Reading Strategies: Business Journals

In the world of business, there are the movers and shakers and then there are the bystanders who study what happens and publishes it as Business Journals. In this symbiotic relationship, the bystanders happen to be researchers and professors at Business Schools who teach the future movers and shakers – and provide insight to the current movers and shakers to help them get out of their pinch. Reading business journals not only helps the corporate guys to stay abreast with the latest concerns in their industry, it also helps a thriving small business owner widen his/her perspective on current offerings that could help their business.

There are many types of journals specific to each industry such as Finance, HR, Automotive, but for this blog post I will concentrate on the reading strategy for business journals that is compiled and widely published as books – the Harvard Business Review.

The reason I chose to provide a reading strategy for such business journals is because Harvard Business Review is the most cited journal publication in the world. Its impact shows that the in-depth study that is done before the journal is accepted for publishing is indeed useful. Apart from that, a journal selected as part of a published Harvard Business Review does speak for itself. A lot of hard work had been put to churn out that seven to 12 page of journal. Make no mistake that the studies are NOT based on small samples; there are studies that have gone on for decades and passed on to younger researchers before the journal is sent for publication.

My personal take on Harvard Business Review is that I have yet to read any business books so heavy with information that is as relevant, yet easy to digest as Harvard Business Reviews. That said, having the reading strategies for business journals would give you an upper hand in making sure you are making the best investment for your time spent on the book and your money.

STEP 1: READING SAMPLES

There is a myriad of topics that is covered by Harvard Business Review such as Managing People, Managing Yourself and Organizational Culture. Besides that, there are publications for Entrepreneurship and also Leadership Lessons from Sports. It is an extensive list so the first step you need to do when choosing a Harvard Business Review to read is to choose one topic that you are interested in.

If you are currently looking at restructuring your company and many division will need to leverage, the most insightful Harvard Business Review for you would be HBR’s 10 Must Read: Collaboration. Never mind the need to manage a huge change as there exists an HBR’s 10 Must Read: Change Management 🙂

If you can’t seem to decide which you should read, whether on Collaboration or Change Management; Step 2 will give you a better insight to invest your time and money on the best Harvard Business Review for you.

STEP 2: FINDING OUT YOUR OVERVIEW

Personally, I find the most beautiful trait about Harvard Business Review is their Index page. If there is something we are truly overwhelmed by on the Internet, it is information overload and HBR nails exactly that. Their Index page is so well and specific that you only get the information you really need. Let’s say I read a journal about blockchain on Harvard Business Review and want to find out more, I simply use the terms indexed under blockchain on its Index page so that I only get the relevant information I need. Doesn’t that save a lot of time?

So in order for you to find out which Harvard Business Review you would learn best for the situation you are in, head to the Index page at the back. Scan through the terms and decide which publication holds more relevant terms that speak out to you in its Index page. That’s how you decide whether your topic is Collaboration or Change Management.

I know, you may thank me later 🙂

STEP 3: BREAKING DOWN THE BOOK (JOURNAL)

The main idea of reading a Harvard Business Review is to figure out something. It is not about evaluating the author’s writing skill, nor is it to question the validity of the information. Holding on to your main purpose of reading business journal, which is to figure out something – quickly skim through the Editor’s Notes to weigh the gist of each journal. Once you have identified your top priority journal, move to the Contents section to find out the page number of that journal.

Once you have landed on the right page, find the section Idea in Brief to get an overview of what the journal will cover. One great tip I can give is to move straight to the Case Studies included in the journal, this way you immediately identify if the problems you are facing is relatable to this journal. This would also subsequently arouse your desire to find out more and read the business journal thoroughly.

At this point, you could quickly skim through the main topics in the journal (usually in bold) and only read content that is relevant to you, without wasting to much time on the learning if you have already figured it out. Some people do read business journals just for inspiration on how to solve their current problem at work.

If you intend to read for learning, you might want to actively engage yourself with the content of the journal to get the best out of your investment of time and money on reading a Harvard Business Review. This can be done by following Step Four and Step Five below.

STEP 4: PLANTING QUESTIONS

The easiest way to start planting questions when reading a Harvard Business Review is to focus on any chart, figure or table that is included in the journal. Skim the figure and be critical with what you see as to question how the this figure would benefit to serve your problem. With the knowledge on the case studies and a summed of figure in your hand (and mind), you are ready to plant questions as you read through the journal.

