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Welcome to the WISE newsletter, a program of
The Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University

Monday, July 03, 2006

How to read a business book

Is there a method to reading business books? According to the web site Innovation Tools, the answer is "yes." They have summarized advice from Andrew Hargadon and both web pages are worth reading.

Once of the pieces of advice that Hargadon gives is to read skeptically.
Most business books are made of three roughly equal parts. The first part is just plain obvious. It's the head-nodding claims about how critical leadership is, what changing times we live in, or how we need to be happy in our work. This stuff makes sure the reader is reading the right book -- a little like when the flight attendant tells you where this fight is heading. The second major part includes the ideas that are common to most every business book on the subject: leaders are visionary, innovation is about breaking the rules, etc.... This is valuable knowledge the first time you hear it, and also why the second book you read is less enlightening. The last third of the book is what'’s the unique contribution of the author. When you've got a good sense of the first two thirds, you can begin skimming books looking for this last, elusive bit of value. But beware! The rule of thirds applies here too: 1/3 of this unique contribution will be brilliant, 1/3 will be obvious, and 1/3 will be complete malarkey. You'll have to figure out which is which.


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