Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Andrew Greenstein about his podcast, The Innovation Cookbook, what podcasting does for him, and what inspired him to start.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m Andrew Greenstein, CEO and Head of Product for SF AppWorks. I grew up in Silicon Valley, studied Journalism and Law, then started my first tech company – Bojam. We created a music collaboration platform that was meant to be sort of a Wikipedia for songwriters.
We launched as a TechCrunch 50 company and partnered with Linkin Park and MySpace to run music competitions for bands who wanted to collaborate with their fans. It was awesome and exciting, but very complicated from a product point of view. We couldn’t get the platform to stick, and eventually we lost momentum and had to shut down.
One of my developers, Darius, suggested we start an agency to help bring startup tactics to larger companies and organizations as a stopgap until we figured out our next startup move.
Fast forward ten years later and we’re still designing and building websites, apps, connected devices, bots, and all sorts of digital products for companies like AARP, West Elm, Golden Gloves, J. Crew, Vanguard, Google, and a whole bunch more. The jury is still out on whether we still might go ‘startup mode’’ one day, but for the moment, we’re having too much fun.
Outside of work, you can find me playing basketball, traveling the world, or playing drums/piano. I also enjoy writing, speaking, and consulting on the topics of rapid prototyping, innovation processes, design thinking, and…well…LIFE.
How and why did you start podcasting?
When you’re busy, it’s hard to step back and take stock of the cool moments. We get to talk to and work with some really interesting people trying to reshape the world we live in. Some really incredible conversations have materialized and dissipated without much fanfare. We started thinking we needed to capture some of these conversations so that other people might find useful threads or relatable situations. So we started asking our clients to tell us what innovation meant to them and to share how they worked and what they believed in.
We thought we’d create a sort of recipe book for innovation, but the approaches are so varied it’s turning more into an encyclopedia. When we ran out of clients to talk to, we started seeking out interesting people to participate. It has turned into a really cool way to meet people and connect through our shared experiences of creating new things.
What is your current podcast called, and how did you come up with the name?
It’s called ‘The Innovation Cookbook” because we wanted to interview innovators and entrepreneurs in search of the recipes that led to their success in innovation.
What platforms can we find The Innovation Cookbook on?
It’s available on all main podcasting platforms: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, etc.
What is The Innovation Cookbook about?
I got into this above, but it’s really about digital product development, how to go about it, what to consider before starting, and the big fat WHY that drives many of us who seek to improve our world (and our lives) by building new things.
Do you host The Innovation Cookbook alone, or have guest hosts/partners?
I host alone, but it’s definitely not a solo effort. Our marketer MaCall helps me prep for guests, writes companion pieces, and hits the Publish button. Our business development team, led by Svitlana and Yulia, are constantly engaging industry folks and inviting the most intriguing ones to be our guests. My colleague Lia helps market the podcast, and Andrei helps us edit it. We are also lucky to have PatternBased create custom music for us. It takes a village, right?
Do you edit The Innovation Cookbook or have someone who does it for you?
One of our designers does the editing for us. We call him Andrei, the giant.
Do you script The Innovation Cookbook, or just chat as you go?
Our process is by no means proven, and if anyone has ideas we’d love to hear them. We had to figure this out on our own, and this is what we came up with:
We start with a planning call with the guest where we talk through different narratives and storylines that could be interesting. The trick is not to get them to ‘say their thing’ ahead of time, because it feels unnatural to repeat it a few days later. So instead, we stay really high level and only talk about themes. We don’t always get a good narrative on this call, and in some cases we decide to pause here and revisit down the road.
If we all decide to proceed, we schedule either an in-person session, or a zoom call. Once the podcast starts, I have a few high level questions I refer to, but the plan is to be conversational, to go down rabbit holes, and to just try and understand the what and why of people’s processes. We also try to keep it succinct, to stay in that ‘20-30 min walk’ zone, because that’s how I like to listen to podcasts.
How has The Innovation Cookbook changed or developed since you began?
When we started it was an hour or longer, but now we try to keep it under 30 minutes. It feels more accessible that way, both to our guests and to our listeners. It also helps me keep my eye on the prize when asking questions.
The second change – perhaps the more significant one – is that we moved away from strictly talking to people that “do innovation’ and started talking to people who, in general, had interesting ways of working or doing things. We’ve walked away from highly credentialed people that couldn’t articulate their methods clearly, and we’ve had incredible conversations with people who approach ‘normal’ things in an interesting way.
What are your biggest challenges with The Innovation Cookbook?
It’s really hard for us to know how we’re doing. We can’t get great insight into who is listening, nor can we figure out who is subscribing. That seems pretty basic so maybe we’re doing it wrong, but there seems to be a real lack of visibility on the tracking side. If you know how to do this, send help!
What are your favourite podcasts to listen to?
I used to listen to the Daily a lot – it’s short and succinct and got me up to speed on some interesting topics. I also listen to the Warriors Plus Minus podcast, because I’m a huge fan of the team. It’s actually a great model for passionate people – the production value isn’t great, but these beat writers get up an episode after most games, even if just by recording their phone calls. The audience doesn’t really care – we’re just happy to listen to experts break down the action. I could see that model working in a lot of industries.
Aside from that, Huberman Lab, Knowledge Project, Entrepreneurship and Ethics from Stanford, Prof G, and a really fun solo project called Dissect from a coffee barista who just spends his evenings in the garage breaking down music albums that he loves (at least that’s what I imagine it to be like). Sometimes I do Podcast Roulette too, just to shake things up a bit.
How and where do you promote The Innovation Cookbook?
Lia says we post on social media, throw some ads every now and then, and include links to the latest episode in our newsletter. We also write companion blog pieces, and have started asking guests to promote as well, which is actually the most effective method.
Do you earn money from podcasting, or is it a hobby?
It’s sort of a corporate hobby. We do it because we love meeting and talking to interesting people, but it’s not something we generate any revenue off of. But in general, we’re a team of people who really want to do things in an interesting and unique way. We value feedback and open mindedness, and we get to express those values through the podcast.
What’s something you never expected about podcasting? What have you learned that surprised you?
I was surprised about how good the conversations can go! It sometimes feels a little awkward to say ‘Hey, can you sit down across from me and have a focused conversation while I record?” It’s kinda scary, even for me. But in the moment, you realize you’re so focused and aware that it’s actually exhilarating. I think our minds jump up a level when they need to, and those conversations definitely need it, so it’s cool to unlock that power and to see it unlocked in others.
What is the first piece of advice you would give to anyone inspired to start podcasting?
We have a clever marketing slogan we came up with when trying something new. “Just do it”. Impressive right? Not sure why nobody has thought of that before…
But seriously, you can talk all day about wanting to do something. You can spend forever planning. Or you can just try and figure it out as you go along. Not ready to make a big thing out of it? Pick something you love..it could be basket weaving! Ask around until you find someone else who loves it. Put a phone between you two and just start a conversation. If you have fun, do it again. We all overthink things so much and we want them to be perfect, but done beats perfect any day of the week (said many great people).
And, finally, are you proud of what you’re accomplishing with your podcast? Is it worth the effort?
I’m proud because we’re doing it, and we’re getting it done. I’m sure it could be better – we’re definitely trying to make it better, but we also haven’t given up. I don’t know if I can quantifiably say that it is worth the effort, but that’s true for most work-related tasks. We just try different things and gravitate towards the ones we enjoy more, or the ones that make us feel empowered or alive. The podcast does that for me – I hope for us. And as far as creating content goes – it’s actually pretty efficient.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
We strive to keep The Table Read free for both our readers and our contributors. If you have enjoyed our work, please consider donating to help keep The Table Read going!