FF Daily #407: Pick a book that challenges you

June 25, 2021: The cost of meetings; What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School (as much as they should); On work

Founding Fuel

[Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash]

Good morning,

We love to read. And How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren is a classic that we have used as a guide on how to get better at it every day. This was published in the early 1940s and was a bestseller then. The advice it contains is timeless. 

If you are reading in order to become a better reader, you cannot read just any book or article. You will not improve as a reader if all you read are books that are well within your capacity. You must tackle books that are beyond you, or, as we have said, books that are over your head. Only books of that sort will make you stretch your mind. And unless you stretch, you will not learn. 

“Thus, it becomes of crucial importance for you not only to be able to read well but also to be able to identify those books that make the kinds of demands on you that improvement in reading ability requires. A book that can do no more than amuse or entertain you may be a pleasant diversion for an idle hour, but you must not expect to get anything but amusement from it. We are not against amusement in its own right, but we do want to stress that improvement in reading skill does not accompany it. The same goes for a book that merely informs you of facts that you did not know without adding to your understanding of those facts. Reading for information does not stretch your mind any more than reading for amusement. It may seem as though it does, but that is merely because your mind is fuller of facts than it was before you read the book. However, your mind is essentially in the same condition that it was before. There has been a quantitative change, but no improvement in your skill. 

“We have said many times that the good reader makes demands on himself when he reads. He reads actively, effortfully. Now we are saying something else. The books that you will want to practice your reading on, particularly your analytical reading, must also make demands on you. They must seem to you to be beyond your capacity. You need not fear that they really are, because there is no book that is completely out of your grasp if you apply the rules of reading to it that we have described… Actually, those are the very books that you must seek out, because they are the ones that can best help you to become an ever more skillful reader.” 

Let us know what you’re reading. Stay safe. And have a good day! 

In this issue

  • The cost of meetings
  • What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School (as much as they should)
  • On work

The cost of meetings

Is the time invested in meetings worth it? That’s a theme that has been debated upon endlessly. But since the onset of the pandemic, it is clear that there are better ways to work such as in a hybrid mode. It is inevitable then that the role and cost of meetings be investigated. 

Inc Magazine published the findings of Doodle, an online meeting scheduling service, that studied the cost of poorly organized meetings. It presented data from 19 million meetings across the US, the UK and Germany and included interviews with 6,500 professionals.

The respondents said,

  • poorly organized meetings mean I don't have enough time to do the rest of my work (44%)
  • unclear actions lead to confusion (43%)
  • bad organization results in a loss of focus on projects (38%)
  • irrelevant attendees slow progress (31%)
  • inefficient processes weaken client/supplier relationships (26%)

How do you make things better?

  • set clear objectives for your meeting 
  • have a clear agenda
  • don't have too many people in the room
  • use visual stimulus such as videos and presentations.

Dig deeper

What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School (as much as they should)

In Harvard Business Review, Elizabeth R Tenney, Elaine Costa, and Ruchi M Watson make a strong case for teaching something that will prove very doable and very valuable for all businesses in the data rich world—experimentation. It’s not that B-Schools don’t teach this skill. A-B testing is a standard fare in most marketing courses. Harvard itself teaches a full course, but not every year. 

But there is a growing demand in the world of business. “Some companies seem to be hiring small armies of PhDs to meet these competency challenges. (Amazon, for example, employs more than 100 PhD economists.) This isn’t surprising, given that PhDs receive years of training—and that the shrinking tenure-track market in academia has created a glut of PhDs. Other companies are developing employees in-house, training them in narrow, industry-specific methodologies,” they write. 

The bottom line, they argue “is that companies today are looking for the person who can do it all—design and run experiments, be numerically literate to interpret the results, utilize their interpersonal savvy to implement data-driven change, and be inspiring and visionary enough to lead a culture of experimentation.”

Dig deeper

Still curious?

  • There are urgent issues emerging around the need for an MBA as a vehicle for social good. Also, Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of digitalisation by at least 5-10 years across many businesses. This too is forcing B-Schools to revamp their curriculum and make it future ready. Watch the Masterclass: The Future of the MBA
  • How to make meetings purposeful. Insights from Al Pittampalli’s book Read This Before Our Next Meeting on how to get more done, by D Shivakumar. Read the gist

On work

[Photo by lasse bergqvist on Unsplash]

Work is love made visible.

And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.

For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.

And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.

And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.

~ From The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran

What’s helping you get through these tough times? Send us the song, poem, quote that is your balm now. And we will share it through this newsletter.

And if you missed previous editions of this newsletter, they’re all archived here.

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there.

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel

(Note: Founding Fuel may earn commissions for purchases made through the Amazon affiliate links in this article.)

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Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

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