how do the two come together? And that involves setting goals. It involves being really clear about the values and where you focus your time. And you know, on a more macro scale, you see that in how people are thinking about relationships with the companies they work for.
So, you know, the younger generation just think fundamentally differently about who they choose to work for. It’s no longer necessarily about money or job title. It’s about do my values align with the business? So take it a step back and saying, well, what’s important to me, is that mindset stage and that feeds directly into the next stage of the the flywheel, which is about creativity.
Now, look at the lives of many successful and fulfilled people in their work, and there’s some element of creativity in what they do. And that’s on a very personal level. I think if you are able to harness the creativity through your work, it just gives you a great sense of satisfaction. And actually again, step back and look upon the future of work more generally. There are going to be certain human characteristics which survive the inevitable automation of many jobs and it’s human characteristics like critical thinking, understanding of context and creativity, making connections between things in new ways. And for me, that creativity feeds into so many aspects of how we think about work and life, not least the stories we tell about the work that we do.
You know, again, think about how you choose the company or the people that you want to work with. You want to tell the story to those that matter to you about why you’re doing it. So mindset feeds into creativity, which feeds again into experimentation. Now this is what I’m really asking people to do in the book, to think differently about trying new things, and I think who’s going to read the book?
It’s going to be people who want to make a change in their work life, now, as many people, but particularly when you feel stuck in a rut. You know, a lot of people say to me, I’m stuck. I feel stuck in what I’m doing. I’m not sure how to take the next step. And for me it’s about experimenting. It’s about trying new things out and sometimes that means taking risks, but it’s about taking calculated risks based upon what you know you are interested in.
And in the book I talk about how you find a niche and it’s become a bit hackneyed, that idea of finding a niche or a bit cliched. But what I’m talking about there is trying to align the things I talked about with mindset, the things that matter to you, the things you value, with the skills that you’ve developed in a really targeted way, a way in which you think you can either monetize in some way, and this could be the side project, side hustle idea, or simply, which is going to give you some sense of fulfillment, which you’re not getting in your day job because again, you don’t have to quit your job and become a solopreneur or an entrepreneur in order to harness the work revolution.
There are loads of different ways we can think about working and being experimental in your thinking means thinking differently about that relationship between work and life. You don’t need to have a nine to five job for one company for the next 10 years. There are many different ways to mix that up.
So those first three stages feeds in though to community because, one aspect I think’s been really interesting over the past couple of years about work in general, understanding about community I think shifted. And I think it’s been tricky for some people to adapt, you know, for people who were used to working in an office. I think moving home unlocks some possibilities, spend more time on fitness, family, but I think a lot of people miss that conviviality you might have in some workplaces, you know, the relationships, the relatedness that you build up between people. And there’s definitely a lot to be said about that.
But again, thinking differently about what community means, feeds into this flywheel, so thinking differently about community is really key, and this is what I’m asking people to do. I’m asking people to say, look, having people in real life that you have to support you is important. But look at the world that we work in now. It isn’t just, you know, the 40 mile radius around us. It is global and there are so many interesting ways that people are building communities online, which can support people in their career.
And last couple of bits, which I’ll quickly mention, the next stage is about learning. Now, who doesn’t want to continue to learn in their career? You know, again, ask most successful people, most people who are happy their jobs. They’re constantly developing, they’re constantly growing. And you look at the survey data now, and it’s top of people’s lists about what they want from employment. I think more than 40% of people prioritize learning and development ahead of anything else in the choices they make about companies. So constantly learning is key.
And then when you’ve got those stages, the mindset, creativity, experimentation, community, constant learning, that’s when you take a step back, recognize the progress you are making, and that’s when you achieve those breakthroughs. And when you achieve those breakthroughs, what do you get it? You get a positive mindset and it starts that flywheel turning. So that’s how it breaks down. And there’s obviously a lot within that to focus on. But I think those six steps, I think generally there’s a sort of universal recognition that they’re really important to people’s work lives.
Alison Jones: And of course with that whole kind of flywheel, what you’re predicating this whole thing on is that that’s a cycle, that you don’t do once and you don’t do it in one massive life-changing way necessarily. You do it daily, just in a small way, and it becomes a habit of mind, and that’s when it really starts to change things.
