7 More Ways to get the most from Books.

My friend Bren, the Slacker Manager, recently wrote a much linked-to article he called “How to read a business book.” He was inspired by a book that is my number one recommendation choice when I want to suggest a business book to someone, but not one that is biz-speak intense and boring for a person not normally a business book reader: it’s a great business-book primer. The author has achieved something rare: a business book that is actually fun to read. That author is Tim Sanders, and his book is called Love is the Killer App.

In many ways, I think of Sanders’ book as the “totally English version” of my own Managing with Aloha. In its purest definition, Aloha is the universal value of love, and Sanders was bold enough and intuitive enough to connect love with business before I did. He focused on just three business values versus my MWA nineteen. And to be more accurate, he doesn’t call them values. He calls them the 3 “intangibles” you must share to be a “lovecat”—your knowledge, your network, and your compassion.

I first read Love is the Killer App three years ago, and after including it in my own book’s Recommended Reading section (MWA page 232), I find it is again being revived frequently in my talking story with lots of different people. So this past weekend I decided to read it all over again, and guess what? No surprise ” I recommitted to it all over again. You can be sure it’ll come up more often in Talking Story, for it is chock full of such good stuff.

For now though, I couldn’t let our February Ho‘ohana end without a bit more on just the knowledge section of Sanders book, where he explains,

“Knowledge is consequential. Knowledge currency is social currency on steroids. It’s important, it’s powerful, it’s essential. Thus it is value currency.”

He has a great explanation of why books versus other reading:

“Do you try an even mixture — magazines, books, television, and radio? I say there is no option. I’ve looked at all the possibilities, and for the student of business, books are the answer. Books should be you diet’s staple because they are the complete thought-meal ” magazine articles are between-meal snacks ” the news media—electronic or print—are the equivalent of candy and soda: fun to eat, but hardly appropriate to live on.”

When it comes to books, Sanders offers a “practical four-step program designed to make knowledge work for you: (1) aggregation, (2) encoding, (3) processing, and (4) application.” If you haven’t seen Bren’s How To Read A Business Book, do click over – Bren did a great job writing it focusing on parts (1), (2), and (3) and so I’m not going to repeat those parts here. Here’s the link.

Some other thoughts came to me on the last part—the application, which Sanders says “is really about sharing”Application is the employment and leverage of your knowledge in the workplace.” Sanders explains this so very well in his entire book, and I must encourage you to buy it and read it for yourself.

As a coach, I want to focus a bit more on your own individual learning, and offer a few other thoughts on how you can get the most out of the books you read. So here are,

7 More Ways to get the most out of Books.

One. As soon as you complete a book—any book, business or otherwise—find someone to share it with. When you talk about a book with another person, you retain it better, you question your own comprehension, and you gain another reader’s insights to add to and flesh out your own. Believe me, book conversations are some of the most stimulating ones business people can have.

Two. Look up both the author and the book’s title in Google. How I wish the internet was around back when I read the classics in school! Couple of sub-points to this:

a. Look for author interviews, and see if you got those big thoughts and main themes they were trying to convey—this is especially good for you when you don’t agree with them—and I’m not implying you have to agree with everything you read, far from it! This one was fun: Blink and the Wisdom of Crowds.

post update: Bren shared a pointer to the great author interviews done by Powell’s BookstoreLink.

b. Look for a website on the book, or better yet, a blog by the author. Author’s websites will often offer extended reading guides, or they’ll give you links to book clubs which have posted their discussion forums. Jim Collins of Good to Great fame has one of the best author’s websites I’ve seen: click in and look at the tabs he has that say Laboratory and Lecture Hall. Here’s an example of the reading guide that’s on Mitch Albom’s site for The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

c. Online book clubs have a way of getting you excited about books all over again. Fast Company’s been great for business books, and for great fiction Oprah just can’t be denied: her online guides are exceptional.

d. Read what the critics say, and debate them in your head. In your debate, focus on the why applying a book’s idea to your own business will work for you, and why the book arguments they may call “trivial” or “nothing really new” may be something you’ve left on auto-pilot and need to take another look at. Books give you fresh angles on old problems. As an example, take a look here, at what Dave Pollard says about decision-making after reading The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki.

e. Many times searches will bring you to bloggers who love the book (or hate it, but we’re thinking positively here) and you will be amazed at how a book may have gone viral. For just one example, take a look at what Merlin Mann has done in assembling study guides for you for David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Come to think of it, I should hire another blogger to do the same thing for my book ” any blogger interest out there?

