Critical thinking is one half of the skill set needed to overcome obstacles. A big part of developing that critical thought muscle is the consumption of subjective viewpoints. This can be done through a variety of media types, but the most practical way to consume a large of amount of information is by reading blogs, books, journals and magazines. The great thing about written subjective views is they are plentiful and diverse. Unfortunately, normal people fail to take advantage of this because they don’t know how to read.
Experts and pontificators are not there to give you an instruction manual on how to be good at your job, but this is how they tend to be used by their readers. Most of the time normal people who are “well read” find a few authors they totally agree with and relate to and stick to them. They attempt to directly implement the things they’ve read into their job function. This is the wrong way to read because it develops critical thinking very slowly. For example, the rise of ‘ten tips’ articles has diminished the value of reading subjective viewpoints because they are used as instruction manuals with minimal thought applied by the consumer. This translates into continued mediocrity by employees and managers who mistakenly think they’ve got it all figured out.
The best way to read is to:
- Pick fights – Choose who you read based on who ‘stretches you out’ the most, not just people you agree with or have an easy time understanding. Consuming subjective viewpoints is about learning, thinking about your work in new ways and relating to people you didn’t relate to before. Agreement is not valuable; we learn more from those who form different conclusions than we do.
- Diversify – Do sprints (blogs), milers (magazine articles) and marathons (books) to get yourself in the best critical-thinking shape possible. Changing up your sources helps you adjust leadership methods when called for. You won’t be the guy who launches million dollar initiatives to solve tactical problems (too many books) or the manager who tells executives she will solve a major quality problem by giving the staff ‘mind breaks’ (too many blogs).
- Tailor the application of ideas – You aren’t reading to be told what to do, you are reading to collect ideas that help you form a strategy that is unique to you. Don’t forget you have your own perspective to add to the mix!
Once you are a pro at reading the right way, you will find that your vision improves and you are able to solve problems quickly. You’re no longer reading to follow instructions, you’re reading to think better.