Ollie Henderson: Yes, completely. And it’s not straightforward, you know, you don’t get it right every time. I think that’s the other thing to realize, and feeds into the experimentation point as I mentioned. The best business are businesses which iterate, and iterate means trying new things out and sometimes they don’t work, sometimes they do, and constantly pushing up against what’s possible means failure is inevitable.
It’s understanding, I suppose, how to acknowledge that failure, take the learnings from it. And then improve upon it. And I think that again, that’s why that constant movement thing is just so revealing. It’s like, okay, you can’t see it moving, and sometimes you’re going a faster pace than others, but as long as you feel like you’re making progress, that makes a huge difference.
You don’t want to be be standing still.
Alison Jones: Yes, and actually having experimentation there I think is really, really important. Because otherwise it can feel as though you’ve, you know, I’ve failed. I’ve failed and that’s sort of somehow a block or stop, you know, we use that language for ourselves. You talk about the importance of language in the book and when you’ve got that sense of it being the constant iterative process, one failure feels less significant, it just feels like a step on the way, doesn’t it?
Ollie Henderson: Exactly. Exactly.
Alison Jones: You’ve talked a little bit about your own process in the writing of it and how you evolved that model and how you kind of clarified your thoughts. I guess, I mean you’re a competent and prolific writer anyway, so this isn’t like the first thing you’ve ever done, but just tell me a little bit about what writing means to you generally and what surprised you perhaps about writing this book.
Ollie Henderson: Well, three years ago I was neither competent nor prolific. I hadn’t written outside of emails for 15 years probably, I mean at university I would write the odd essay, but then while I ran my last company, I didn’t really write, in fact, my business partner was a writer, so we just deferred to him to write stuff, you know, whatever it was. And bear in mind, I ran an advertising agency. So copy and persuasion was a really important part. And it wasn’t like I wasn’t talking about language, language itself fascinates me, but I certainly wasn’t writing. And it took a lot for me to start writing, and it was really because of my career pivot.
So I left that business in January, 2020 just needing, you know, needing a fresh start. And did not know what I was going to do next. And in February, 2020, I started writing about it and started publishing online. And of course, very few people read it, which is why I took the step to do it. I thought, you know, what have I’ve got to lose?
And it was people’s response to that writing, however small the number, which encouraged me to do it more. And I just found it incredibly cathartic to be able to share my experiences with other people, often people reading who were at similar stage of life to me, or thinking about similar challenges, and I think partly again, because of the momentum that I built, because this was a month before Covid happened and then suddenly everybody was interested in work and life, which were the themes I was exploring.
I thought, you know what, I’ll start the newsletter. Had lots of people sign up really quickly. Committed myself to writing every week. So I said, this is a weekly newsletter, and then before you know it, I mean I’m about, I don’t know a 130 newsletters in and many of those are a thousand word articles.
And so even before I’d written the book, I’d probably written a hundred thousand words over that past 18 months and experimented a lot. You know, it was for me, both cathartic, but also a way of crystallizing a lot of the thinking I was doing within the work I did every single day and every week. And I found it a really amazing way to organize my thoughts and also to test out which ideas were good and which weren’t and again, what I learned through, before I started writing a book was not to be too hung up on whether what I was writing was profound or even right sometimes.
You know, sometimes it’s better to just put it out there. Now, when I wrote the book, that changed because you are conscious that there’s this thing which is going to live beyond the digital article, which sits online and it comes and goes, you know, this artifact which lives in the world and you don’t want it to be out of date really quickly. So I suppose I changed the themes that I was discussing to make them more universal, to make them less timely. But I think, I’d done a lot of reps before I started writing the book, and that helped enormously. Aside from the fact that from that a hundred thousand words, of course, I could take some of those words and reshape them to feed into the book.
So writing has become both an outlet for me, but also the generator of the ideas that are directly feeding into the business, my new business and the business work that I do, and the advising work that I do with other, other people.
