Don’t be a slug. Read weird stuff. Roger Firestien

A number of years ago, Dr. Donna Hamlin at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute did a study on the reading habits of scientists. She grouped the scientists into three categories. The first group was labeled “innovative”; these scientists exhibited the highest creative productivity as measured by patents.

The second group was labeled “productive”; these scientists were known for being technically proficient.

The third group was labeled “slugs”; they were neither innovative nor productive.

Dr. Hamlin found that “slugs” read almost nothing. The “productive” scientists read almost exclusively in their field, while the “innovative” scientists (who were not always as technically up-to-date as their “productive” colleagues) read in a variety of fields. In fact, a great deal of the latter group’s reading was outside of their area of expertise. These scientists read everything from science fiction to technical journals, from Popular Mechanics to Psychology Today, and therefore enjoyed a much richer storehouse of information from which to generate new concepts.

A friend of mine, who is a leader in a food service organization, tells the young college graduates who work with him “If you want to find out what’s going on in the food service industry today, read Restaurant Business or Food and Wine Magazine. But if you want to find out what’s going to be going on in this field in the future, read Psychology Today, Wired or Entrepreneur“.

In other words, you can read all the technical stuff in your field to find out what’s going on. But to spot the trends of the future and to get new information, you need to read OUTSIDE of your area.

Don’t have time to read? Then listen to podcasts and audio books. But don’t choose topics that that focus solely on your business. Consciously look for topics in which you might be peripherally interested. Look for subjects that you are just curious about. If you are listening in your car, keep that smart phone handy to record those new insights. Just make sure you aren’t texting.

This is a perfect time of year to enjoy the holidays and settle in with a good book, podcast or audio book.

Thank you for all of your wonderful comments and your business in 2017.

Have a fantastic and safe holiday season. See you in 2018.

Roger L. Firestien, Ph.D.

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