Learning: It’s Not Just What You Know

Learning: It’s Not Just What You Know

In a TED talk that has been viewed almost 50 million times, Kenneth Robinson says that education “goes deep with people” when it taps into their innate desire to learn and grow. We start with creativity and curiosity that motivates our learning – but too often we lose much of our enthusiasm for “education” along the way. I like to think that each of us actually is an expert on learning. We just need to step away from the idea that learning is simply mastering new information and skills and think back to times when we learned things that really mattered to us and the people around us.

But what is learning if it’s not just the acquisition of new knowledge?

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The Best Way to Reveal Essential Truth? Read Fiction!

The Best Way to Reveal Essential Truth? Read Fiction!

Throughout a colorful and productive career, Pablo Picasso exposed form and color, disassembling his subjects and reshaping them in ways that at once obfuscated and illuminated them. In 1923, in a famous written statement, Picasso defended his craft to those who failed to understand his motives and his work: “We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.”  

So how does this truth-revealing “lie” apply to Books@Work?

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Revisiting Required Reading

Revisiting Required Reading

Surprise and joy in revisiting required reading from school years is a reaction we hear quite a bit. It’s common sense: putting a book on a required reading list makes it feel like an arduous task to be completed. It’s normal to associate authors like John Steinbeck, Willa Cather and F. Scott Fitzgerald with memories of deadlines and tests rather than the connection we felt to the literature. But revisiting Steinbeck’s The Long Valley as an adult in a Books@Work session puts the book in an entirely different context; you’re there by choice, and you’re there with others who want to read the book too. It’s liberating.

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The Search for Beauty: One Voice, A New Perspective

The Search for Beauty: One Voice, A New Perspective

More often than we may realize, one person’s voice, quietly asserted in a moment, changes how an entire group sees things. I witnessed such a moment a few weeks ago during a Books@Work session that brought together police officers and community members to discuss Gabriel García Márquez’s story “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World.” The story is a classic example of the literary genre known as magical realism – but this moment in the discussion gave new meaning to that term.

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Who Reads Shakespeare?

Who Reads Shakespeare?

This American Life’s “Act V” tells the story of “one of the most evocative productions of Shakespeare done anywhere in 2002,” not on Broadway or the West End, but at a high-security prison in eastern Missouri. Arranged by an organization called Prison Performing Arts, the prison staged one act of Hamlet every six months. “Act V” portrays the prisoners’ preparation for and production of Hamlet’s final climactic act.

So how can prison inmates, many of whom have never finished high school, stage a production of one of Shakespeare’s most philosophical plays?

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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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