Possibly the single most important driver of civilization, reading has done more to transform humanity from a state of barbarism towards order and progress (and yes, I have included the internet in terms of evaluating importance!). If you read for 15 minutes a day, with average speed, you would cover about a million words in a year. The superpower this provides one with is staggering in aggregate.
Leaving aside the sad statistic that more than half the literate population fails to read a single book after schooling, why are more business leaders not requiring their staff to use this invaluable skill?
At Ronin8, we expect you to read. Not just any reading (we have nothing against Mills and Boon) but rather specific, prescribed books. Before you howl about the tyrannical and autocratic workplace practices of requiring someone to, heaven forbid, read certain texts… let us interrogate why we do this.
At Ronin8, we expect you to read.
The first book you are required to read when joining Ronin8 is Good Profit by Charles Koch. In Good Profit, Mr Koch eloquently covers key topics that help new (and existing) employees orient themselves to the broader role that business plays in the world. Not simply a book on philosophy it also covers the internal operational management mechanisms that companies must apply to align with an external worldview. The Koch group call their approach 'Market Based Management' or MBM for short.
It would be remiss of me if I forgot to mention that Good Profit is not the only book on the prescribed reading list. At Ronin8, we provide everyone with access to our internal company library which includes mandatory reading as well as other tomes that other staff have found of value. Fancy a review of Good To Great, The Great Game Of Business, or some other book you think would be of value? No problem, Ronin8 will acquire it and add it to the library.
Why have we made Good Profit the first mandatory book?
Firstly, to help us assess for fit, the hurdle of reading is an effective tool in establishing those who want to engage and be part of our culture. Fit is intangible but surely recognizable, like beauty or quality in that you know it when you see it. Fit for us is in part demonstrated by the ability to read a book, discuss it with colleagues and challenge the assumptions, premises and conclusions.
Secondly, from a cultural perspective, if everyone is ‘reading from the same hymnal’ the music is likely to be harmonious. Our broad philosophy at Ronin8 is that business serves the greater purpose of propagating freedom in the world. We believe in the power of the free market to establish effective pricing mechanisms and the need for business to continually be creating value for customers (rather than simply attempting to capture value). Our value of “always doing the right thing” speaks to our commitment towards ethical behaviour.
Thirdly, creating an adaptive organization is in direct conflict with micro management. If we want an organization with a minimum of petty rules and not overburdened with an HR bureaucracy, we must provide the principles that transcend freedom-inhibiting rules. Good Profit succeeds in articulating why; we emphasize value creation over traditional job performance, why we separate decision rights from job titles and why we focus on relative advantage. Once you get the ‘rules of the game’ you can become an effective, value creating player.
Lastly, and unexpectedly, applying the lessons from company required readings have created an environment where everyone begins to (respectfully) challenge anything that seems a misalignment.
While I have been an advocate of Good Profit as a starter read, I recently found myself on the receiving end of the principles. While challenging our engineering team do more of the designing of our upcoming Center Of Excellence themselves, they promptly reminded me that the relative advantage global engineering firms possess in this field aligns with outsourcing much of the AutoCAD work required. Appreciative of the clarity of their recommendations, I had no retort and I quietly went back to my office to evaluate the external engineering proposals that had been submitted.