Three. When you marked up your book, hopefully you did so for future application and not for entertainment. Now DO something with all those notes: transcribe them into action steps, and put them on your calendar—convert them into the new brainchild of your Ho‘ohana—your passion for worthwhile work. These are the times I’m not that quick to pick up and start reading another book — to use another Sander’s phrase, I have to implement something before I have totally “digested my knowledge meal.”

Four. Commit to adding the author’s words or phrases into your vocabulary (you knew this was coming: I have at least 19 new Hawaiian business-value words for you to learn in MWA). These are the words and phrases in my vocabulary I openly give credit to Tim Sanders for:

a. Value currency.
b. Positive feedback loop.
c. Co-opetition, when competitors cooperate for the greater good.
d. Knowledge is sequential and consequential.
e. ROA: Return on Attention (Ho‘ohiki: I promise you I have another post coming soon on this one.)
f. “Unlike computers, books boot up instantly. You should too.”
g. Ubiquitous. Never could use that in a sentence before.
h. Killer App. Hate to admit this, but I had no idea what that phrase meant until I read his book.
i. And of course, lovecat, in my words, someone with aloha.

Use them in sentences, write blog posts on them, turn them into whiteboard lessons or bulletin board posters for your staff. For a long time, this sentence from Sanders’ book scrolled across my computer monitor as a screen saver:

“What people think of you will never be as important as what they feel about you: give ‘em the good stuff!”

Five. Teach your staff a whiteboard lesson you’ve drawn from the book’s main ideas. I remember doing one called Mountain Climbing after I read about the “Base Camp” to “Summit” progression in First Break All the Rules. If you want a copy of it, email me here.

Six. Buy the book as a gift for another manager you think has potential and would like to mentor. On the dedication page, write a note to them on why you thought of them when you read it, and through-out the book, rewrite some of the notes you’d scribbled in your own copy. Invite them to have coffee about a certain question or thought later.

Seven. Send the author a note or email to say thank you for sharing their knowledge with you. This was something I learned to do from reading Carolyn See’s Making A Literary Life. She calls them “Charming Notes” and she admits that students in her writing classes hate to hear her talk about them, for she takes it to this extreme:

“Write one charming note to a novelist, an editor, a journalist, a poet, a sculptor, even an agent whose professional work or reputation you admire, five days a week, for the rest of your life” put a stamp on it, and mail it out. These notes are like paper airplanes sailing around the world, and they accomplish a number of things at once.”

I don’t do it that often as I should, but I do write to authors who have taught me something I feel is valuable and meaningful to me. Pure and simple, it just feels good to do it.

Don’t let authors intimidate you: they want to hear from you. Right Lisa? Yvonne? David? Let them know when they have eloquently been able to articulate something that has inspired you — in doing so you give them a gift. Speaking for myself, I love it when people who have read MWA write to me. My friend Dave at Wiz Speak is really good at this; he has made some amazing connections with people using his “send” key instead of stamps.

And you thought you were done with that book when you got to The End.

Related Talking Story post: More on your Relationship ROI.

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  1. says

    Speaking for myself, authors not only want to hear from readers, they NEED feedback. It is important to know what I am writing that is resonating with people and which parts of the work are not. For example, in my latest book, I have found that my favorite part is the least favorite part for several readers. Now that’s interesting and it might impact how I approach the writing in the future. I plan on writing several more books throughout my career, and I need to hone and develop my ability to effectively connect with my readers.
    On the flip side, I have had fun sharing my thoughts authors I read. It is nice to rub cyber-elbows with the thinkers out there!
    Good tips, Rosa.

  2. says

    Thank you so much for adding your comment to this Lisa:
    I am midway through your book and enjoying it immensely – you share an incredible amount of knowledge and experience with the work of middle managers, offering all of us day-to-day solutions. Yours is a book to be studied and put into practice immediately; we can essentially work our own personal case study along the way.
    I will be talking to you about it more in the future, and with the rest of the Ho’ohana Community here on Talking Story.
    Dear ‘Ohana,
    Lisa Haneberg is the author of H.I.M.M., High Impact Middle Management, and you can read about her book in another one of my Talking Story posts – look for the link under her book jacket pictured in the right hand column.

  3. says

    Carnival of the Capitalists

    Carnival of the Capitalists is up at Coyote Blog. If you don’t read the Carnival of the Capitalists regularly, you should. The Carnival of the Capitalists is a weekly post of some of the best blog posts on business blogging, finance, economics, governm…

  4. says

    How to read a book

    I don’t have the energy tonight to write a book review, so instead I’m sharing this interesting blog entry I found on how to get the most from books you read, from Rosa Say (via managementprof).

  5. says

    Shortcuts in using what you’ve read

    Right now I am getting my reading and learning fix from simultaneously reading both Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone and David Allen’s Getting Things Done, both for the second time. Second time readings are always the ticket to book aha!