Alison Jones: It’s so interesting because you covered the really personal aspect there about organizing the thoughts, but also your own self-confidence as a writer. Becoming a writer, that’s a big identity shift, but also the performative bit, you know, actually what that delivers out into the world and the newsletter is really interesting to me because it’s almost like a bridge between those two, isn’t it?
It feels very intimate, you are writing to a group of people who, kind of by definition, know you and trust you and like you, otherwise they wouldn’t be signed up to your newsletter and reading it. I think newsletters are something that people feel they should do sometimes, but don’t quite know how to go about them.
So I just wanted to push on that for a little bit. What do you think makes a really good newsletter? And I mean that in a dual way, I mean it from the reader’s perspective, but also as a tool for you in your business, achieving what it is you want to do in the world.
Ollie Henderson: Yes, it’s a good question because I think you could almost use the same lens to look at podcasts, by the way, which I’ll cover in my answer because let’s look at it from the personal point of view first. And this is fresh in my mind because this morning’s newsletter was advocating starting a podcast as being a great tool to help you grow your career in 2023, which again, all of these things take work. I mean, that’s the first thing to say, it isn’t easy. Coming up with an angle for a newsletter or a podcast every week is really difficult, which of course puts most people off, then trying to come up with something that you are happy to put out there. And whilst I said I became used to putting out ideas without being too hung up on whether they were completely accurate or would survive very long, you know, I’m still proud of the work that I do, and I want to make sure that it’s reflective of the heart, lots of thinking that I do put into many areas of the businesses I’m interested in.
But there is just something valuable for yourself. Take away readers or listeners, organizing your thinking like that, whether it is through audio, and some people are more comfortable within that medium, or, but I think particularly through writing, the writing down and emptying your thoughts on the page is incredibly useful. Then even more useful is editing and because of course when you are editing, you’re editing your thinking and what you end up with at the end of it is, here is what I’ve thought about and here’s what I think about a particular subject matter.
So I think just from a personal point of view, it is incredibly valuable. There will always be a value in having that as your journal practice, just sitting in the background. Now, when you put it out to people, what’s the point of doing it for the people reading, well it massively depends.
I mean, I sometimes wonder whether newsletter is actually an accurate reflection of what I write, because newsletter implies that there’s some news in there, and I do link to interesting news stories, which are timely, that are reflective of the moment. But a lot of the time I’m just picking something I’ve decided I’m interested in that we can explore in that idea.
Now, what I do is combine it with conversations I have on my podcast and bring in another expert’s view on it. But I think for me, all I’m trying to do is give, I don’t know, 75% of the time whoever’s reading it will find something in there which they haven’t thought about in the way I articulate it. And 25% of the time they probably, well, actually, let’s be honest, most of the time, 50% of the time, they don’t probably don’t open it. The times that they do open it, 25% of the time they’re like, oh, it’s not really interesting to me. But, you know, I want most of the time people to think, okay, well I’m not sure I’ll use everything in there but that’s an interesting way of thinking about it. And I want some people to be able to practically use it.
And again, I have no rules for my newsletter, I don’t follow the, here’s a template, you have to have three actionable points in it. I just write whatever comes to me and therefore, as I said, I accept that sometimes it’s going to be really useful for some people and sometimes they just might scan the first paragraph and close it.
And again, I’m not too hung up on that because I have very low unsubscribe rates, which tells me that there’s enough in there for most people to be interested. So yes, I mean, to reiterate first of all, there’s no harm in doing it for yourself initially. You know, there’s definite value in that, but of course, trying to create value is what is going to get people to share it and subscribe and then ultimately to continue sticking with you, which of course when you’re moving on to how you would create other assets and other products I suppose, related to what you’re doing, like a book, you want those people to stick around because you want them to come with you when you’re asking them to shell out the money.
And of course, many of the thousands of people who are on my newsletter list have received free stuff from me for a couple of years. And you hope that you build up enough brand loyalty to say, well actually here’s a lot of time and effort I’ve put into it. I suspect many people will probably just buy it because they feel that, you know, it’s a fair trade. That’s what I’d do.
