Idea Arena Podcast – The Lean Startup with Eric Ries – Part II

In this second part of a two episode interview, I talk with Eric Ries, serial entrepreneur and author of The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.

The focus of the second part of this interview is Eric’s views of book publishing and what changes he would recommend in applying the lean startup methodologies to the industry. This segment will be of particular interest to publishers looking to apply agile methodologies to their businesses.

Part II of the interview is 49 minutes.

Download Part II of The Interview

P.S. You might also enjoy Eric’s keynote from O’Reilly’s 2012 Tools of Change Conference

Idea Arena Podcast – The Lean Startup with Eric Ries – Part I

In this first part of a two episode interview, I talk with Eric Ries, serial entrepreneur and author of The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.

The focus of this interview was to discuss the background of Lean Startup methodology and Eric’s path to write the book. My purpose was to focus on what brought him from the world of technology entrepreneurship to the world of book publishing. His blog Startup Lessons Learned was written anonymously when Eric started but within few months his readers wanted to know who he was. Interest from publishers followed, but Eric says that in Silicon Valley writing books is referred to as “putting the ink on the dead trees.” Putting that stigma aside, he decided that codifying the Lean Startup methodology was important and that a book was the best way to do that.

The Part I of the interview last 28 minutes.

Download Part I of The Interview

“Entrepreneurship is the management discipline that deals with situations of high uncertainty,” says Ries at the start of the interview. In the second part to this interview, we talk about how this is precisely the world that authors occupy as they launch their own books and we talk about a variety of concepts from The Lean Startup methodology apply directly to book publishing. I will be posting the second part in early January.

Idea Arena Podcast – The Big Thirst Interview with Charles Fishman

In this interview, I talk with Charles Fishman, the author of The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water.

Fishman, a longtime writer for Fast Company Magazine and the author of The Wal-Mart Effect, takes on the conflicted relationship we have with water and how those conflicts, left unresolved, will only lead to bigger problems as the water we need becomes more scarce. From the opulent water fountains on the Las Vegas Strip to water delivery trucks in India, from a wool processing plant in Australia to a IBM microchip production plant in Vermont, Fishman illuminates the unknown ways water gets used while showing how our attitudes about life-giving liquid must change.

Our relationship to water goes way beyond what we know about it. The facts about water, the science, the chemistry, the geology–those are both fascinating and important. There would be no advanced civilization today without that understanding–we would have long poisoned ourselves.

But our relationship to water is at least as much emotional as it is analytical. That’s why a bottle of Evian tastes so good that we pay a thousand times more for it than for the same amount of water from the kitchen faucet. It’s the reason that water pipes hidden beneath our streets are poorly maintained, it’s why people around the world get so angry when their water bills go up.

We need to understand the science of water goes only so far in explaining how we deal with water every day, both as individuals and as a society. And our feelings about water are often so powerful, so visceral, that we need to be sure they don’t prevent us from seeing water clearly.

The interview lasts 43 minutes.

Download Interview

Idea Arena Podcast – TouchPoints Interview with Mette Norgaard

In this interview, I talked with Mette Norgaard, co-author with Doug Conant of TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Connections in the Smallest of Moments.

Leadership is often mistaken as grandiose visions or rallying battle cries. The authors of TouchPoints make the simple yet powerful case that leadership happens in every interaction you have and that most of us waste those opportunities. The book provides a simple model that start with “How can I help?” and through listening intently, framing the issue, and advancing the agenda leaders have the ability to move their organizations toward the positive results they have always wanted.

Sadly, leaders often see these interactions as distractions that get in the way of their real work: the important work of strategizing, planning, and prioritizing. But in our experience, these TouchPoints are the real work. They are the moments that bring your strategies and priorities to life, the interactions that translate your ideas into new and better behaviors. That is, providing you take these TouchPoints, no matter how brief, and infuse them with greater clarity and genuine commitment.

The interview lasts 24 minutes.

Download Interview


Idea Arena Podcast: Ten Steps Ahead Interview with Erik Calonius

In this interview, I talk with Erik Calonius, author of Ten Steps Ahead: What Separates Successful Business Visionaries from the Rest of Us.

