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What I’ve Been Reading – September 2017

“Spend time walking with thinkers.” That’s something a mentor of mine used to say, and he was referring to reading.  He saw reading as a way to connect with great thinkers and enrich intellect. He was right. When people make the time to read, they become more inspired, engage and empowered.

But there’s also a challenge—many people find it hard to make the time commitment. That’s why I’m starting this new newsletter series: “What I’ve Been Reading.” Each month I’ll share a short list of interesting pieces. My preferences tend towards non-fiction, and I’m usually interested in leadership, economics and current events. I’m a fan of high-quality publications like Fast Company, The Atlantic, McKinsey, The NY Times, The Economist, and Harvard Business Review; but also some less mainstream sources. Sometimes I’ll include a TED Talk too.

Here is what I’ve been reading this past month. I hope you find it useful.

  • Fast Company: Satya Nadella Rewrites Microsoft’s Code, by Harry McCracken—This fascinating article is about how Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, has stopped infighting, restored morale, and created more than $250 billion in market value for Microsoft. Take note of his focus on shifting the culture from “know-it-all” to “learn-it-all.” There’s also a big change in the company’s mission statement—from Bill Gates’, “A PC on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software,” to a more modern mantra: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth—University of Pennsylvania professor and MacArthur Genius fellow, Angela Duckworth believes the secret to exceptional achievement is not raw talent. Rather, it’s a special blend of passion, persistence, and deliberate practice; a combination she calls “grit.” The idea is based on observations from Duckworth’s early-career stints in teaching and business consulting, that later became the focus of her research. This book is relevant for anyone interested in high achievement.
  • TED Talk: Forget the Pecking Order, by Margaret Heffernan—Margaret Heffernan is a former CEO of five companies who now writes about leadership. In this thought-provoking talk, Heffernan examines how a failed experiment to develop “super-chickens” sheds light on serious problems in the work place. She challenges traditional notions about “super-stars” and what makes a high-performing team. Listen to her ideas on the importance of empathy, “social-connectedness”, “cultures of helpfulness” and “generous contributors” vs. “heroic soloists.”
  • NY Times: Rick Levin on Moving From the Ivy League to Silicon Valley, by Adam Bryant—Rick Levin was president of Yale University for 20 years and is now CEO of Coursera, a Silicon Valley tech start-up. In this fascinating interview, Levin talks about the importance of critical (but often under-appreciated) leadership traits—humility, listening, authenticity, and getting used to the idea of failure when trying new things.
  • McKinsey: Putting Lifelong Learning on the CEO Agenda, By Amy Edmondson and Bror Saxberg—Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, and learning engineer Bror Saxberg present an emphatic case to make learning a corporate priority. They believe the accelerating pace of technology will make cognitive skills a significant competitive advantage; and that companies will differentiate themselves not just by having high-tech tools, but by how their people interact with those tools to make complex decisions. Edmondson and Saxberg give steps that leaders should take to elevate learning as a competitive strategy.

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