Alison Jones: Yes, and actually, I mean, community obviously is a big part of the flywheel, and I think that’s what comes out here as well, isn’t it? With the podcast and with the newsletter, you’re building community, you’re sharing a community of people who are engaged and interested in the future of work and that flywheel and so on, and personally, within that, what you get is accountability. Because when you’ve committed to doing it every week, then you have to do it every week. And if you didn’t have that accountability, maybe you wouldn’t do it and then you wouldn’t get all the benefit for yourself from that. So there is this beautifully synergistic, we’re going to call it a flywheel.
Ollie Henderson: Yes.
Alison Jones: You know, you are putting really interesting stuff out, but the fact that people are waiting to receive it on a, you know, whatever day it goes out, forces you to do that work and there’s benefit, mutual benefit.
Ollie Henderson: Yes, I mean it’s not to say, and I’m sure you feel like this sometimes, you don’t think, oh, I wish I had not committed.
Alison Jones: Never, never happens to me.
Ollie Henderson: But yes, no, look, I mean, and especially when you do get the momentum, because there have been times, and I do, I have to force myself particularly during the school holidays to say, look, no one’s going to be banging on my door saying how outrageous that you haven’t written a newsletter for me this week. Particularly as you know, that’s the advantage of a free newsletter, by the way because as soon as you step into paid newsletter you set the tone…
Alison Jones: There is that obligation.
Ollie Henderson: You know, there is an obligation because that’s what people are buying and I know some paid newsletter writers are more skilled at explaining or giving value actually, while they’re away. But that’s why I’ve never been tempted to flip it into a paid newsletter because it would then move into something entirely different. But accountability is really important.
Alison Jones: Yes, and I took three weeks off last summer, the first time, well, I was going to say ever, you know, since 2016 when I was doing the podcast and the newsletter, and incredibly nobody died. Nobody complained. It was great.
So, yes, can take a break and, you can come back to it and the people are still there, which is good to know.
There’s been a huge amount here already, Ollie, but if you were to give just one tip for a new business book writer, maybe somebody at the start of their journey, I guess I’m asking what do you wish you’d known before started, what would you tell them?
Ollie Henderson: I’ve mentioned it already actually, but I think there’s a value in building the writing habit before starting to write the book. I was in the middle of writing the book, my habits changed. I was writing far more intensely. I was putting in some crazy hours, you know, waking up at silly o’clock in the morning and writing because, but that’s because I had already established some of the habits, which I knew I could maximize in order to be able to create a book relatively quickly.
So, there’s one part of the book I write about the importance of finding flow. And again, I look at it from a few different angles. I look at it from a personal level, how can you start incorporating the flow state into your work? I also look at it from a team perspective, actually how you can cultivate flow within a group environment. But again, from a personal point of view, I knew having put those reps in, having spent all those hours writing before, that if I designed my day in a particular way, and again, when you’ve got three kids, you really have got to have picked the times that are available to you to have quiet time.
And so I designed my writing schedule entirely around what I’d learned from 18 months, two years, of doing my newsletter, which isn’t to say you have to have put that time in. But I do think, I can’t imagine what it must be like to go from not writing very much to writing a book. I just, for me it was like training for the Olympics almost. I peaked into the first half of 2022. I peaked, it was like my Olympic games where I said I build up to it and then I peaked and then off the other side, you know, you have the kind of that period where you’re coming down and you have to rest and recover. And it’s taken me a little while to build up the same motivation and energy to be able to go at the same level.
But I can’t, you know, to use that sports analogy again, I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t get injured mentally from just going from nothing to being able to hit what it takes, and it is a demanding process, I mean, there’s no getting around it. And a process, by the way, which I absolutely loved doing. I really, really enjoyed it but it’s difficult. It has, you know, when you’re waking up at four o’clock in the morning, every day to do writing, you know, there’s clearly a knock on effect for those around you. You can’t…
Alison Jones: Yes.
Ollie Henderson: …pretend that adding that to everything else going on in your life isn’t a challenge. It was and I enjoyed it, but, you know, I don’t think my wife would be in a hurry for me to do it again within the next year or so, but, we’ll see. We’ll see.
