Academic reading. What to read and it’s importance.

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I will start this blog with a small anecdote that made me think.

So here I am, University starts. I was just another additive to the vast population of London and its outer suburbs. Track back to my first week, I find myself buried beneath books, frantically searching for an insight to help me get started as an undergraduate. After being slightly disheartened of my worth among London natives, I realized that moving from Gloucester to London was probably more of a culture shock than London to the USA. As I stood reading the biography of Steve Jobs, I was approached some guy. Clean cut, nice shirt and well groomed, he stood tall. Later I found out that he’s a graduate and doctorate of Cambridge. As he stood behind me he advised me to ‘read strategic books, not biographies, still in shock that someone actually took the time to speak to me, I replied ‘Why?’, he said ‘You are in high school, right?’, slightly insulted, I began to tell him how I was actually an undergraduate at Kingston’s school of business. We spoke for a little over fifteen minutes. He continued to preach how so many people read biographies and only those who are post academia start reading more strategy, which if you think about it is actually very true.

Now why did this matter? Well as I thought about it, it became clearer. Now imagine that you are an undergraduate, a master of medical research or anything that you desire participating in during your own academic studies. You are the leading generation responsible for innovating an industry. You are the input into major businesses decisions, the fresh brains behind medical science, political structures and energy movements. This is a business blog, therefore I will focus on business. Repetition is good, I am aware of that. Do you not, however, think that interpreting someone else’s views and their philosophy behind business is the way to innovate and create academic breakthroughs? No. Innovation comes through risk. It comes as you learn how something works and then shape into something even better, creating and then implementing something that is much greater than what it was before.

Think about one of my recent blogs, ‘Big Data’. Do you think that the idea to design and build complex algorithmic machines came as a result of some technical whiz kid who read Ginni Rometty’s biography? No. Instead, they realized that strategically, through digital and technological advancements that there was a way to rework data science, which could potentially lead to increased business output.

This is where modernization and improvement takes place. Life in business is a series of steps. External factors changing around us will always allow for new and exciting things to happen.

I don’t really know if this is what the academic from Cambridge meant, I think that he wanted to give me an insight to academia and it’s importance before I aspired to a role model. And sure, I agree that it all depends on where you are, where you are going and how developed your plan is to a successful career after your academics. I do believe in personalization, individuality. Some will tell me that I am wrong, ‘a role model will always come first’. This is not my ideology; I understand that people are intrigued in their role models. But I just think that people become infatuated with these figures, become obsessed with reading about other people. They think it’s more important to understand how Warren Buffet is self-made, they think that how Branson skipping class as a youngster is more important than understanding the laws of business psychology. This is great in motivating in moderation, but never did it mention in both Branson and Buffets biography that their success was a derivative of their obsessions with their own business idols.

Yet again it comes down to my own very generic answer to absolutely everything. Academia, business and everything that we care about in self-development is a method of balance. Business is balance. There is no right or wrong thing to do. If you do extremely well in business, you will be an inspiration to others and most probably implement industry innovating strategy. If you don’t do well and you end up second or third best, you won’t know what could have been, or what choice you should have made. Therefore it will be irrelevant. Except you don’t want that to happen, you want to be the best and that’s why I chose to take the advice of strategy over biography. Let’s be honest, there is probably not a book that a business person published before 2013 that even mentioned ‘Big Data’, in fact my blog probably touches more strategy in that particular area than many top tier business biographies. Why? Because ‘Big Data’ is new, it’s fresh. It is only something that we can find when we look at snippets of research and regularly updated magazines such as ‘Harvard Business Review’ and ‘Marketing Week’.

Now I can tell you, some academics in business cannot tell you what integrated marketing communications is, or corporate philanthropic ventures. They will be able to tell you what corporate social responsibility (CSR) is, but will they be able to name the pillars of modernized CSR? Will they be able to tell you about economics and how it links to our modernized society? Probably not. The reason that I can is because I read strategy, I focus on strategy, I focus on my needs when I research and I am confident that this style of learning will pilot me to innovation and not repetition.


Follow me on Twitter: @connorjohh
Email me on: connorwells111@gmail.com

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