What We Learn from What We Read
Good news--people are still reading. And some are reading a lot (20% of adults read more than 21 books per year, according to a 2010 Harris Poll).
That was clear from the crowd that raised their hands to the question during the session "What We Learn from What We Read" at the ASAE Annual Meeting in St. Louis recently.
The best news--they want to read "smart," meaning they want to be mindful of what reading is influencing the thinking and actions of their colleagues in other organizations while also finding inspiration, ideas, and knowledge in less-common sources such as literature, non-business books, mobile phone applications, new-book aggregation or executive summary websites, and more.
Panelists Jeffrey Cufaude (moderator), consultant Joan Eisenstodt, CEO Mark Anderson, and I shared not only what we were learning by reading beyond the "obvious business sources" (Harvard Business Review, New York Times, etc), but also the resulting ways we've applied that learning to our work and personal insights on everything from community building to leadership to technology.
Since we all admitted our book addictions and the difficulty of narrowing the choices we'd share at the session, our panel posted additional suggested reading and sources around the room, and attendees could jot down on cards anything of interest. For folks at the session or overall meeting, don't forget to download the session materials that list even more resources or to order the CD to listen to the session.
One of my favorite parts was when we asked the audience to share what books and sources they thought others should know about--you can hear their suggestions in the session tape, and I urge you to share your own favorites in the comments section of this post.
In doing my research for the session, I ran into a quote by Steven Piersanti, president of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, that we used to move people into thinking beyond their own learning and toward that of their members and colleagues: "...[P]eople are reading only books that their communities make important or even mandatory to read. There is no general audience for most nonfiction books, and chasing after such a mirage is usually far less effective than connecting with one's communities."
If true, doesn't that leave a huge opportunity for associations to aggressively curate the overwhelming amount of content for their community?
Most organizations already are trying. For instance, on the plane, I sat next to an Avectra professional who told me that the entire company is reading Race for Relevance and then will gather to talk about it.
Another attendee said that her CEO picks two books a year for the board to read, and it's the first item on the agenda because discussing ideas and new information "gets people's mental juices going" right away.
Our panel added more suggestions such as running regular book reviews online and in publications, offering virtual book/information clubs for members, creating reading-learning-applying online communities for open conversations around new books or sources, mobile apps that aggregate top news of interest, and what-I-learned-from-what-I-read education sessions.
We all have had such a tremendous response to the session that we may pitch it again for Great Ideas or next Annual Meeting in Dallas, and we're discussing the potential of an open sharing community to continue the momentum of the session.
We hope you'll join us in our virtual book nook to share your favorite reads and learning, too.
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