Another tip to boost your question seeking activity is to read more on the author of the journal from the About the Contributor section on the final pages of the Harvard Business Review. Having background information about the author would give you an insight to the author’s bias and perspective to help you plant questions and actively engage yourself while reading.

STEP 5: MEETING YOUR CONCLUSIONS

Once you finished reading the journal, you need to have a check-and-balance to see if your comprehension is aligned to the points provided in the business journal. One way to do this is to re-read the Idea in Brief section and see if you had missed any important part in the journal. On the other hand, you could re-visit the chart, figure or table to see if you have a better grasp at understanding the point the author is trying to make.

When your new knowledge jives with the idea that is formed in your mind, you should start sketching a draft proposal to solve your problem. When you are able to formulate a solution from your reading, it is suffice to say that you met your conclusions and you have made a good investment of your time and money by reading a business journal!

So there you have it! My five steps for Reading Strategies: Business Journals to help you with a structure when reading such publication. Enjoy!

-Baini Mustafa

How to Choose Non-Fiction: Self-Help

As the final post in my How to Choose Non-Fiction series, I present to you the most cringed upon genre, Self-Help. It takes a lot of confidence to walk over the Self-Help aisle at the bookstore, because it just seemed that there is something not right about you, that you need some pyscho-talk to yourself. Allow me to brush off that impression. Self-Help is the genre that had helped millions by emulating the techniques and practices  from the books they read. How do you expect yourself to have a one-to-one session with a successful person, if not by reading the book he had written?

In addition to that, Self-Help books aren’t those type that promises that you can be a millionaire in 45 days, with all the pep-talk that you can do it, you can do it, you can do it – and confetti falling from out of nowhere. That’s propaganda BS from publishers trying to make money out of you naïvety. Self-Help are the books that let you become the best version of yourself. The people who dare enough to visit the Self-Help shelves, are the ones nearing this attainment. Because they identified a flaw in their selves (because everyone thinks themselves perfect!) and is looking for a way to address it.

In my personal experience with reading Self-Help, nothing much happens if you don’t put the theories into action. Self-Help books could merely be books about the things you already know but don’t do, and that’s a shame. In my heart of hearts, I do believe reading Self-Help books is the first step in acknowledging that your circumstances don’t change unless you do. In order to ease your selection in the Self-Help section, I would breakdown the entire genre to three main niches and I would also recommend the best reading in that niche.

NUMBER 1: TIME MANAGEMENT

Time is free and yet it is our most valuable asset. Everyone is given the exact amount everyday and yet its impact is not the same. Most successful people are the masters of their time or they have learnt the art of using their time effectively. Most successful people spend time on things that matter and sees time as an investment, rather than a hand that tells you your schedule. Ultimately, how you spend your time is how you spend you life!

The book I recommend to read about time management is the one by Brian Tracy because he breaks down time management into the 10 most important aspects of our lives – family, career, relaxation, income improvement and others. Effective how-tos and strategies are placed according to the aforementioned aspects, including the results of practicing your best time management skill in your life. I would definitely recommend this book to those who feel overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities and need to take a step back to assess their priorities.

NUMBER 2: PRODUCTIVITY

This book by Stephen R. Covey is a classic and every household should own one copy. Although this book is about character building, and not about making more money – I believe this is the handbook to Productivity because without solid character to base upon, no business would last. For example, we see more and more people going up the ladder just by taking orders without questioning the value of the work they’re doing – please know that there is no such thing as a zero-sum game and the journey of life is bigger than just a temporary bump in your paycheck.

Winners in life allow others to win as well because they know human relationships is for the long run and it is more effective to live in agreement, rather than playing the win-lose game. Personally, I find this book a gem because it encourages you to act in harmony with your values rather than giving-in to external pressure. There is a lot to digest (a lot about values!) in this book, so make sure you are ready for change when you pick this up so that you make the most out of it.

NUMBER 3: FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

Other than managing your time well and having solid values, managing your finances well is also key to living a beautiful life. The Richest Man in Babylon distills the best personal financial advice in the form of a fable, because personal finance advice is best narrated as a story. The book is less than 150 pages and does not contain complex financial terms to make you save and earn more money. Although a lot of investment theories have been formed since this book was written in the 1920s, the advice from this book still stands.

