Jim comes as a very prolific user of MindGenius – having used the system to capture ideas and energy in nearly 200 sessions with communities and industrial sectors across Scotland in his time as minister. In doing so, he helped people see the benefits of increased collaboration, cohesion and the need to define a unifying purpose.
In embarking on this approach, he recognised that he needed to connect with bright people and their ideas so in addition to dialogue with others, he became a voracious reader of books that offered insights and strategies that could help him and Scotland improve.
Here he details what attracted him to such books and why he chose to map them out using MindGenius:
Have you always been an avid reader? Not really, but senior challenging roles soon persuaded me that I need to know more than I could ever learn from conversation or trial & error.
Perhaps I was influenced by John Adams, the Second President of the USA, who once said “I must judge for myself, but how can I judge and how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading.”
How do you select books to read? I have been looking out for books that were able to help me fulfil my roles and build arguments for autonomy, collaboration, mediation and the development of common cause – all of which were also important to Scotland.
But the big secret is to talk about these books and share the ideas in them – so that others know that you are a reader of quality books – and then you can expect thoughtful and appropriate recommendations from a widening circle of like-minded people. This in turn allows you to recommend more good books to others and you can then enjoy a constant stream of worthwhile books and better conversations – constrained only by time and money.
What type of books? I am tempted to reply with one word:- “worthwhile” – but not all of them met that criterion for I made some mistakes and got a few poor recommendations.
They cover most aspects of business life: Biographies, Leadership, Strategy. Mediation, Systems Thinking, Economics, Inequality, The Financial Crisis, Evidence-based management, People and motivation.
And of these my current top ten is as follows:
- The New Economic for Industry Government and Education by W. Edwards Deming
- The Age of the Unthinkable by Joshua Cooper Ramo
- Trust by Anthony Seldon
- The Puritan Gift by Kenneth & William Hopper
- The Living Company by Arie de Geus
- The Origin of Wealth: by Eric Beinhocker
- Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed
- Stabilising an Unstable Economy by Hyman Minsky
- The Truth about Markets by John Kay
- The Cost of Inequality by Stewart Lansley
Why do you create maps of the books you read? It is an attempt to drill the ideas into my head and into my conversations. I read books with highlighted pens in hand and then return to the book to transfer the highlighted text into a mind map.
Once captured in a mind map, I can review a complex book in ten minutes and share the ideas with others – but most of all I can use it to encourage others to read important books and get to grips with big ideas that deserve debate and implementation.
Can we focus on your favourite book and can you tell us about this book? The Puritan Gift by Kenneth & William Hopper
Why is this book your top book?
- This great book suggests that many in the West and the USA have lost their moral compass in the managing of business and the economy and calls for an end to short-termism and the rebuilding of our economy in a new spirit of togetherness – based on core principles that guided previous generations to success.
The USA was great in the era where the Puritan Principles reigned supreme.
They spoke in favour of:
- Everyone working together in common cause
- Trying to create a better life for everyone
- Working at individual competence
- Being open to new ideas and new technologies and the need to challenge orthodoxies
- Willing to join the dots and take steps to ensure improvements took place
Finally, why should we read it?
They will persuade you that there is a better way and that your voice can be heard because:-
- They ask the key question “Do you think India and China will let Wall Street and the City cream their profits off the top?”
- They offer us the chance of getting back to fairness and fundamentals and having a New Beginning
What are your top books and why?