Rarely do I recommend a book to someone to fulfill a need for development. While I love to read, it is probably the least effective way to learn. Here are two knocks against making it the default for development:
1. Reading is too often hiding. Here is an example – conflict management. I have encountered two situations in the past year where someone was assigned a task to read a book about dealing more directly with conflict. In each case they did not get better but they enjoyed the book. Hmm . . . .
2. Reading is based on the premise that you need more information to deal with a challenge. My first question around a development goal is what have you learned or experienced in the past that applies to this challenge? My two oldest children have received more leadership training in the last year than I have in the last 5 years. Use what they have first, and they likely have something to use.
Here are two moves that help replace the need for books and still provide a way to refresh your knowledge and challenge your thinking:
1. Find one thinker that pushes you and commit to reading their blog, YouTube channel, or email every week. (I read Seth Godin and have setup a Feedly page to send me content in topics that are important for me)
2. Carve out 15 minutes of learning time in every team meeting where people on your team teach each other something new. Need content? See #1.
I love learning. In each of the 5 times I have taken the Strengthsfinder assessment over the last 10 years Learner shows up in my top 5. Learning agility is the one competency Lominger was able to tie to the identification of high potentials. Learning is important, but in 2014 it does not mean pick up a book.
My message for 2014 is to keep learning but put the books away and add more doing to your development goals.