Business Novels–The Big Trick
As a writer, I spend a lot of time explaining things. With my preferred medium of the written word, I wrote a story to explain what it would be like to have a conversation with moss (Moss Memoirs) for example.
As an Agile consultant, I explain to my client how to organize their software development teams so they can produce their products in a predictable way. After ten of years experience of doing that, you have all the Q and A down and can quickly help your client through the pitfalls of doing their job differently. You also notice familiar patterns: this client wants to do Agile only to make his boss happy, this other client wants to change their practices without actually changing anything, and this client is willing to try Agile but worries they could lose what tenuous hold they have on keeping their project from spiraling into chaos.
I spend 90% of my time covering Agile 101 type topics with each new client. What can I do to ‘up the game’ of an entire industry?
Educating the masses with a book is a scalable approach. But there are already a lot of Agile books out there that people aren’t reading.
Perhaps they aren’t the right kind of books. The Agile advocates are reading Agile books, but the people who aren’t doing Agile and don’t enjoy reading about engineering processes in their spare time, aren’t going to pick up a book on Agile. But maybe I can trick them into learning, by writing something entertaining that includes learning about Agile….
What’s a Business Novel?
A business novel is a work of fiction that is designed to illustrate business concepts. The business concepts are non-fiction and effective in the real world. The scenario surrounding the concepts is fiction. Think of it as a detailed case-study that contains more information then a real case-study can possible have (the author knows what characters are thinking and all the details of the situation).
What’s the difference between a work of fiction and a business novel? The goal of a fiction novel is to entertain. The goal of a business novel is to educate. A work of fiction is shelved with its genre (The Pelican Brief is in the Thriller section, for example) where a business novel will be shelved in its non-fiction area of expertise. The business novel I’m working on, Agile Noir, will be shelved in the computer/business section, next to the copies of eXtreme Programming Explained, Agile Software Development with Scrum, Waltzing with Bears, and Who Moved My Cheese? (another business novel).
In any discussion about genre categorization, not everyone agrees. American, a journal of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), has this list of The Ten Best Business Novels but none of them are business novels. I can’t fault their taste in books. What’s listed are science fiction, thrillers, and mysteries that are set in business environments. A few others are classic industry novels (novels designed to make social commentary on/about people and their industry). I think that author Neal Stephenson would disagree at listing his Cryptonomicon as being a business novel. (I love the book.) Me agreeing with anything the AEI (a conservative “think tank”) has to say is likely never to happen. (My rule of thumb–anyone who uses the US flag in their logo, who is not a governmental agency, is out to manipulate you into thinking they would be better at governing.)
Jeff Cox, author of the best-selling business novel, The Goal, has an article about business novels that is spot on. He knows what he’s talking about. Here is a similar article about business novels is by a consultancy formed around corporate education. They have this nice quote on their website: “Remember – Readers are Leaders.”
As for me, I’ll continue to writing Agile Noir, a story about Kartar, an embattled project manager who works for a Casino in Vegas. As his Waterfall project (non-Agile) gets further and further behind, he discovers that his budget is financed by the mob and will have him killed if he can’t deliver on time. After some setbacks that are classic to the Waterfall software development life cycle, he meets Agile consultant and coach Agilena, an intelligent and beautiful woman, who tries to give Kartar the advice he needs to turn his project and life around.
I’ll be sending book proposal to publishers of business books, many of whom don’t understand business novels. Then it will be my job to explain how together we can profit by publishing non-fiction dressed up in a fictional outfit, and hope I don’t have to write a business novel about the efficacy of business novels.
You can read early drafts of Agile Noir at my Stimulants Online page.