3 Tips for Smarter Business Reading

Last Updated Nov 26, 2008 2:43 PM EST

reading.jpg I thought I knew how to read, until I came across Andrew. We were all sitting in a partner's office. We thought we were all pretty bright, except for Andrew. If we shone as brightly as a 100 Watt bulb, he was a solitary, spluttering candle. But much to our annoyance, all the staff reckoned that Andrew was the brighter than the rest of us.

One day, I saw Andrew scribbling away. I asked him what he was doing. "I have some associates coming in with a paper to test me," he said.

I had always thought that was our chance to test them, not the other way around. "They want to see if I can add any value to their draft. So I am making some notes." He then patiently explained to me how he would pass his associates' reading test.

He had three rules:

  1. "Make a note of my point of view on the paper. They are all smart, and I do not want to get caught up in their internal logic." That hurt. I was always getting caught up in the internal logic of what I was reading.I would then find it hard to come up with an original insight.
  2. "Make a list of all the topics that I expect to see covered. That helps me see the invisible -- what they haven't covered in their paper." I was starting to see why everyone thought Andrew was so smart.
  3. "Outline a few coaching points I can cover, so that they feel they have got something out of me." Now I started to see why everyone not only thought Andrew was smart, but they liked him as well.
I had discovered that reading for pleasure and reading for business are completely different. Reading for pleasure means reading with an open mind, and enjoying the journey of discovery.

Reading for business means reading with prejudice and with purpose. Eventually, I found that just a couple of minutes' preparation before seeing a paper or hearing a presentation would make me a much more critical and effective reader and listener.

Some people even started to think I might be smart. Getting to be liked was entirely different challenge--.

(Photo: Luis de Bethencourt, CC2.0)

  • Jo Owen

    Jo Owen practises what he preaches as a leader. He has worked with over 100 of the best, and a couple of the worst, organisations in the world, has built a business in Japan; started a bank (now HBOS business banking); was a partner at Accenture and brand manager at P&G. He is a serial entrepreneur whose start-ups include top 10 graduate recruiter Teach First and Start Up, which has helped over 250 ex-offenders start their own businesses. He has and has spent seven years researching leadership, strategy and organisation in tribal societies. His books include "Tribal Business School", "How to Lead and How to Manage." He is in demand as a speaker and coach on leadership and change. His websites include Tribal Business School and Leadership Partnership