According to some recent Pew Research, approximately two-thirds of all American adults own a smartphone. With those phones, they can access the internet, send text messages and check email, among other things. Another Pew study states that U.S. smartphone owners between the ages of 18 and 24 send and receive almost 4,000 texts per month. Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation – The Power of Talk in a Digital Age writes that smartphones are similar to a “benevolent genie” in that they attempt to grant us three wishes: 1) We will always be heard, 2) We will never be bored and 3) We’ll never be alone. Unfortunately, these promises have changed our behaviors and moved us away from something uniquely human: conversation.
If you are like most people, you have at least a couple of goals. Some of these goals may even be explicit, written down and follow the SMART model (Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-bound). For instance, you may have written down that your goal is to lose five pounds by November 1 so that you can enjoy the holiday season. Bigger goals (eg; getting promoted, launching a successful company, curing cancer) may also follow the SMART model. Before you write down one specific goal, however, consider this – objectives just might make you less likely to achieve what you set out to do.
In Everything Bad is Good for You, author Steven Johnson offers some incredibly compelling arguments for why pop culture isn’t as bad for us as we may have thought. Johnson puts forward some interesting reasoning to consider when we talk about the negative effects of video games, movies and TV. In fact, he asks how we might think if TV were invented before books. Would we say that books were too linear and didn’t challenge us to interpret non-verbal communication and other subtleties of human interactions? In that spirit, I offer you several alternatives to reading books in the form of my top five favorite podcasts.
Some time in the mid-1980s, I was attending Mass with my family in New Jersey when I learned an important lesson about memory. We carpooled with our neighbors who lived a couple of houses away. I sat just to the left of Maria and I quietly and piously followed her up to the priest for communion. As Maria approached the altar, the priest held up the Eucharist and said, “The body of Christ.” Maria held out her hands at this very solemn moment, accepted the little piece of bread, replied, “Thank you” and put it in her mouth, finishing with the sign of the cross. All of us within a couple of feet of her turned to look at what had just happened because every Catholic in “good standing” knows that you are supposed to reply, “Amen.” Within a second, or two, Maria realized her mistake and started laughing so hard that she had to cover her mouth as tears rolled down her face. She laughed, on and off, for the rest of Mass and we replayed the incident on the ride home. Thus, a memory was born…
Ok, so lots of people like to cozy up with a good novel on the beach. If that is the only type of book you like to read during the summer, this list is not for you. This list was meant for those who wouldn’t mind reading something that might make them a little more productive, a little more knowledgeable and a little surprised.
My criteria was simple. To make the list, the book had to meet these standards:
- It must be less than 300 pages.
- It must be based on research.
- It must have the potential to make you think differently.
Nobel laureate in both chemistry and peace, Linus Pauling, once said of creativity and innovation, “The best way to get a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” In corporate America, we often here managers say, “I want to hear some ideas. Let’s brainstorm…” when they are in need of some creativity. Their thinking is that the ideas will just flow from a group of people sitting in the room. While generating a lot of ideas through brainstorming can help, it’s not the only way to make a team creative. And, asking people to “brainstorm” can actually be counterproductive…
In his insightful book, The Medici Effect, author, consultant and entrepreneur, Frans Johansson, set out to find the secrets to creativity and innovation. What he found was that the most inventive people and teams innovate by stepping into the Intersection – a place where different cultures, fields and disciplines can produce an explosion of new ideas.