Erik has worked as an reporter and editor for both The Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine. In Ten Steps Ahead, he looks at the qualities that separates visionaries from everyone else.

The visionary is a pattern hunter. And as the patterns begin to take shape, the visionary paces the hall anxiously, staring out the window. The cognitive dissonance builds between what is and what will be. The visionary’s sense of discomfort grows.

At some point when the thinker, exhausted, has stopped concentrating on the problem at hand, the brain slips into that single-mind immersion that Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi famously termed the state of “flow.” Whereas we spend most of our lives thinking about the past and the future, the flow puts us into that narrow shaft of time called the present. It’s a place the brain doesn’t take us to very often.

MRIs show that, in the state of flow, the brain is quieting down. The flickering of activity recedes into weak flashes of color. The thinker, at this point, is probably aware of nothing at all. Whether it is intuition, or visualization, or the dawning of an awakening that draws the visionary near, at last the time of inspiration arrives. This is the famous Eureka! moment.

Download Interview

Interview Length: 24 minutes

Idea Arena Podcast – Practically Radical by William Taylor

In this interview, I talk with Bill Taylor, author of Practically Radical: Not So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, And Challenge Yourself.

Taylor is always on the lookout for individuals and organizations who are practicing a better form of business. He is searching for leaders who are taking a different path and finding success.Taylor did the same thing when he was at Harvard Business Review and when he founded Fast Company Magazine with Alan Webber. Practically Radical is full of stories about large organization who are finding ways to reinvent themselves, a kind of journalism that is rare and sorely needed.

I am sitting in cavernous ballroom at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. A sense of anticipation fills the air. I am about to witness, along with six thousand other members of the audience, the world premiere if a production by theater icon Robert Brustein, former dean of the Yale Drama School and founding director of the Yale Repertory Theater and the American Repertory Theater. The Playbill offers few details about the story, but the cast is impressive: F. Murray Abraham, who won an Academy Award for his role as Salieri, Mozart's archrival, in Amadeus; Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub, best known for the long running, hit television series Monk; and Brooke Adams, who has appeared in countless stage productions and films such as Gas Food Lodging and TV shows such as Thirtysomething and Lace.

What makes the production so intriguingis that it's not some experimental performance at an arts festival or an out-of-town test of a Brodway show. Rather, it's the keynote presentation at the 20th Annual National Forum of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI)–one of the most impressive professional gatherings I've seen, organized by one of the most unlikely forces for change the medical world has known.

Practically Radical Interview with Bill Taylor

Interview Length: 42 Minutes

Check out my other Idea Arena Podcasts.

Idea Arena Podcast – The Great Workplace Interview with Michael Burchell

In this audio interview, I talk with Michael Burchell, the co-author of The Great Workplace: How to Build It, How To Keep It, and Why It Matters.

[Robert Levering] identified the relationship between employees and their leaders, between employees and their jobs, and between employees and each other as the indicators of a great place to work. Relationships at work matter, and in particular, the centrality of these three relationships influenced by people's loyalty, commitment, and willingness to contribute to organizational priorities. If leaders implement practices and created programs and policies that contributed  to these three relationships, employes had a great workplace experience. It mattered less what the programs, policies, and practices were, and more that they were done in a way to strengthen relationships.


The Great Workplace comes from the folks who put together the Best Places To Work list with Fortune Magazine and it would be a mistake to think of this book as something only for human resources. What the book really addresses the environment that managers need to create to have successful organizations.

The interview last 23 minutes.

The Great Workplace Interview with Michael Burchell




The Idea Arena Podcast – The Mesh by Lisa Gansky


In this interview, I talk with Lisa Gansky, author of The Mesh: Why The Future of Business Is Sharing.

Lisa has been involved with the Web for almost as long as the Web has been in existence and her new book talks about how we are moving from using the Internet for sharing bits to sharing atoms. 

What characterizes a Mesh business?

