About Creating The Book

Beyond The Obvious reveals the methods used to create breakthrough innovations currently used by 100’s of millions of consumers and businesses worldwide. What I haven’t talk about was the process of creating the book.

How Did The Book Come About?

The writing of Beyond The Obvious begun in 2009 following a series of unexpected events. In early 2009, I was contact by Marc Gerald, an agent at United Talent Agency, about my thoughts of writing a book based on the content from my podcast and blog. My first response was – yes sure but I have an 80 hour a week job and fly +350,000 miles per year as the CTO for Hewlett-Packard. When would I have time?

He was persistent and helped pull together a team that could work with me to take my 100’s of shows and structure a book. The result was a book proposal that went to 10 publishers in the fall of 2009. Marc and team then setup a time for me to spend a week in NYC and present 1:1 to the 10 publishers. At the end of the week, 9 publishers were interested in the book. At this point, we found ourselves in the strange world of a an auction where publishers bid against each other for the right to publish the book. At the end of that week, Hyperion (since acquired by Hachett Publishing) had purchased the worldwide rights to my yet to be written book.

The Process Of Getting The Book Deal

I signed my author agreement with my publisher and thus began the process of writing the book. I retained the services of Caroline Greeven, who had been part of the proposal team, to help me in organizing the book and was the catalyst for keeping me on track. As I started to write the book, I soon realized how hard this process was going to be. My agreement called for me to deliver a manuscript in 8 months of 75,000 words. As I started to crank on the book, I took a break and clicked on the “word count” button in Word. To my horror, I was a long way off from even seeing the light at the end of tunnel. Over the 8 months, I took three 1 (one) week writing vacations where I went away and locked myself in a hotel room and wrote the book.

As I neared the completion of the book, I retained the services of Molly Derse as a fact checker for the book. At the time, I was the CTO for Hewlett-Packard and had a brain-full of confidential information covered by 100’s of non-disclosure agreements. Out of sheer fear that I would accidentally reveal something confidential in the process of writing of the book, Molly was tasked to find public information on every story, example or mention in the book. If the item had public information available, then any NDA would not apply. For a book its size, it has one of the longer bibliographies and the credit goes 100% to Molly.

Naming The Book

As the writing progressed, my publisher started the process of locking down the name of the book. The name used in the original book proposal was “Answer Are Obsolete” which was given to the project by one of my agents assistants. I liked it. Turns out that book sellers have a a lot of influence on book titles. In this case, Barnes and Noble didn’t like it and since they were giving me an “endcap” at launch, they needed to be on board.

On the shelf at Barnes and Noble - Beyond The Obvous

So began the search for a book title. The list of names we went through included:

  • Answers Are Obsolete
  • Ignore the Obvious
  • The No Assumption Rule
  • Rapid Reinvention
  • Rules are Obsolete
  • … and another 75 that were on a list created by my publisher after they held a brainstorming session.

Barnes and Noble rejected them all. The feedback? The titles seemed “too negative”. So back to the drawing board. The process of creating the book title was harder than I could have imagined. Ultimatly we all agree on the current title, Beyond The Obvious. The sub-title (Killer Questions That Spark Game-Changing Innovation), while practical, was never on my top 10 list

Delivering The Manuscript

In June of 2011, I delivered  the finished manuscript – 8 days late. I apologized to my editor, Matt Inman, who quickly pointed out that I was one of a handful of authors who delivered their manuscript within a few days of their due date. I guess it was the engineer in me. I hate being late.

Last Minute Changes To The Book

Six weeks after turning in my manuscript, things at Hewlett-Packard changed. I was taking some personal time and was away when HP’s CEO and Board at the time decided to make extreme changes in the direction and strategy of the company. The end result was that I made the hard decision to retire from HP. While my decision wasn’t announced publicly until October 2011 (Goodbye HP), I told my agent and publisher as soon as I had told the HP executives because of the impact to the book.

The challenge was that my book was written as if I were still at HP and the pages had just come back from layout. The result was that I had to go through each page and edit it so it was clear that I was no longer at HP. For example changing “at HP, I’m responsible for” to “At HP, I was responsible”. The added challenge was that I had to maintain the letter count on each page to avoid the need to go back and re-layout the entire book.

Final Push To Creating The Book

In the fall of 2011, I had a lot on my mind including my last few months at HP – a company that I loved, the pending birth of my first grandchild and preparing for the launch of my book. And if that wasn’t enough, as soon as I was officially out of HP, I got approached to consider taking on a new challenge. After 5 months of conversations, I took over as the President and CEO of CableLabs and relocated from Silicon Valley to Colorado.

Launching The Book

The book was officially launched February 7, 2012. I had to push back my launch plans because my granddaughter decided to arrive aright on top of the book launch. The launch event was held at the Computer History Museum on February 16th and was a lot of fun. Subsequent, I did events in NYC, Denver, San Francisco, London and many more.

Here is the video from the launch event at Computer History Museum. Any yes — I did become emotional and cry when I was asked about one of my pet projects.

Would I Do It Again?

Would you do it again? While I under estimated the time, energy and sacrifice (my family) it took to complete it, I would (and will) do it again. In fact, I’m working on book two now. Stay tuned.