Last month, I focused on writing skills and suggested a few things to improve and hone your ability to communicate in written form. This month, I'll be focusing on your reading skills and how they can contribute to everyday management effectiveness.
Reading is a critical skill that everyone should improve if they want to expand their knowledge, depth, and exposure to technology and management skills. I know that most of us tech-savvy people never read the manual. We jump right in and turn on that new hardware or fire up that new software tool without even taking the book out of the box. Many software tools do not even come with a book these days. There are so many resources online for finding the needed information that print manuals are not even provided. Reading the book is not the first thing that comes to mind when you venture into a new technology area.
But the uniqueness of reading cannot be overlooked. It is set apart from teacher/student interaction or watching a video. Reading is a personal interaction that happens between you and the material you are digesting. Print or digital - the medium does not matter. It is the written word that makes it unique. And reading is an activity you typically do alone. This means that you process things at your own pace. No one is making you speed up or slow down. You do it at your own speed.
With the amount of online videos out there for learning, has reading taken a back seat? Do we even need to read as much as we have in the past? Why bother reading when you can just search YouTube and find hundreds of videos about whatever you need to learn.
Reading is not just for gaining knowledge. Reading is for pleasure also. I actually read technical documents and books for pleasure. I am learning, but I am also enjoying the travel through a good book on the subject. I am not talking about prose, but technical documentation like a list of commands or preferences embedded in the CAD tool of choice. The discovery of a new tip or trick is entertaining. As I read I may think, “I knew that, yep – knew that… wait, I did not know that”. This process of uncovering some hidden switch in a software product that makes it all work better is like technical archeology. Digging for new jewels or sifting through a pile of information for that one overlooked artifact. Sound like fun? Well maybe not for you, but I enjoy it.
Here are a few things that you gain from reading as opposed to watching a video.
If you want to expand your vocabulary – read. I love reading on my iPad. The ebook reader allows me to highlight a word when I may not know the exact meaning and then ask for a definition. When I do that, up pops a quick definition for the word. Just last night I was reading the United States Declaration of Independence (not sure I had read the entire thing before, so I just pulled up a copy). I came across a word that I had never even heard before, let alone used. It was an archaic word… “perfidy”. It means untrustworthy. Now I know – I may never use that word, but I know can recognize it. Arcane
I am not a great speller. I have no fear of public speaking, but I do have a great fear of public spelling. Reading and seeing words in print assists us in the process of knowing the correct spelling of words and word sequences. How many times have you stopped after writing something and thought… “that does not look right”. It is the connection of the printed word to the eye that made you stop short.
Improves Your Writing
The more you read – the better you get at writing. I mentioned this in the last article, but bears repeating. It will improve your grammar, punctuation and phrasing skills plus exposes you to various methods of presenting data and arguments.
Exposure to Different Perspectives
Reading allows you to interact with people that you may never interact with in real life. I may never talk to some of the CAD and BIM experts out there, but I can read their material. I can get a feel for the way they think and approach problems and options in the software. I will find out how detailed they are when defining a procedure or process. I can read what areas they expand on and focus their efforts. All of this contributes to my ability to know what to look for and how to look at it.
Exposure to Varied Presentation Styles
Just like public speakers present in differing ways, writers also present the same material in different manners. They may go quickly over the concept to give you a broad look at the topic or dive deeply into the minutia of the areas of focus. Both of these are needed depending on where you may be in your learning process.
Taking in More
Actually (if Wikipedia is correct), the average person reads at a rate of 250-300 words per minute (WPM). When reading for comprehension, as with technical documents, a person may read at reduced 200-230 WPM. While proofreading (looking for errors) a person reads at a rate of 200 WPM on paper and about 180 WPM. Audio books are typically read at a rate of 150-160 WPM. Webinars and video seem to go even slower than that. So you can actually take in more by reading than watching and listening. By the way, Auctioneers typically talk at about 250 WPM. The World Champion Speed reader is Anne Jones who can read at 4,700 WPM with 67% comprehension. There are 1337 words in the Declaration of Independence, which means she could read it in about 17 seconds. Wow. (But I digress)
Reading actually allows you to take in more information, expose you to more perspectives, expand your vocabulary, and improve your spelling. So now it's your turn – go read something.