Books and learning

Over the past few weeks I’ve been gradually moving my ‘business books’ into the office. I operate a lending library (and have for a number of years) where anyone can borrow a book if they

i) promise to return it

ii) leave it for me to put it back in its proper place (they are classified by interest/area and then broadly by thematics within that, I’m a geek)

I’ve had a few books go missing over time, including a couple that had sentimental value, so there has been a cost. Also books are heavy – so it means many mornings of carrying a very heavy rucksack to work – my aching back is current cost.

The benefit is that I love being surrounded by books and I love helping others either learn or just enjoy. I also think that books help build relationships – you have shared mental models and stories that can be shorthand for explaining situations. Our comms lead has just returned a book, then followed up with an email full of ideas they would like to test. That is the kind of thing that really brightens my day – and all I have to do to enable that is have books about.

My default position on the often asked ‘Who is responsible for people’s development in work?’ is that as a bare minimum the organisation is responsible for signposting the opportunity and making it accessible. A big pile of books and an email to colleagues to say ‘help yourself’ covers that off.

I don’t read enough these days. Or I read less. And I was pondering on how when you have read past a certain point concepts simply become an amalgam. I don’t know (sometimes) whether what I’m saying is something someone told me or I read or I’ve experienced. Recently I’ve taken on some business areas that I’ve had less direct experience with – and I find myself revisiting techniques and analysis that I can’t remember the source of at all. Frameworks out of thin air.

Early in my career I could remember which author gave me which insight. Now my mind is a jumble sale of concepts and I often ponder as to whethermy beliefs are a patchwork quilt from that jumble sale – fragmented and largely unplanned.

Books remain beautiful to me. I’m not fussed about whether you are using a kindle or picking up a hardback – what matters is that you are open to new ideas and concepts and that you never lose that love.

Books are cool.

6 thoughts on “Books and learning

  1. Great post David. Interestingly, I don’t (and never have) have a mind which can retain the source of models or principles and concepts – the author of quotes or the architect of ways to do things. I wish I did.

    I have often been in situations where I talk about something – and someone will say ‘oh, so you’re a fan of XYZ then?’ – and it makes me question how the thing ever got in my head.

    A jumble sale is no bad thing.

  2. I read a lot and as a result, I’ve acquired a lot of books. But, like you, I make a point of lending them out as often as possible. It could be a cookery book, something spiritual or a classic book from another century. For those that do read what I’ve given them, I’d like to think it’s changed them a little beyond absorbing more information.

    Julian

  3. We found that we were struggling to find time to read within our management team so many of us now read using Audible / Audio Books on journeys to spend the time productively.

  4. Don’t we all internalise what we have seen, read and heard? We make these fragments our own, in however small a way, incorporating them into our own thinking. A bibliography or a physical library at least acknowledges provenance. I like Margaret Atwood on this point in On Writers and Writing: “I am a writer and a reader, and that’s about it. I’m not a scholar or a literary theoretician, and any such notions that have wandered into this book have got there by the usual writerly methods, which resemble the ways of the jackdaw: we steal the shiny bits, and build them into the structures of our own disorderly nests.”

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