Why you don’t read, and why you should

Nigel Dalton, Deputy Director of Digital at Lonely Planet, loves to read

Guest Blogger: Nigel Dalton, Deputy Director of Digital, Lonely Planet

I grew up in a household where books were revered, and stories were as much a part of our lives as mud on your gumboots, or cold knees in a NZ Winter. The habit I gained of reading a book every month or so remains with me, but gives me a biased lens through which to view my work colleagues…


The excuses know no end:

  • I go to conferences. Ha! Well, ironic or not given this is a post related to Agile Australia 2011, it’s not the same. At a conference I have a mere 20 minutes to outline my argument to you, in a book I have a couple of hours.
  • There is no time to read. Put it in your Outlook diary – “Reading”. Category – “Not Available”.
  • I don’t need to read, I have staff. Guess what, they are watching you and they observe that to be successfully you shouldn’t bother reading.
  • Books are really boring and repetitive. Some books are – use this to your advantage. For example, in most American books you only need to read the first 100 pages.
  • There’s nothing new anyway. Yes there is, but I’m not going to tell you now.
  • I get my information from other people. Better hope they read then.
  • I read magazines. You’re wasting your money, buy eBooks instead.
  • I read on the internet. Precisely what? Blogs? Tweets? Or your Facebook page?
  • I watch TV. Now we’re getting desperate, but at least you are getting honest with me.
  • The dog ate my eReader.

I’m not just talking young graduates (whom I can forgive for being a bit burned out on text books), but people at all levels. Sadly, the most notable are those in leadership positions. I’ve even heard it bragged by a senior exec that “I don’t read anything” as though that’s a badge of honour!

To make it worse, I know from speaking at agile and lean conferences and events that it is not an issue isolated to my workplace. A recent hands-up poll showed people referencing Good to Great (10 years old this year) as the last book they read.

So people, what about learning some lessons from the last decade in what might have been the greatest era of business change in 2 centuries?

Here’s why you should read some books. To write a book, the author has to think through their idea really thoroughly. When you go to write down that dazzling idea that sounds world-beating over coffee with your agile mates, and might even survive a Powerpoint slide, you will likely find the string of logic snaps within 250 words. If someone has written a whole book, they not only care about that idea a great deal, but have likely figured out all the complications and implications.

Essentially, the crisis that faces Australia’s knowledge economy is that we have a group of people trying to innovate ancient post-industrial businesses that last read a meaningful book 20 years ago. This is precisely why innovation of products and ways of working is so damned hard in Australia, and why lean and agile are seeds falling on stony ground in this country.

So, I’ll see you at the conference, but in the meantime if you want to avoid being embarrassed by being called out by me as a Luddite in my session, you should try to read one of the following:

5 Key Books to Read from this century

  1. The Toyota Way (Jeff Liker) 2004
  2. Meatball Sundae (Seth Godin) 2007
  3. Rework (37 Signals) 2010
  4. Rocket Surgery Made Easy (Steve Krug) 2010
  5. The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development (Cooper and Vlaskovits) 2010

Mind that last one, it’s an eBook and Kindle’s taste like jellymeat to dogs. Apparently.

Nigel Dalton writes at lunatractor.com

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