Getting Back to Basics with a Reading List

Develop and communicate value

More of our time should go to understand value. Special attention to why things are working / not working. Nobody catches you when you fail and/or fall, and that's when we need support the most.

    The missing piece is usually how we communicate for ongoing learning while doing. Authors / speakers tell stories, mentors show ideas, and coaches (or facilitators) ask questions. In modern business, we often need a mix of all three, based on the situation.

Acquire mental agility

    Our meanings are useful, and we should not confuse them with the truth. Like models, they help us make sense of things as a starting point. The responsibility is ours to decide if operating within a certain framework liberates or restricts us.

    Reading and listening should go hand-in-hand with practicing and doing alone and together. Matt Church also explains how to adopt flexible worldviews#. It's key not to think of worldview being the same as self view. Why it's important:

Fixed world views lack behavioural flexibility. That rigidity allows good people to let bad things happen, or for bad deeds to be swept under the table. At the very least, commercially it reduces agility. Fixed world views are not nimble enough to disrupt themselves, change their approach midstream and give up on ideas, products or services that are no longer relevant.

    It's useful to think of the mind as we do with the body. Athletes know that to build endurance and perform better without getting injured they need to stretch. Stretching allows us to elongate, stay nimble, and become more flexible. We can apply the same principle to the mind.

Train for flexibility

    Going to the gym or studio every day is a commitment many make to their physical health. It's a habit that helps maintain a certain level of fitness. Training with an instructor takes things up a notch or several. Exercising and practicing with others raises the collective level of energy.

    Getting back to the idea of authors, mentors, and coaches or facilitators, there's a time for telling, a time for showing, and one for asking and working together through the questions. The mind is a very powerful instrument that can yield incredible results, used appropriately.

    For this reason, I've been recommending many readings about identity and agility lately. The more we learn to separate our identity and worldviews, the greater the flexibility. Reading gives us access to many different worldviews in a relatively easy method.

    We can read critically, and comparatively to expand our mind.

Read for exploration

    Many good books package a concept that is easy to nod to and hard to do.

    The Startup of You is about treating your own career as a startup runs its business. One of the points Hoffman highlights has served me well in my evolution. Build a broad and deep network from which you can collect and synthesize information. Especially build relationships that expose you to different worlds. Share proactively.

    Everyone is talking about the next book.

    Bad Blood is a page turner, and a cautionary tale — when a story is too good to be true, it usually is, no matter how hard anyone wants to believe in it. it doesn't get more real than a true diabolical villain. Holmes is a paranoid sociopath who could also be disarming, charmingly manipulative, utterly ruthless and devoid of conscience. Put corporate greed and lack of regulatory oversight in the same pot and you have a mess when things get to a boil.

    Consider the courage of the people who chose to come forward. Would you have?

Read to write better

     One recent discovery is that women write far more interesting and devious mystery books.

    Ann Cleeves is a good example for clear prose that won't lose you in the details and very engaging plots. Her Vera Stanhope detective was turned into a TV series. I read them in reserve, starting with The Seagull, then backtracked to The Moth Catcher, then Harbour Street, then The Glass Room, and I'm now reading The Crow Trap.

    I can see how the characters developed over time. Which is great training for a writer. She also started inserting more humor and personal stories in the more recent books. Each story is independent, so there's no spoiling the plot.

    And staying on the subject of women. We all tend to default to what we should do instead of asking what we could do. The rules say one things… but things change fast, and staying open to trade-offs may lead to better solutions.

    We also tend to shy away from conflict ― including internal conflict. Yet tension introduces constraints that could help us become more creative. Rebel Talent includes references to Osteria Francescana in Modena. But that wasn't the reason why I got curious about it.

    The message about breaking the rules begs the question. Do you want to follow a script—or write your own story?

Read to acquire new skills

    Do you ever wish you had creative superpowers? I do. Problem-solving skills will continue to rise in demand in all professions and roles. Creative Superpowers will help you re-learn key traits often forgotten from childhood, such as adaptability, curiosity, empathy and fearlessness.

    Not all advice on creativity fits one category neatly. The book format is use cases.

    Want to be Great at Work? Work less, and achieve more. Do as top performers do. I confess that I'm suffering from self-improvement conversation fatigue. What's wrong with self-authoring? Why not choose to be deliberate about the choices we make every day instead of trying to "fix" ourselves?

    Improvement comes from action — the things we do with our hands. I was pleased to come across a book with simple suggestions on the things we already do… so we can do them better.

Read to figure things out

    In business, we talk a lot about beginnings – how to get started well is important. We also talk about endings – success stories, exit strategies… But we don't talk enough about The Messy Middle. That's where all the problems are!

    No extraordinary journey is linear. In reality, the middle is extraordinarily volatile — a continuous sequence of ups and downs, flush with uncertainty and struggle. Every advance reveals a new shortcoming. Your job is to endure the lows and optimize the highs to achieve a positive slope within the jaggedness of the messy middle — so that, on average, every low is less low than the one before it, and every subsequent high is a little higher.

    It sounds like something we can all use, doesn't it? If this sounds good to you, the book is a pre-order for October, 2018. The next book is coming out in a week.

    We live in a world that venerates the new, bright, and shiny. Many of us are left feeling invisible, undervalued, and threatened by "digital natives" (perception is reality). Wisdom@Work is an argument of experience making a comeback.

    Because at a time when power is shifting younger, companies are finally waking up to the value of the humility, emotional intelligence, and wisdom that come with age. While digital skills have only the shelf life of the latest fad or gadget, the human skills that mid-career workers possess — good judgment, specialized knowledge, and the ability to collaborate and coach — never expire.

Read to rethink

    We misidentify taking with making, and have lost sight of what value really means. This is the powerful premise of a book not out in the U.S. yet, but worth considering — The Value of Everything. Mariana Mazzucato says we need to rethink where wealth comes from:

While wealth is created through a collective effort, the massive imbalance in the distribution of the gains from economic growth has often been more the result of wealth extraction, whose potential scale globalization has greatly magnified. […]

I will argue that the way the word ‘value’ is used in modern economics has made it easier for value-extracting activities to masquerade as value-creating activities. And in the process rents (unearned income) get confused with profits (earned income); inequality rises, and investment in the real economy falls. What’s more, if we cannot differentiate value creation from value extraction, it becomes nearly impossible to reward the former over the latter. If the goal is to produce growth that is more innovation-led (smart growth), more inclusive and more sustainable, we need a better understanding of value to steer us.

    Value development and value communication are distinct, connected, and necessary parts of business. One draws from and feeds the other in a continuous conversation.




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