For a long time, I have made it a habit to always read one or two books at the same time. My personal formula is a non-fiction book on history, especially biographies, and a business book of some sort. For many reasons, I fell out of this practice the first six months of this year. I had been reading a book on organizational lifecycles that, while very interesting, read like a text book. Every time I picked it up, I learned something relevant and interesting. It just wasn’t very motivating to pick up. So, I went and read newsfeeds and other articles.
During a recent business trip, I picked up a book called “Scaling Up Excellence”. I was less than ten pages into the book when I realized how much I missed my practice of reading from a book every night.
What do some people read, and why?
The business books I read, whether on leadership, organizational development, talent management, or sales and marketing, get me thinking about our company, our clients, our employees and our competitors. They provide a mirror of sorts to look at what we are doing through the eyes of others who have encountered similar experiences. We can then take their lessons learned and hopefully apply them to expedite the initiatives we put in place to improve our own performance and grow the company.
About fifteen years ago, I picked up Stephen Ambrose’s book “D-Day” and was forever hooked on reading history and subsequently, biographies. I think real life is much more interesting than fiction. These books provide a framework for understanding the world we live in and how people tackled the key issues of their time.
There is an old adage that those who don’t study history are bound to repeat it. The best business books I read are essentially histories and biographies about companies and leaders who have succeeded (or failed) and why. And when the reader finds a direct relevance to his or her own circumstances, it becomes educational and a valuable personal development tool. For example, arguably the most quoted business book over the last decade is Jim Collins’ “Good to Great”. It is essentially a compendium of company histories and an assessment of the strategies that took them on a successful growth pattern.
So if you have a personal mission of continuous improvement and growth, think about what you are reading and why. What do you hope to get out of it? How will you apply it? How does it change your perspective about a current challenge? A co-worker? A client?
“A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others.”
“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”