Alison Jones: Yes, it’s amazing though. It’s like childbirth, isn’t it? You sort of forget, you forget how awful it was and think, oh, that’d be fun. And of course when you are waking up at four in the morning, hopefully it’s because you have ideas and your brain is fizzing and you want to get them down and it’s not because you’ve set the alarm and you kind of drag yourself to your desk, you know? Well, that may be sometimes, some days it is, but yes, there’s joy in it. But it is, yes, it’s not trivial.
I always ask people, and you know this because you’ve heard the podcast before, I always ask people to recommend a business book. You’re not allowed to recommend Work/Life Flywheel.
Which one would you recommend that people listening should read?
Ollie Henderson: I actually, I got it out just to remind myself of…
Alison Jones: Wave it at the camera.
Ollie Henderson: … I always get confused, but are you familiar with this? A Technique for Producing Ideas?
Alison Jones: No, I have never seen that before. Who’s that by?
Ollie Henderson: Look at this. It’s tiny.
Alison Jones: It is, it’s a pamphlet, not a book.
Ollie Henderson: It is, it’s got 46/ 48 pages. This book is amazing. It’s written by a guy called James Webb Young. He was an ad copywriter, I believe. I mean, it is 50 or 60 years old, but it has everything in it in order to generate ideas. And I talk all the time about the importance of sharing ideas, you know, the increasing importance of putting our ideas out into the world. And essentially it talks you through, it explains how, believe it or not, there is a process to generate ideas. If you say that to somebody, there is a technique, there’s a model to help you generate more ideas, and better ideas, you think, well, that sounds great, but that can’t be right. And he talks through this process and actually there’s huge parallels with the flow state and actually getting into flow state.
And there’s a release phase, for example, where you literally walk away and do nothing. This is always my favourite, favourite phase.
Alison Jones: I can spend days in the release phase.
Ollie Henderson: Exactly but what’s great about this book is it breaks it up, and for me, encapsulates how to properly understand a subject both narrowly and in its broader context.
So what it asks you to do for example, is to collect very specific insights about the problem you’re looking to solve. Also, be constantly collecting insights about what’s happening in the world at large, you know, bigger trends. And I can see, by the way, all of these things in the way that I approach writing the book.
Then it asks you to take a step away, come back, and then literally put out onto those cards, you know, those cue cards you use sometimes to do a speech. Yes, the index cards, exactly. And you’d write down all of these different ideas and you literally hold two up against each other.
So, I don’t know, one might be, you know, increasingly dispersed workforce and another might be a problem you’re solving related to how do you rebuild a corporate culture? And you just go through this process looking at these different combinations. And that’s, yes, as I said, this is the best phase, you just go away.
And this is the classic idea that when you’re in a shower, you have your best ideas or when you are going for a walk or when you’re driving a car, when your brain stops, you know, your brain switches off, your subconscious takes over, and it’s far more effective at making connections, at which point you come back and you note those connections down.
And then the final stage is you again, take a step away and then scrutinize what you’ve come up with and interrogate whether these ideas are any good. And anyway, in those 48 pages, A Technique for Producing Ideas covers this process. And I literally pick up this book at least once a month because there are times when I just cannot make a breakthrough on an idea and I go through the steps.
So it’s tiny, anybody can read it in about 20 minutes, which is of course, what makes it brilliantly effective as well.
Alison Jones: Wonderful, thank you. And I’ve never heard of it, so really excited. I’m going to grab myself a copy and have a look at that. Brilliant.
And Ollie, if people want to find out more about you, more about Work/Life Flywheel, about the podcast and newsletter, everything you do, where should they go?
Ollie Henderson: I think LinkedIn’s probably the best place. I tend to share everything that I’m doing on LinkedIn. Futureworklife.com as well and you’ll find links to my substack in both of those places, which is where I file my newsletter and a Future Wildlife podcast, which is available on all podcast players.
Alison Jones: All good podcast players. It’s like the bookshop thing, isn’t it? Brilliant.
Absolutely brilliant talking to you today, Ollie, thank you. And we’ve covered a lot of ground, but yes, thank you for your time.
Ollie Henderson: Pleasure, cheers Alison.