What Makes Message Not Received Different?

Thoughts on the new book and a window into my writing process.

Introduction

Message Not Received is both similar to—and different than—the other six books that I’ve written.

Let me explain.

Most of my other six texts were the first in their sub-genres—or very close to it. (More on that below). A few examples will illustrate the point.

Let’s go back to 2009. Sure, many books had been written about IT project failures, yet Why New Systems Fail was anything but a copycat text. As Bruce Webster pointed out in the foreword to the book’s revised edition, it was (at least to our knowledge) the first that looked at the pervasive failures of COTS applications—specifically, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. As for The Next Wave of Technologies, no book had taken a similar approach to emerging enterprise technologies.

Books on small businesses are a dime a dozen. Again, as far as I know, The New Small was the first that examined how the smallbiz community was benefitting from emerging technologies like open-source software, cloud computing, and the like. A few mostly academic books had been written about platforms prior to 2011, but The Age of the Platform explored platforms and the Gang of Four through a unique lens that many have since covered. Even The Visual Organization attacked data visualization from a very different perspective than books by Tufte, Few, and others. I’m unaware of any prior text that took a case-study approach and incorporated what we now call Big Data.

The Evolution of the New Book: A Look at My Writing Process

At a high level, a great deal of my job entails communication. I explain technology, language, disruption, management, history, and other potentially complex subjects to people in plain English. I can do this because I spend a great deal of time staying on top of current trends and, less frequently, attempting to predict where we are going. In short, I separate the signal from the noise. I simplify.

To be sure, it’s not the ideal career for everyone. With each new year and book, there are few guarantees. How will I know that others will still want to hear or read my thoughts—and, to boot, to pay for them?

Still, it’s a good fit for me for several reasons:

  • It doesn’t feel like “work” because I am a student of these very disciplines. I collect ideas. I devour books, blog posts, podcasts, videos, tweets, and other forms of content. I live a sponge-like life.
  • I accept that all professions inhere uncertainty. I’ve said many times that safe is the new risky.
  • I enjoy having the freedom to explore any subject. It’s great to possess a deep knowledge about one particular area, but there’s a great deal to be said about breadth as well. I have chosen a career that encourages and even requires a profound level of knowledge as well as the ability to effectively communicate that knowledge.

Once I begin the writing process in earnest, though, my job changes. The sponge needs to be squeezed; it can’t hold any more water. I move from exploration and idea-gathering to analysis and synthesis. In this way, I’m a bit like a musician writing and recording an album who ironically doesn’t listen to any music. Perhaps the fear is being unduly influenced and/or subsequently accused of stealing ideas.

So what makes this book different than all of the rest?

With Message Not Received I have written a book about a subject that isn’t exactly neglected. Far from it. A quick search on Amazon for “business communication” books yields more than 30,000 results.

To my knowledge, no previous book has ever attempted to fuse four critical and interrelated areas: business, contemporary technology, language, and communication. Many classic books on communication by Dale Carnegie and others predate the collaborative technologies upon which Message Not Received so heavily relies by decades.

A book need not be unique to be good, valuable, or successful.

Even though I’m an avid reader, I won’t claim to have read even one percent of the myriad books on the subject. Make no mistake: There is such a thing as doing too much research, never mind the law of diminishing returns.

Simon Says

Many would-be writers never get serious because they’re intimidated by the fact that others have already penned well-regarded books about their proposed subjects. So what? My advice to those who express these types of reservations is simple: A book need not be unique to be good, valuable, or successful.

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