Former #Xbox CEO Robbie Bach on #Listening to #Creativity and Writing His first #Novel

It doesn’t matter what background you have, or what type of job you do or the experiences you have, imagine what could be possible when you learn how to listen to your creativity?

Robbie Bach, who is best known for founding and leading the team that created the Xbox did just this. And this process surprised him with his first novel, a thriller The Wilkes Insurrection, published in 2021. 

Today he is an entertaining storyteller and catalyzing voice who writes books and speaks to audiences on leadership, creativity, strategy, and civic issues. During his twenty-two years at Microsoft, Robbie worked in various marketing and business management roles—including supporting the successful launch and expansion of Microsoft Office and leading the creation and development of the Xbox business.  Then as Microsoft’s President of the Entertainment and Devices Division, he was responsible for the company’s worldwide gaming, music, video, phone, and retail sales businesses until he retired in 2010.

He currently chairs the board of the Bipartisan Policy Center. He also serves on the national board of governors for Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Magic Leap, an augmented reality company. He previously served as a board member of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Sonos Inc., Brooks Running Company, the Space Needle Inc., and Year Up Puget Sound. He is the co-owner of Manini’s, Inc., a gluten-free pasta and baking company.

In 2015, he published his first book, Xbox Revisited: A Game Plan for Corporate and Civic Renewal. 

In this episode, Robbie shares stories about how he learned to listen to his creativity in order to write his first fiction. And you might be surprised at his process. Learn how to shift working with your strategic brain to listening to your creative brain and how may take an unexpected path as a story unfolds. He also reflects on what he has discovered this year through writing the book and how this is connected to leading a team, self-awareness and collaboration. Even though the book is a fiction, he hopes that when readers put the book down, they walk away and have learned something. He would like to hear from you about this! 

“You have to be able to listen to yourself and to listen to what’s going on inside your head, which is a weird process. It’s just not natural, honestly. But very powerful.” – Robbie Bach

Listen IN Notes:

01:02 – The first moment that he started to notice the power of listening: We’re literally sitting on two little chairs, about a meter apart. And each person is supposed to talk about something deeply emotional and meaningful to them. And the other person is supposed to listen and give them feedback cues without saying anything for a full minute. 

02:55 – What has been most challenging for most leaders: Figuring out how to listen completely and not just pretend you’re listening, but actually hear what the person is saying, understand the process and continue to process it before you respond. 

04:02 – He shares his experience learning to listen his creative side: It was a challenge for me to listen to a different part of myself, and a different part of my brain — a part of my brain that was not about strategy and marketing and communications, messaging and those types of things, but was instead about this creative story, which turns out to be an action thriller.

06:27 – What was the shift to listening to his creative side: You actually have to listen to the emotive part of your brain.

09:37 – The way he developed the characters in the book: Creativity is not a solo act. I had a couple of different forms of interaction to help me.

12:17 – Discovering how listening to ourselves, even if it seems egocentric is a very powerful lesson to learn: “I have to listen to myself.’ 

15:10 – How his second book turned into a thriller without intending to: I decided to write out of my fears

20:00 – The one thing that surprises him the most writing the book

21:08 – What is an ‘author’s art’

22:21 – Commonalities in writing a book and leading teams and groups in a corporate setting

24:31 – One piece of advice he shares: This concept of self-awareness. And really, as best you can, try to understand who you are as a person. 

26:25 – The Avengers Theory of Leadership: superpower is the thing that makes you uniquely talented. In addition to knowing your Avengers superpower, you have to know your kryptonite. You have to know the things that you are uniquely bad at.

28:35 – What is Robbie’s superpower?

30:22 – Talking about the confession he wrote on LinkedIn

33:22 – The type of change he is mining: Productive constructive engagement and how to do it in a way where people listen, hear what others have to say, and then collaborate.

35:06 – What is the goal of his fiction book, The Wilkes Insurrection?

37:54 – A tip on how to listen more.

41:23 – The Wilkes Insurrection launch date

42:31 – Robbie’s final message: It’s okay to think about myself as an individual and do things that are good for me. But at the end of the day, I have to think about what’s good for the community, as well. 

Key Takeaways:


“I haven’t talked to a single author who uses the same process for writing their books. You have to have your way.” – Robbie Bach


“I think it would be incredibly more valuable as a worker, as a friend, as a leader, if you actually understood yourself better.” – Robbie Bach


“You can’t create a self-awareness of who you want to be, you have to create a self-awareness of who you are.” – Robbie Bach 


“It’s really incumbent as leaders and as people to understand what our superpowers are and to be honest with ourselves, about what we are truly great at.” – Robbie Bach 



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