Producing a podcast in 2011 was novel; not in 2021 – although the lessons learned from 10 years of trying might be timeless. In this post and upcoming series I explore the factors that influence change and innovation by applying psychological science to my own struggle to innovate on one particular topic: podcasting.
It’s finally here — the Censemaking Innovation Podcast. It only took ten years to produce it (although you wouldn’t know it from listening to it— more on that later).
This is the first in a series of posts about the journey toward making this podcast and what it teaches us about how innovation is done in practice and it begins with a simple question:
How is it that someone who studies, advises, and teaches innovation and behaviour change found it so hard to innovate himself? It’s not that I don’t take my own advice (I make it a point of doing the kind of things I advise my clients and teach my students) and regularly innovate in my work and life but on this issue of podcasting I couldn’t. I was stuck.
It’s been an instructive and long journey.
Setting the Stage
The idea for a podcast came to me in the late 2000’s. I’d been listening to what would be later called ‘podcasts’ for years and really loved the idea that we could create our own broadcast ‘shows’ with the tools we had our laptops. It was like Internet-age pirate radio!
I started this blog in 2009 and saw a podcast as a natural extension of what I was writing and a means to reach people who preferred other ways to learn, didn’t care to read (or were not able to do it), and to tell stories in a different way. It also could provide me with another creative outlet for my work.
When it comes to storytelling the medium matters. I know from decades of teaching and public speaking that what I write and what I speak about come across differently because of the medium. The idea that I could write and podcast at the same time just made sense to me so I set out to do it.
I did my research, bought equipment, and sketched out episodes, marketing plans, and even invested in sound-insulating foam to set up around my office. I was set.
Failure to launch (or Peter Pan Syndrome) refers to the phenomenon of adults not engaging in developmentally appropriate behaviours that are typically associated with independent life away from the childhood and the family. It’s about adults who never seem to grow out of adolescence.
The same was becoming true of my podcasting dreams.
In my case, failure to launch wasn’t about growing up, it was failing to take my plans and hopes for a podcast and translate it into a finished product. Seth Godin describes this as shipping and it’s a common problem facing innovators and entrepreneurs.
Innovation is about learning through the production of something and putting it into the world. An innovative-sounding idea is not the same as an innovation. If we don’t produce something that’s new within a context for someone’s benefit, it isn’t an innovation – it’s a dream.
When I started there were many other podcasts out there — the medium or format wasn’t what was new — but what was new was the combination of topic, tie-in with my blog, and the fact that this was new to me for my benefit (at first with hopes it would benefit my audience) was what made it an innovation.
That novelty within a context for benefit (and learning from it) is what defines an innovation…along with putting it out into the world.
It was that last part that I was having difficulty with.
New Years Day in 2021 was not like any other. We’d just been through 10 months of rotating lockdowns and were still in the thick of another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and I’d been stuck at home for weeks. While I’ve been critical of New Years resolutions as a vehicle for making plans that succeed the underlying premise of a creating a ‘fresh start’ is actually sound.
This year I was going to make an exception.
I was ready to make a commitment to finishing something I started or ending it altogether and that was the podcast. It had been on my to-do list since 2011 and I came to the conclusion that if I wasn’t going to do it this year I probably never was going to get to it. I was tired of having this on my bucket list.
I also knew that I couldn’t keep doing what I’d done before so I started to look for something different.
Podcasting, while a little complicated in its entirety, is made up of a number of small tasks things that, with some care and attention, can be grasped by anyone. What I needed was a way to attend to both the individual things and the whole together. I needed glue.
In the next post in this series I’ll go through ten things that can explain why I was able to succeed this year and why they explain the delay in my podcast creation timeline. These are all tied to what we know about behaviour change and design and are the things that shape our lives everyday whether we are podcasting, parenting, getting ourselves fit, or trying to start a new program or business.
This is the story of innovation. Thanks for coming with me.
I’d like to say a word of thanks to two people who helped me to get this podcast developed. One of these people I’ve known most of my life and one I’ve just recently met.
James Donison is a multimedia producer and the host of the Reaching for the Middle podcast. James is a long-time friend and has been an inspiration to me as he launched his new podcast. Thanks for the camaraderie, support, enthusiasm and friendship, Jimmy.
I’d also like to thank Richard Midson, the instructor and ‘host’ of the Podcasting for Beginners course from WordPress. The course and the community that Richard’s been fostering through it has been that last spark I needed to go from having something 98% finished (in my head, at least) to being done. Thanks for the boost and sharing your wisdom of experience!
A podcast is more than a single episode so watch this space for more in the weeks to come. (Nothing like writing this in public to create motivation to deliver, right?).