Reading the New Way to Learn

We look at how the increasing popularity of reading might provide an addition opportunity for learning

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Reading the new leisure activity

“Across the country there is a growing phenomenon. In rented homes and the grandest of family seats; in country cottages and the plushest of urban apartments, people are getting together to share the pleasure of reading.

Now, that phenomenon is spreading to the business world as trainers, HR professionals and managers rediscover how effective reading can be as a development tool.

Any time, any place learning

Reading works because it can be done in almost any location, at any time, and at a pace chosen by the reader. It doesn’t even require time away from work!

Structured Reading

Reading is a regular activity in 90% of British homes so a training strategy that includes reading should be tapping in to a receptive audience.

But it is not as simple as just picking up a book and enjoying a good read.

To be effective the reader has to read the right book, one that will help them meet their development objectives, or solve a problem. Just like any other training activity there should be a mechanism to help the reader identify the learning points from the book and support them in applying that new knowledge.

Not at all odd!

It may sound a bit off the wall, but then again maybe not.

During the second Iraq war each of the 5,000 soldiers of the American 3rd Armoured Cavalry arrived in Iraq carrying a seven page reading list.

This list contained titles covering

  • Iraqi history,
  • Islamic culture and
  • counter insurgency campaigns from Viet Nam to Algeria.

Officers assigned each soldier a book and then organised groups at which they presented to their comrades what they had learnt from reading the book.

Reading a business book is not the same as reading a novel

A novel is a complete story, but a business book is one persons view.

Jack Welch, the famed CEO of GE wrote of his admiration for small business; the way they communicated with employees and their lack of bureaucracy.

Michael Gerber wrote in the E-myth that 80% of small businesses do not survive five years.

So by reading two books you can learn the advantages of keeping your business small, and realise that you have to learn how to maximise those advantages.

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What makes a good book for learning?

The best business books ask a question, an important question, and then provide an answer that is backed with solid research. 

The title should indicate what that question is, and the introduction should tell you how the author intends to answer that question. Their answer should be focused and organised; if it isn’t it will be difficult to understand.

Business books are like training courses

To get the most from reading a business book you need to treat it as a training course.

Use the table of contents not as an agenda, but as a study guide.

Use the chapter titles and the questions they ask as a guide to deciding the order in which to read them.

If another part of the book is referred to in your chosen chapter, break off and read it at that point.

Don’t be afraid to re-read parts of the book, and don’t be embarrassed about discussing the book with your colleagues.

Tell us

We are interested in which books you think have added value to your career, the way you do your job or the organisation that you work in.

Please use the comments section to tell us about your favourite work related reading.