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Are organisations getting struck in fads, fantasies and popular opinions?

Posted by Philip Smith on 8 April 2019

Are we prepared to learn ?

Experience shows that asking the wrong question will always result in negative outcomes.

It would be prudent to assume that we should spend enough time on formulating the correct questions before we take any action.

This raises the question of where we get our information, how frequently we update our knowledge and what other factors influence our thinking. 

As a reader, I can think of no better way to continuously stimulate the imagination than reading. So there you have my prejudice on the table.

The huge volume of books on almost any imaginable subject presents us with a challenge, what to read or where to start.

In my experience one good book will inevitably reference other books, so that once you have read that book you should have a list of several others to follow up on and so the cycle expands.

To quote Nassim Taleb ( Black Swan ) regarding Umberto Eco's library. 

" A private library is not and ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know, as your financial means permits. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books." 

The value of reading should not be underestimated.  Other than current authors, there is a vast body of information created over the past 100 or more years, all containing useful information and ideas for today, to stimulate our imagination and thinking.

Sadly few people read and most management office are bereft of books and frequently also of any good ideas or imagination.

Ask yourself and your senior staff a simple question, how many books have you read this month, year or even during the past week. Do not be surprised at low numbers and the excuse that "there is so much material coming in on the web that there is no time to read more".  This is the lazy persons copout. 

They lack the discipline to unsubscribe from stuff they hardly ever look at but allow to clutter up their inboxes. Ask them what they have learnt from this flood of emails during the past 30 days. Most honest answers will be "nothing of any substance".   

How much of what comes in relates to products and services the sender is trying to promote? Sure it will include a link to some paper or study to support the senders offerings but so what, where is the value to you.

The issue is to read by selecting subjects that interest you and this will inevitable branch out into other areas that might interest you. Just like muscles, we have to exercise our brains or alternatively just hang on to our old beliefs, sadly that is the norm.

Business is about ideas and engaged people, without them we create uninspired working environments driven by process and procedures, where people are simply viewed as "human resource" or interchangeable cogs and behave accordingly. The real cost of disengaged staff is massive.

Business leaders and consultants often love to quote the latest fad or the opinions of the current "gurus", but this largely has no connection to the realities inside modern organisations. 

How many companies do you know that has a "library" available to all levels of staff?

How many companies do you know that has any view on the value or reading?

How many companies do you know that encourage reading by the actions and behaviour of senior managers or "leadership groups". I dislike this current notion of Leadership Groups as it is only a new name for the management group and somehow we now have Managers who are also leaders and most of them appear to understand neither concepts, imho.

I suppose the question is where do we go for fresh inspiration, knowledge and ideas to stimulate our imaginations?  Following the herd is no solution at all and is unfortunately the norm.

The news headlines somehow set the agenda for our fears and assumptions. For those prepared to engage their brains and not followe the herd there are positive solutions.

It is my belief that reading widely will provide the best kind of thinking material required to assist us in creating better outcomes in our enterprises and for all staff engaged in that enterprise.

I know this is a much wider subject, but somehow organisations ( leaders )  have to learn by finding a simple starting point and then building on that.  Imho, reading is the simplest way to get the process going.

Below I have included a short reading list of random books, to get you started and maybe keep you entertained for a few evenings, instead of watching television.

  • WTF Tim O'Reilly
  • Focus Al Ries
  • How to fail at almost everything and still win big Scott Adams
  • How Toyota became # 1 David Magee
  • Brick by Brick David Robertson
  • The Goal Eliyahu Goldratt
  • The great game of business Jack Stack
  • The global trap Hans Peter Martin & Harald Schuman
  • The no asshole rule Robert Sutton
  • Where good ideas come from Steven Johnson
  • Nation of sheep William J. Lederer
  • Managing in the next society Drucker
  • The Bastiat collection Claude Frederic Bastiat ( source - Mises institute )
  • Maverick Ricardo Semler
  • The Challenger launch decision Diane Vaughan

Enjoy and who knows, some might end up visiting the book store.

Philip SmithAuthor:Philip Smith
About: Philip specialises in getting projects and businesses that are not performing as well as expected, back on track.
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