Want to Disrupt and Innovate? You Can’t Do It Without Books

If reading were a sport, would you be an Olympian or a couch potato? Think about it, because successful entrepreneurs should always be learning.

December 5th, 2018   |    By: Jason McCann    |    Tags: Leadership, Business Books, Strategy

Without a doubt, reading and learning is one of the most essential ingredients to becoming a stronger entrepreneur. As a learning enthusiast who travels everywhere with a paperback, I’ve recently joined the ranks of Blinkist downloaders. Unfamiliar with the name?

Blinkist allows you to quickly digest books by offering condensed versions of hot sellers in the form of voiceover narratives. It’s great for entrepreneurs who can’t seem to keep up with Bill Gates’ penchant for reading 50 books a year. I prefer the feel of a traditional book, but it’s a nice stopgap when I’m short on time.

When I do have a few hours over the weekend, I turn on my meditation app and block out some “chill” time. (Thank you to my loving wife who understands!) It’s more than just a need to relax; it’s a need to absorb information.

While listening to background sounds of surf washing over sand, I pour my mind into books that can make me a better leader and manager. Not only does this center me, but it opens my mind to possibilities I wouldn’t otherwise consider. Even the painful decisions of others, their ups and downs, can become the impetus to bettering me as a person and a professional.

Valuing the message of books

To be sure, reading is a learned behavior that’s become habitual for me only after years of discipline. Despite my AP English class in high school, I was never much of a reader outside of schoolwork. My book-related “Eureka!” moment happened in college when I recognized the importance of self-discovery. Now, I try not to go a night without reading. In fact, I’m always lining up new books to peruse, taking suggestions from all the people I encounter and admire.

I even “stalk” influencers on LinkedIn to get insights on what to read next. When I found Gates named “Factfulness” as one of his top five suggestions, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Thank goodness I did: The book truly elevated my thinking. Similarly, Patrick Lencioni’s works, including “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business,” have altered the way I run my business for the better.

The same holds true with Arianna Huffington’s powerful book “Thrive,” which has incredible takeaways about balancing personal health and wellness, family life, giving back and, of course, work. Same goes for the Southwest Airlines focused “Lead With Luv: A Different Way to Create Real Success” and anything by Jim Collins, renowned author of “Good to Great.”

Approaching leadership from the bookworm’s view

To be sure, while I push for everyone in my life to pick up books, no matter the subject, I also want them to use their newfound knowledge innovatively. It’s wise to read with a purpose in mind and follow a few steps to get the most out of any book.

1. Write down ideas and try them later.

I keep a little notebook by my side and jot down brainstorms as I read. Later, I mull over discoveries. Are they worth testing with my team? If so, I talk with personnel about rolling out new ways of working better, smarter, faster, etc. For instance, after getting through “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” we transformed the way we thought about service in an effort to elevate our business model. Without the book, we might not have pushed ourselves to change as soon as we did.

2. Seek alignment and validation.

When I dived into Lencioni’s “Advantage” book, I read his theories about the importance of having a healthy organization. They immediately struck me because I knew he was dead-on; we were already dabbling with activity and wellness-conscious workplaces. At VARIDESK, we maintain an energetic, living workplace culture. However, in describing that culture to others, I was complicating the verbiage. Lencioni simplified it, allowing me to help my team members and even customers strategically implement healthy habits on the job through better messaging.

3. Share your resources and findings.

Your path to becoming a certified bookworm comes with a responsibility to share what you discover. The more you spread ideas, tools, and resources with your employees, colleagues, clients, and even family members, the easier it will be to help everyone kick their games into high gear. Our technology folks took this a step further by setting up a free lending library of donated books. Reading the same items keeps them on par with one another, helping them to piggyback on the inspiration they receive.

Finding the time to read can be tough, particularly if you have a business or department to run (and want to have a life, too). Yet it’s a critical component to sharpening your skills and understanding how to remain competitive and disruptive. Start with 15 minutes a day: Pick up a book or Kindle, or pop in earbuds to listen to a book. Within a couple of weeks, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come. And you’ll never stop craving more.

About the Author

Jason McCann

A lifelong entrepreneur, Jason McCann has over 20 years of experience building and running successful companies. As a founder and the CEO of VARIDESK, Jason’s mission is to help companies reimagine the workspace. VARIDESK started with one innovative product and has grown to be a global leader in workspace innovation with products found in over 130 countries.

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