Beware the Bullet Point: Critical Thinking and Well-Told Stories

Beware the Bullet Point: Critical Thinking and Well-Told Stories

At first, some are skeptical of the role literature can play in corporate settings. After all, a novel (or short story or play) can take a long time to make even a single point about human experience. In Hamlet, for example, Shakespeare expends 30,000 words to provide a window on the pitfalls of decision-making. Wouldn’t a short article (or even a PowerPoint presentation) more efficiently summarize the salient factors that produce good or bad decisions for work teams? But what might we miss?

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Changing Philosophies: Creating Open and Inclusive Workplaces

Changing Philosophies: Creating Open and Inclusive Workplaces

Recent research leaves little doubt that open, connected and inclusive organizations consistently outperform peers in employee wellbeing, innovation and workplace productivity. But the culture required to maintain openness and inclusion assumes an authentically collective mindset – a mindset that differs considerably from the individual focus that dominates Western society. How do we override centuries of Western thinking and open ourselves up to new philosophies of human relationships at work?

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The Power of Experience

The Power of Experience

One of the most amazing discoveries to come out of Books@Work is the power of participant life experience. Unlike a traditional classroom-based seminar, in which the professor and text have something to teach the students, the power of our model is that it fosters the unique collision of three important elements: professor expertise, text and participant experience.

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Books@Work Goes to College: Our Wellness Programs with University Staff and Faculty

Books@Work Goes to College: Our Wellness Programs with University Staff and Faculty

When we think of workplace wellness, we tend to think of physical health: weight loss challenges, gym reimbursements, on-site flu vaccinations, or fitness trackers. There are clear benefits to keeping a workforce healthy and strong, like fewer sick days and lower healthcare costs. But a large research university that recently completed two Books@Work programs sees wellness in a whole new light.

Is physical health really the only factor that affects employee well-being – or is there more to wellness than we think?

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Being Asked to Dance: The Key to Diversity Is Inclusion

Being Asked to Dance: The Key to Diversity Is Inclusion

Most leaders know that diversity and inclusion go hand-in-hand. But like many concepts in the business world, “diversity and inclusion” has become a buzzword phrase, something that we speak of frequently but may not fully understand.

In a talk at the AppNexus Women’s Leadership Forum in 2015, diversity consultant Vernā Myers brilliantly described the difference between diversity and inclusion: “Diversity is being invited to the party,” she said. “Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

So why is inclusion so hard?

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A Meeting of Minds: Shared Reading and Lifelong Learning at Work

A Meeting of Minds: Shared Reading and Lifelong Learning at Work

Who doesn’t enjoy a lively conversation? Mortimer Adler, the co-founder of the Great Books program, wrote, “Of all the things that human beings do, conversing with one another is the most characteristically human.” Adler’s How to Read a Book is a literary classic, but less well known is his 1983 companion volume How to Speak and How to Listen. Conversation – speaking and listening – is part of the normal activities of life, but Adler describes a kind of communication that goes deeper, a “two-way talk [that] can achieve a meeting of minds, a sharing of understandings and thoughts, of feelings and wishes.” This kind of conversation is pleasurable and satisfying – but why is it so rare?

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The Elephant in the Room: Healthy Companies Address Workplace Problems

The Elephant in the Room: Healthy Companies Address Workplace Problems

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation on the importance of social interactions in the workplace at the International Conference & Exposition of the Association of Training and Development in Atlanta. Over four days, 10,000 attendees chose from 400 presentations on a broad array of topics.

In a session on culture, Joseph Grenny, author and co-founder of the social science research firm VitalSmarts, asserted simply: “The health of a relationship, team or organization is a function of the average time lag between identifying and discussing problems.”

We’ve all worked with someone who excels at finding all the things an organization does wrong. Maybe we’ve even found ourselves doing it too. Identifying problems is easy. Talking about them? Not so much.

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Beyond the Workplace Happy Hour

Beyond the Workplace Happy Hour

Many of us have experienced a workplace happy hour. Maybe it’s a weekly thing: HR plans the outing, picks the bar, and you and your colleagues leave a few minutes early each Friday to grab drinks together. It’s a wonderful way to shrug off the workday worries and share laughs with colleagues outside the context of work. But how much do you bond with people at happy hour? Do you get to know the colleagues who work in a different department or on the opposite side of the building – or do you talk to the people you already know?

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Should We Make Friends at Work?

Should We Make Friends at Work?

When was the last time you made a great friend?

Way back when, the structure of the school day provided the perfect conditions for new friendship. We attended the same classes, we learned from the same teachers, and we experienced many of the same growing pains. It’s no wonder we bonded with each other.

So why doesn’t the same happen at work?

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That Can Be Me: How a Genuine Literature Discussion Can Lead to Self-Discovery

That Can Be Me: How a Genuine Literature Discussion Can Lead to Self-Discovery

In a recent post, I explored the subject of listening as understanding, and ever since I have had a heightened awareness of talking and listening in the public space – and, more importantly, in my own social interactions. The current public discourse displays a flood of talking and a drought of listening, but I have been surprised at how much private discourse (including my own) suffers from the same conversational excesses. We seem to listen so poorly, in fact, that we no longer notice how little genuine dialogue is happening. If listening does lead to the “miracle of understanding” described in my earlier post, how do Books@Work discussions make that miracle happen?

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