  1. The core offering is something that can be shared, within a community, market, or value chain, including products, services, and raw materials.
  2. Advanced Web and mobile data networks are used to track good aggregate usage, customer, and product information.
  3. The focus is on sharable physical goods, including the materials used, which makes local delivery of services or goods–and their recovery–valuable and relevant.
  4. Offers, news, and recommendations are transmitted largely through word of mouth, augmented by social network services.

The Mesh Interview with Lisa Gansky


Idea Arena Podcast – Click Interview with Ori Brafman

In this interview, I talk with Ori Brafman, co-author with his brother Rom of Click: The Magic of Instant Connections.

This is the second book that Ori and Rom have written together and they deliver a very wonderful style that combines great storytelling with scientific research, their approach similar to another sibling duo – Chip Heath and Dan Heath. 

In Click, the Brother Brafman make the case that you can make powerful connections with people very quickly and that the quality of those relationships can be superior to life long friendships. The qualities they describe that accelerate clicking are vulnerability, proximity, resonance, similarity, and having a safe place.

We wanted to understand the building blocks of quickset intimacy–what factors are that lead a person to click with someone else or become fully alive in a specific activity, from writing a novel to playing an instrument, from finding oneself in the zone in a pickup basketball game to gazing into your wife's eyes over a romantic dinner and feeling connected in the way you were when you first met. What causes people to be fully engaged with the world around them? The most rewarding part of our research has been hearing the stories of people who have clicked. You can see excitement in their eyes, the change in their voice as they tell you their story. In a way, we have been trying to understand the experience of clicking for much of our adult lives–from Rom's research with magical experiments to Ori's involvment with Touchy-Feely groups at Stanford.

Click Interview with Ori Brafman



Idea Arena Podcast – Cognitive Surplus Interview with Clay Shirky

In this interview I talk with Clay Shirky, author of Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in A Connected Age.

Shirky has been talking about the Internet on the Internet for over fifteen years and in the last five years he has written two books. His first book, Here Comes Everybody, was a historical narrative of sorts that traced the evolutions of the Internet from a thoughtful sociological point view, something missing from practically all social media books written in the last few years. Cognitive Surplus takes the reader one step forward and starts to prognosticate what might be possible and, as Shirky always does, provides a balanced yet positive view for what is to come: 

Just because the norms involved in social production have antecedents in market culture doesn't mean that the two modes can be easily hybridized, though. In fact, switching from paying professionals to create something to having communities do it for the love of the thing may be technically trivial but socially wrenching. Contested ways of organizing an activity potentially produce friction. There is a constant debate around the donation of blood, plasma, and organs as to whether they should be treated as a communal good or a market commodity. Both methods have been tried in various places, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. But the heat of the debate isn't about marginal difference between Red Cross blood drives (which rely on communal logic) and people selling their blood for plasma (organized in a market). The conflict instead it about the morality of the market as a way to get people to offer their blood or organs.

Cognitive Surplus Interview wth Clay Shirky

Idea Arena Podcast – Burst Interview with Albert-László Barabási

In this interview, I talk with Albert-László Barabási, author of Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do.

Barabási has been on the forefront of research into network theory. His first book Linked was about the connections. His new book Bursts is about the dynamics of how we live. He says we need to move from a model which emphasizes averages and random behavior to one that is represented by short periods of intense activity followed by longer lulls. Applications have already been seen in the diagnosis of depression and the movement of money.

[L]et me clarify that there is a fundamental difference between what we do and how predictable we are. When it comes to things we do–like the distances we travel, the numbers of emails we send, or the number of calls we make–we encounter power laws, which means that some individuals are significantly more active than others. The send more messages; they travel farther. This also means that outliers are normal–we expect to have a few individuals…who cover hundreds or even thousands of miles on a regular basis

But when it comes to the predictability of our actions, to our surprise power laws are replaced by Gaussians. This means that whether you limit your life to a two-mile neighborhood or drive dozens of miles each day, take a fast train to work or even commute via airplane, you are just as predictable as everyone else. And once Gaussians dominates the problem, outliers are forbidden, just as bursts are never found in Poisson's dice-driven universe. Or two-mile-tall folks ambling down the street are unheard of. Despite the many differences between us, when it came to our whereabouts we are all equally predictable, and the unforgiving law of statics forbids the existence of individuals ho somehow buck this trend.

