The lost art of reading, the lost art of writing


Whether for pleasure or work, people are reading less. Publisher Berrett-Koechler says times are tough for traditional publishers. A few years ago they wrote a short essay, The 10 Awful Truths about Book Publishing. They told me recently that it’s getting worse.

When it comes to reading for pleasure, I remember when I arrived in France over 40 years ago, and every time I took the metro over one out of three people were reading books. Today, well over half are on devices, and based on the finger motions I see, they are not reading, but rather sending short messages and scanning Facebook and news feeds.

When it comes to reading for work, a number of excellent organizational and management books have been written in the last 50 years, but most people I work with are not aware of them. Why not? I think most of these works have not been read outside of business schools.  Today there are too many short posts and articles written by consultants or agencies, with a strong teaser title, a little information, and an implicit or explicit invitation to contact them to talk.

Whether business or personal, we have become accustomed to reading in short chunks, especially on news sites, grabbing headlines and at the most the first paragraph, which often repeats what was in the headline.

Speaking of news, the onslaught of false news is taking a toll. It is becoming tricky to track down the truth. Alan Rusbridger, editor in chief of the Guardian from 1995 to 2005, has written “Breaking News. The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now“. In a post on Medium he says: “….the classic role of journalism (is) to create more knowledgeable citizens, who, in turn, will make better democratic choices.” Here.

I take Rusbridger’s words to heart, and transpose them to myself in all I write:

The classic role of writers about the workplace is to create more knowledgeable leaders and workers, who, in turn, will make better choices for their organization.


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