Because so much innovation knowledge and best practices seem to be communicated via books today, I thought Andrew Hargadon's advice on how to read a business book is particularly apropos to share with you. Here are some practical tips that will help you to be a more effective consumer of innovation and other business books.
Because so much innovation knowledge and best practices seem to be communicated via books today, I thought Andrew Hargadon’s advice on how to read a business book is particularly apropos to share with you. Here are some practical tips that will help you to be a more effective consumer of innovation and other business books:
- Read wisely – You possibly can’t read everything written on a given subject, so get over it. “Be strategic in your choice of what to read. Know what subjects you’re interested in and what you’re looking for.”
- Don’t read too many books in one field - “The ‘margin of diminishing returns’ rule applies to reading business books. Don’t read more than 2-3 books in any one field: the first can teach you a lot, the second will add a bit more, but the third will likely sound repetitive. Once that happens, move on to another field or topic.” In most cases, a major topical area has many ideas or concepts that are closely related to it. These can often be rich fodder for new reading opportunities. For example, closely related to business innovation are creativity, new product development and the voice of the customer, to name a few.
- Read efficiently – Pay special attention to the first chapter of the book you’re reading, because that’s where most husiness book authors lay out the framework of ideas that they will spend the rest of the book drilling down into. Also pay special attention to the first section of every chapter, the first paragraph of each section, and the first sentence of every paragraph, because this is where the big ideas tend to reside. Don’t be afraid to skim a book for the most important concepts, especially if you are already well-read on that business topic.
- Read skeptically – Not everything you read in a business book is gospel truth. In fact, some things contained in business books qualify as terrible reasoning. “The rule of thirds applies (to business books): 1/3 of (the author’s) unique contribution will be brilliant, 1/3 will be obvious, and 1/3 will be complete malarkey. You’ll have to figure out which is which.” One problem I’ve seen in some innovation books is what’s called syllogistic reasoning. In other words, this innovation strategy worked marvelously at Company A, so it will work at all other companies that are similar to Company A. In fact, there are so many variables that you can’t possibly make these types of value judgments.
- Read the reviews – “Even if you read the book, read the reviews other people write. For some books, it’s more important to know what everyone else thinks it says than to know what the author actually said.” This can be a time-saver, especially for some of the leading innovation books like The Tipping Point and The Innovator’s Dilemma. I like to read what others have to say about the innovation books I’ve read on Amazon.com. Sometimes I’ll read these reviews to help me select my next book to read, while at other times I will use them to help capsulize my thinking on what a book was really about.
If you consume a lot of business books, this is sage advice!