I would recommend this book to everyone too and to keep a copy at home so that it not only benefits you, it would benefit somebody else as well.

I hope my breaking down Self-Help into smaller niches helps you with making you book decisions. Remember, it is always about reading something that you are interested in, authored by good writers and sits well with your frame of mind. We have come to the last post of the How to Choose Non-Fiction series, do let me know if you would like more of this or something else – any feedback is welcome, either good or bad.

-Baini Mustafa

How to Choose Non-Fiction: Cognitive Science

Don’t let the term ‘Cognitive Science’ shun you away from this post. Hear me out, allow me to explain cognitive science and then you can decide if this is what you need. There is nothing intimidating in the word cognitive, it simply means ‘thinking behaviour’ and in today’s post I will provide the top three thinking behaviour books that are useful for you to read or just keep a copy at home and hope one day your kids might read it.

For reasons (yet) unbeknownst to me, I visit this section at the library quite often when I was younger because it made me realise that thinking is not an integral part of your self – thinking is an entity in itself and there are ways to monitor and control it. How many times in a day do you see people doing things without thinking? Driving and making a turn without signals? Liking a post on Facebook without reading its content? Buying something useless just because it was on sale? I rest my case.

So you see, thinking is NOT an integral part of your self and isn’t it worrisome? Let’s backtrack ourselves and make THINKING back in style by picking up a book on thinking behaviours. Or you may simply check out the three listed below on how to choose cognitive science non-fiction.

NUMBER 1: THE ART OF THINKING CLEARLY BY ROLF DOBELLI

In this book, Dobelli breaks cognitive theories using case studies which makes this book easy to relate to, hence easy to read. I would definitely recommend this book to those who are considering this genre of non-fiction because you would find that the case studies are interesting and the outcomes of the case study usually don’t match our expectation. Just the way anyone would read a mystery novel and your suspect isn’t the actual murderer. Aren’t those kind of reads the most satisfying ones? 🙂

Dobelli shows how people apply biases in every decisions that they make and that anxiety amplifies the smallest matter. Although Dobelli’s book showcases many examples, he did not provide a solution to overcome the problems of our thinking behaviour. This is the kind of book that would introduce you to the world of cognitive science and make you aware of your own thinking behaviour. And I believe being aware and conscious of your thoughts is AN IMPORTANT FIRST STEP.

NUMBER 2: ORIGINALS BY ADAM GRANT

I super love this book! Unlike the Art of Thinking Clearly, this book is written by a professor in the study of psychology and I will always endorse quality reading of verified information from reputable writers. In the same vein, don’t let the writer’s credentials fool you into thinking this book as academic, because its writing style targets the general public with laymen terms and relatable examples and ideas. In this book, Adam Grant provides solutions to overcome degenerating cognitive practices by becoming an original.

He provides insights on what non-conformists can do to make themselves heard and understood in order to shatter groupthink – to champion change and challenge the status quo. He encourages thinking differently than we are used to, to create more opportunities for ourselves and not confine ourselves to the defaults. In my opinion, Originals is a fresh take on the normal everyday wisdom we are accustomed with, its insight on the limitations we set for our cognitive skill had hindered a lot of progress and freedom. One of the key takeaway I get from this book is to triple the amount of ideas you generate and to welcome criticism.

I would recommend this book to those who feel the need to fight when it comes to advocating their work and for those who find themselves making personal decisions (routinely)  by considering its outward impact as opposed to its inward impact on yourself. On that note, I welcome any questions you have about this book, as I really believe everyone should read or at least know about this book.

NUMBER 3: ANY BOOK BY EDWARD DE BONO

I would seriously recommend any book from the person who coined the term ‘lateral thinking’, Edward de Bono. He is best known for his widely-practiced 6 Thinking Hats and has a large collection of publication simply on the topic of cognitive science. I have read a few of his books throughout the years and I discover that we really don’t think as hard as we should, we don’t think as much as we think we do, we really don’t use much of our brain capacity – we let our brain rest too much! Edward de Bono does not only cover problem solving, his books are actually targeted to finding problems!