Download the Burst Interview with Albert-László Barabási


Idea Arena Podcast – The Power of Pull Interview with John Hagel

In this interview, I talk with John Hagel about The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion, a book he co-authored with John Seely Brown and Lang Davison.

Hagel and his cohorts at Deloitte’s Center For the Edge, a research center based in Silicon Valley, have being doing research to understand what they call The Big Shift.  Their work has uncovered a variety of insights, but the most telling is the reduced profitability of today’s corporations versus their counterparts forty years ago. We talk about how information, networks, and execution are changing the way individuals and institutions compete.

Pull is a very different approach, one that works at three primary levels, each of which builds on the others. At the most basic level, pull helps us to find and access people and resources when we need them. At a second level, pull is the ability to attract people and resources to you that are relevant and valuable, even if you were not even aware before that they existed. Think here of serendipity rather than search.

Finally, in a world of mounting pressure and unforeseen opportunities, we need to cultivate a third level of pull—the ability to pull from within ourselves the insight and performance required to more effectively achieve our potential. We can use pull to learn faster and translate that learning into rapidly improving performance, not just for ourselves, but for the people we connect with—a virtuous cycle that we can participate in.

Download Idea Arena Podcast – The Power of Pull Interview


Idea Arena Podcast – Fans, Friends, and Followers Interview with Scott Kirsner

In this interview, I talk with Scott Kirsner, the author of Fans, Friends Followers: Building An Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age.

Fans, Friends & Followers is a book with lessons and case studies about musicians, filmmakers, and authors who built their audiences independently online. We talk about creating remarkable content, how these creators involve their audiences in the creations, and the ways to use free material to build followers.

Be different. Create work only you can create. Since there are no gatekeepers, there’s no one to tell you that your art or music or video is unmarketable, too weird, too challenging. There’s no one to demand that you follow a proven formula, or conduct a focus group to see whether people like the way your movie ends.

Download Fans, Friends & Followers Interview with Scott Kirsner


Idea Arena Podcast – Priceless Interview with William Poundstone

In this interview, I talk with Bill Poundstone, author of Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It).

Poundstone says he started researching a book about Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, two of the most important researchers in the area of decision making over the last fifty years. What he found was that pricing was a good point around which to tell their story and Poundstone covers much more than that Priceless. The narrative takes us from the field of psychophysics to a $72 steak in Amarillo, Texas, all along the way teaching us how easily we can be swayed one way or another.

Supermarket consultants leave few stones unturned in determining what boosts consumers' willingness to pay. One of the more intriguing of recent findings is that shoppers open their wallets wider when moving through a store in a counterclockwise direction. On average, these shoppers spend $2 more a trip than clockwise shoppers.

Priceless Interview with William Poundstone

Download Idea Arena Podcast – Priceless Interview


Idea Arena Podcast – Rework Interview with Jason Fried

In this interview, I talk with Jason Fried, co-author with David Heinemeier Hansson of Rework.

We spend most of the podcast talking about two big themes that I took away from the book. The first is that you have to get as close to the work as possible. Your estimates over the long term suck. Make tiny decisions. Long lists don’t get done. Good enough is fine.

The second idea is company as teacher. I wasn’t sure what the right word when we recorded. Channeling Kathy Sierra, they tell readers to out-teach the competition. They encourage companies to emulate chefs who write cookbooks and everyone exactly how to do what they do. This builds an audience.

Lots of things get better as they get shorter. Directors cut good scenes to make great movies. Musicians drop good tracks to make a great album. Writers eliminate good pages to make a book great. We cut this book in half between the next-to-last and final drafts. From 57,00 words to about 27,000 words. Trust us, it’s better for it.

Rework Interview with Jason Fried


19 Page Free Excerpt of Rework

The 37Signal Podcast about the Making of Rework

Getting Real – 37 Signals’ 2006 book about building better web applications