I had a rather eccentric English teacher who was known for never wearing the same outfit twice and for making the rather bodacious claim of living under the school's football field. Each day she would start class by lamenting the one or two questions she missed on Jeopardy the previous night. I will not share her name because then you would know the answer to one of my password reminder questions. "who was your favorite teacher?" - well, random internet form, Ms. <Name Redacted> was my favorite teacher.
If you are wondering the point of that story please allow me to answer in the form of a Jeopardy question.
"I'll take things we need to do more of for $400, Alex"
What is Reading?
Ms. Redacted was a brilliant person who remained unwavering in her opinion that regular reading is one of the keys to success in life. Looking to build vocabulary, reduce stress, alleviate depression, and lengthen lifespan? Those are some of the benefits of reading; all of which will serve us well on our journey of self improvement.
We also have the anecdotal stories of how successful people make reading a priority. I won't spend time retelling the tales (urban legends?) of CEOs who read 50+ books a year or share that certain billionaires read for at least three hours a day. Not only are these quantities difficult to prove but more importantly there is an inherent flaw in leading with the qualities of these self reported results. Measuring quantity is rarely helpful when discussing behaviors and habits.
Too much focus on the quantity of a desired behavior ultimately leads to a sacrifice in both quality and intensity.
The daily discipline of reading is what really matters; discipline is what drives the numerous benefits of reading; and discipline is exactly what we're lacking.
It is telling that 27% of adults say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to Pew Research. The optimist in me read that as 73% of adults read at least part of a book in the last year. That's a start, right?
No, it is not a start.
The Pew Research only tells part of the story and this is where it gets interesting, and by interesting I mean really concerning. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that less than 15% of young people (under the age of 55) read for personal interest on an average day.
The real story is that 85% of people are not making reading a priority.
Turning the focus back to the business world, we want our colleagues to read for pleasure. Readers are more open minded, more analytical, and better communicators. These are qualities that will help you build and maintain a healthy team culture. Yet the stats would indicate that our colleagues aren't reading.
We must first recognize the seriousness of this situation along with the potential long term impacts it could have on our team's success. Look out 36 months and think about the competitive advantage you will have if you're part of happier, well balanced, open minded team of effective communicators.
Here are three things we can start doing today to encourage reading in the workplace.
1. Lead by example
Talk about and share some interesting tidbits from the books you are reading that are applicable to your workplace. Invite others to read along with you. We're not teachers assigning homework but we should model desired behaviors.
2. Get Social
Encourage and support the creation of book clubs in the office. This is an area where you could leverage your enterprise social networks to connect people with reading as an interest. You might need to come up with a more interesting name because book clubs sound as appealing as the middle seat on an airplane. I'm trademarking "Retro Book Hang" and "Virtual Literally Review Share" so you'll have to come up with your own.
3. Make it a competition
This should probably have read: "Consider individual motivation". However, I really like to win (or maybe it's I really don't like to lose) so they're basically the same thing. Either way, think about a reading initiative offering extra days off or other cash and prizes to provide some additional incentive to read