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The Last Business Book I Read Was...

January 24, 2009
by Tim Tolan
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During a recent interview with a CIO I took him through our typical search process which includes asking lots of questions to better understand his qualifications as a viable candidate. This was a very smart guy – no doubt! I was truly impressed in many ways by his answers to my questions as he shared details about his current role and how he had “moved the needle” with some very interesting initiatives he implemented. So far so good. Now another part of the test…

I asked him (a version) one of my (question #5) killer interview questions. “Tell me which recent business book you have read”? Simple enough question – right? I was floored! His answer went something like this: “Well (very long delay) it was probably that Ummm…The 7 Habits book…you know which one I’m talking about - right”? Yes I do. 1989 vintage… I said “recent”. Oh boy. I asked him if he was speaking about the great classic by Steven Covey and he nodded his head… clearly annoyed by his (very weak) answer. “Name another one I asked”. Ummm well, (still thinking) it was probably “The Greatest Secret in the World”. Ouch. Wrong answer. Cell phones were not even around when Og Mandino wrote that book. Great book – wrong answer. It was amazing that a “C” senior level executive could not name a business book he had read in over 20 years! WOW!

As CIO you should need (and want) to stay current with current business trends and issues. Make a commitment to yourself to adopt a continual learning strategy and become a life-long learner. READ! Especially since you are a “C” level executive, the technology leader of your healthcare enterprise with huge strategic responsibilities, an educated IT staff, and the steward of the operating and capital budgets for your IT organization. It’s not that hard! C’mon! READ!!! If you are not currently reading business books on a regular basis – take action now! Develop a plan and commit to read current business books when you are traveling, on weekends or as an alternative to watching TV (every night).

Reading 2-3 business books a year is a layup! It is not that hard to accomplish. You will learn a ton of new information, stay current with today’s business strategies and be a better technology executive for your staff and your employer.

So…I will ask you “What is the most recent business book you’ve read lately”?

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Comments

Tim,

As always, great advice. Two questions for you:

1. The last business book I read was the "4-Hour Work Week." Would your initial reaction to that info be, "Nice, she's on top of the latest trends/best sellers and looking for ways to be more efficient," or... "Obviously a slacker who is looking for the easy way out." ? In other words, better to be completely honest, or choose a "safer" response?

2. What business books do you personally recommend that have made an impact on the way you do business?

G.

Tim,
Great post. I too pay attention to the response to this probe, and not just of search interviewees. I've worked at places where the culture demanded that everyone had read several of the recent business books. In fact, the same ones.

I've also worked in teams where the culture of the senior execs was cynically negative about popular business books.

As our culture moves to even busier and shorter attention spans, do you anticipate asking about business articles (e.g. Harvard Business Review articles), podcasts (like Knowledge-at-Wharton), and video such as YouTube/iTune's University content (e.g. TED Talks)?

There's another issue, i.e. what constitutes reading.  See this posting.

Agreed Anthony! I take them with me on trips and download them to my i-Pod. Great time-saver and a better alternative to "radio noise". Turns your automobile into a mobile teaching machine!

Gwen:

What a set-up! First of all, I have not read that book - but the title might force me to do a bit of digging to understand the concepts behind the title. The term "slacker" did not enter my mind - Promise! I would have asked you what the book was about and what lessons you learned from the book for sure. The title is probably misleading!
As far as my own reading is concerned, I read quite a bit. A few of my most recent reads include "The Way to Wealth" by Brian Tracy and another one of his new books (he's written 50) "Flight Plan" which was wonderful. I am currently reading several books including "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell. This is a really interesting book — should finish it later this week. I also read his other books "Tipping Point" and "Blink" both good reads. Then, to comment on Anthony's post earlier, I also listened to "Tipping Point" on a drive to the mountains recently via books on tape - which was read by Gladwell. He is a great writer!

I guess that's hard to argue with Anthony. But... in this case this candidate was not a reader at all. 20 years is way too long to go without reading a book (business book or any book). I gave him several chances to recover - he just could not do it. Great point Anthony.

Tim. I would honestly be just as impressed (or more impressed) if someone was reading the biography of a great historical figure than if they were reading thoughts on leadership from someone who was successfuly merely from writing about leadership. So many times, those books contain examples from historical figures anyway. I just cut out the middleman.

Audiobooks are a godsend. Great for the commute and working out. 

Absolutely! It does not matter how the content is delivered - as long as the candidate reads or listens to current material. 20 years is a long time to go without reading or listening to a new business book or business material. I read your post and agree reading has multiple definitions!

Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

@@TimTolan

http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

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