People might think finding problems is easier than solving one until it had to be done. By finding problems, we intentionally build something before the problem it causes becomes expensive and difficult to manage. For this to be done, a makeover on our thinking behaviour is needed – we need to harp on creativity instead of analytical skills. Edward de Bono’s books provide guides to induce creativity, case studies of where his methods have been tested and proven positive. I would say that Edward de Bono’s books are like textbooks to creativity, but then that’s an oxymoron – where oxymoron is also a branch of creativity 🙂

I hope my post provides an insight on how to chose non-fiction in the cognitive science section. These are wonderful books to read if you allow yourself to bask in the light of our thinking behaviour.

-Baini Mustafa

 

How to Choose Non-Fiction: Lifestyle

It is a little known niche at the Non-Fiction shelves, a section for Self-Help that is dedicated for Lifestyle. I personally love lifestyle non-fictions as far as books go, because it gives you an insight to a way of living that you have not experienced before. While not every stranger would willingly open up to you about what they do the first hour of their day, lifestyle non-fiction elaborates in breadth and depth on the habits of people who are happy, enjoy long life, minimalism and many other positive traits.

Furthermore, lifestyle non-fictions are a breeze to read with no heavy theories to comprehend and is best read while on vacation, in a relaxed setting. Below are my tips on how to choose Non-Fiction: Lifestyle, depending on your aim and the lifestyle you are seeking for. Do note that the books I recommend below are ones with the clearest ‘how-to’ guides to change the way you live.

NUMBER 1 – THE LITTLE BOOK OF HYGGE, DANISH WAY TO LIVE WELL

If you are one of those who just want to slump into bed right after a long day of work, here is a recommended reading for you. It is important to notice that this book is about living well as opposed to being happy. That’s really because happiness is a by-product, and living well IS a means to happiness.

Hygge is a Danish word that implies coziness, the way the word ‘istirahat’ in Malay would imply because it creates the feeling of stillness, relaxation, gratitude. By ‘istirahat’, I don’t mean sleeping in all day but more to enjoying the FEELING while doing the small things like reading newspaper with hot tea and piping hot ‘cekodok’ at your grandma’s patio – stuff like that. In this book, the writer emphasised on the importance of creating vs. consuming to create the sense of hygge. For example, instead of hitting the mall with your kids to enjoy some pastries after a movie, why not stay in and let the pastries you bake (with your kids) fill the house with its aroma while you watch a movie at home?

I would recommend those who want more quality in life to read this book as it not only lets you in on how to do that, it also gives tips on how to turn your house into your own hygge haven. I would also remark here that the book contains a lot of hygge images, even flipping through the book created hygge 🙂

NUMBER 2 – IKIGAI: THE JAPANESE SECRET TO A LONG AND HAPPY LIFE

The term ikigai means ‘life effect’ which is believed to be the essence of being and purpose that lead people to happiness. In this book, the lifestyle of Okinawan is studied as it boasts the largest population of those over the age of 100 years old. The most astonishing fact is their community of centenarian do not suffer from dementia and are fit. Surely there must be something about their diet, daily habit and mental state that we could learn from.

What I take away from this book is that in order to enjoy life, we must SERVE. Life is best enjoyed creating, being outdoors, having intimate relationships. If we want to live strong with vitality, the only way is to be out there and live it. Nobody gets stronger in life by sprawling on the sofa, thinking you are conserving energy. Energy needs to be used to be created.

Getting yourself out there, creating, gives your life purpose and the happiness you seek. And that would make life worth living 100 years more.

NUMBER 3 – THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP

I would definitely command this book for changing my life. I did a total ‘konmari’ (Marie Kondo is the name of the author) on my clothes, handbags and shoes last year and found that I have not missed any of my stuff. Liberating myself from the little items that are kept for years without use, gave me a lot of clarity to the things that actually matter. Not only does this book provide the how-to, it provides insight on the emotional up and downs on parting with physical things.

I find Marie’s thoughts are expressed from an expert’s view who not only weighs the visual impact of tidiness but also the psychological effects of living simply. I would recommend this book for people who tend to cling to dusty memorabilia, loves shopping for the sake of shopping and people who would want to dip their toes into minimalism.

The three books I’ve listed here on how to choose a lifestyle non-fiction are easy reads, almost like reading lifestyle magazines in fact – only that the writing is by industry experts and backed by data and studies. As always, I highly recommend reading verified quality materials if you decide to invest your time in reading.

-Baini Mustafa