I am one of those people who are frequently inspired by others and want to know how they do what they do so well which is why I enjoy scouring the business and biography sections of bookstores. I avidly read the fly-leaf for background and author’s biography, and the back for content blurb.
In the past I had no real idea what I was looking for other than sublime inspiration, an easy read, and a recommendation that the book had at some point been on a best sellers list. Sometimes a clever title or cover illustration was enough to persuade.
The disappointing outcome is that, though I have purchased a fair few business books over the years, I have not succeeded in reading to the final chapter of any of my early acquisitions. Some I found repetitive, driving home the same point from many different angles and posturings. Some were too obvious, others too vague, and many I found to be dull or hypothetical.
A few have been purchased at the wrong point in my career. At the beginning of the ‘90s when I took a giant step up in my corporate responsibilities I reached for James Belasco’s Teaching The Elephant to Dance. Out of all the management help books I bought this one because I liked the title and elephants are my favourite animal (dear, oh dear!). Also, the dustcover mentioned the conditioned constraints of many corporations leading to “we’ve always done it this way” which affirmed my reason for purchase. I read two chapters that’s all. It wasn’t for me, at least not at that time. It talked about the change process in business, creating tomorrows, empowering change visions, and measuring the output of change. It really didn’t give me any advice about my new role.
Some books arrived home and remain in their virgin state. When writing this piece I unearthed near-perfect Daniel Goleman’s The New Leaders and Steven Pinker’s Words and Rules.
My broader influence in business has not been found in the written word but in the people I engage with and work with. I have expanded my understanding of business and what I am capable of through the diverse resources of the incredible people who make up my network. Simple discussion can generate so many different ideas and surprising connections.
Allowing someone else’s experience and research to influence your own decision making – isn’t that what the business manuals are about? But you can’t question the author directly whereas your mentor and valuable contact is there to offer sage advice and often answers.
I enjoy reading the articles published online from a variety of sources but the most frequently read and used is Fresh Business Thinking. The articles are short and often an introduction to an online publication or workshop.
I read articles recommended by friends on Facebook or Twitter but they have to be relevant to my need to know at that time.
I still have my earlier purchases gathering dust on the bookshelf, but now I feel that I have reached a degree of longevity in business that the contents between the covers may have more resonance, even if I disagree with the hypothesis.
Perhaps I will read that Elephant book tomorrow…