I had to think about which direction I wanted to go with this. I’ve created more than enough reading assignments for high school and university courses in my day, but have also doled out a plethora of these through my different leadership roles in different companies and organizations. In the end, I decided to focus on reading assignments in a business setting.
I’ve almost inevitably had some research or growth-catalyst responsibilities in all of my different corporate positions — some formal and some informal. The challenge in each of these roles has always been finding a good way to disseminate interesting resources to the right people and in a way that will prompt them to actually read or skim the information.
Over the years, I’ve done everything from weekly creating briefing digests to scheduling face-to-face discussion groups. What I’ve learned, not surprisingly, is that the same steps that make reading assignments valuable to students in our schools work remarkably well with colleagues and employees.
For me, there are three important steps in any type of reading assignment.
- Contextualize — I seldom get good results sending cold reading assignments, even if it’s something I know the receiver is interested in (and even if they work for me and know the topic is important to me as their manager). People are busy. They have lots of things competing for their attention. As a result, I find it useful to contextualize or prepare people for readings through quick water-cooler conversations or heads-up remarks in a meeting. I do my best to make this a dialogue so that people become active participants in interest around the reading.
- Explore — I get better results if the people I send a reading to feel that we are part of a co-exploration. Everyone resists homework to some extent, but they like discovery and exploration within a community.
- Share and Follow-up — Finally, I find it really effective to follow up with people by sharing something I found interesting int eh reading, and applying that to a current company context. This prompts useful feedback, dialogue and, if I’m lucky, application.