Tag Archives: careers

A Business Communication Reading List

A month ago to the day, I provided a crowd-sourced list of recommended readings for the career-minded. I didn’t have room in that post to talk about all the excellent suggestions from one extraordinary friend. Jill Stewart is a professional lecturer at DePaul University’s College of Communication. I’ve never told her this, but hand’s down my favorite business class in college was Business Communication. I thought I’d ace it without breaking a sweat. Boy, did I have a rude awakening!

My professor, lo those many years ago, showed me that communicating in business is hard. It’s also vital to career success.

I was reminded of all of this when I read Jill’s reading list, provided here verbatim. If you can find a smart, dedicated professor like Ms. Stewart, take her class and heed her words. Next best thing: Dip into this list. You can let her know what you think here.

Books on how to improve your writing

Clark, How to Write Short (2014) and Writing Tools (2008)
Danziger, Get to the Point (2001)
Gray-Grant, 8 ½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better (2008)
Fiske, The Dictionary of Concise Writing, (2006)
Fogarty, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (2008)
Kallan, Renovating Your Writing, (2013)
King, On Writing, (2000)
Klinkenborg, Several Short Sentences about Writing (2012)
McCormack, Brief (2014)
Norris, Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (2016)
O’Connor, Woe is I (2012)
O’Connor, Words Fail Me (1999)
Rubin, Hey Wait How Do I Write This Email? (2015)
Strunk & White, Elements of Style, (1999)*
Watt & Bradford, An E.B. White Reader (1996)
Yagoda, How to Not Write Bad, (2013)
Zinsser, On Writing Well (1998)

Online resources, tips

American Copyeditors Association
AP Style Guide
AP Style Quizzes
Flesch Readability
Grammar Girl
Grammarly
Harvard’s Shorenstein Center’s Journalist’s Resource (for PR practitioners, too!)
The Publication Coach
Owl Purdue Online Writing Lab
Ragan’s PR Daily
The Writer’s Almanac, American Public Media
Writer’s Circle

Articles on writing tips

BrainPickings Blog (link is to a sample post)
Writer’s Digest (link is to a sample post)

* I do have to add that if you are new to Strunk and White’s legendary The Elements of Style, be aware that much has changed in language since E.B. White updated the work of his beloved teacher, William Strunk, Jr. Mind you, I used to consider this my bible, carrying a ragged, coffee-stained copy with me from apartment to apartment. But I now realize most of the rules have become quaint. This was a recent shock to me. I recommended the book last year to a dear friend, and then revisited it with her. It was sort of like visiting the house you grew up in, realizing it wasn’t an extravagant, magical palace as you remembered it. I still adore White’s short fiction and essays, his The Second Tree from the Corner — both the short story and the collection named after it — will blow the top of your head off. His mastery of language is that impressive. Likewise the book Jill listed as well, An E.B. White Reader. But if you buy The Elements of Style, listen to this podcast by the delightful John McWhorter for a strong dose of context.

For more career advice, these are two posts I reprinted on my blog from an Accenture Career site:

Tips for career-building reading in 2018

Note: This blog post originally appeared in an Accenture Careers blog.

Building your career in 2018? Or perhaps you’re looking to make a change in your current situation. Either way, you may be surprised to learn how educational and inspirational your reading list can be.

Here’s a recommended reading list to get you started. The list is curated by me and a few of my friends and colleagues.

Let’s get started

To begin, I’ve put together tips on how to get the most value from your reading time. Let’s call it a Reading List User’s Guide.

  1. Choose books as wisely as you choose friends. Author and entrepreneur Jim Rohn once wrote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The same can be said for the authors you welcome onto your bookshelf or into your Kindle. In many ways, I consider authors I respect actual friends. For instance, early in my career, when I had my own direct-response consultancy, I would silently thank Peter Senge for what he had taught me. I would walk into a potential client’s business for the first time and apply the knowledge I gleaned from reading his book The Fifth Discipline, which focuses on how organizations “learn to learn.” I would look around at office dynamics and know with surprising accuracy just how much of a “learning organization” I was observing. No company is perfect, but Senge had trained me to see the extent of each organization’s “learning disabilities”—and by extension, whether they would be good customers for what I was selling. Now, that’s a valuable friend!
  2. Ask if popular books have truly earned their status. Good business books, like good speeches, should provide a strong mix of inspiration and education. Ask friends who have read a particular book what specifically they learned, or how they were moved. Listen closely to their answers. Much of the business world is ruled by groupthink, “FOMO” (fear of missing out) and trying to impress. Those impulses aren’t good enough reasons to read a book, even if it’s the one “everyone is reading.” It’s a surprisingly rare business book that deserves its popularity. I’m thinking of books like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which rode best-seller lists for literally years, and remains one of the best-selling non-fiction books of all time.Don’t be put off if your friends talk more to inspiration than education. The same year I first read (and learned a ton from) “7 Habits,” I was also deeply inspired by a different book, called The One-to-One Future. It was in the very early days of CRM (customer relationship management). And boy, did it inspire! It literally caused me to change my career path, a decision that is one of the best of my life. Last year, I derived similar inspiration from another book, The Business Blockchain. I haven’t changed my career yet, but you never know! (And thanks to Accenture’s deep involvement in blockchain, a lateral move within our organization isn’t out of the question for me.)
  3. Vary your reading diet widely. Non-fiction books don’t have to be formally about business to help you with your career. When I read Dr. Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, I realized that I wasn’t communicating clearly with roughly half the professional workforce (i.e., women!). By an embarrassing coincidence—and as though the world had a painful lesson to teach me—just as I was about to start the book, I nearly lost a client because she gave her instructions in something Tannen calls “rapport speak,” while I was hearing her through the filter of “report speak.” I screwed up an assignment and only realized how it happened after reading and internalizing the book. How’s that for valuable career advice!
  4. Read the way you learn. Educational research teaches us that humans have preferred ways of learning. You may not take to the written word. Today, that shouldn’t hinder you. Don’t pay attention to those who stigmatize “hearing” a book instead of reading it. If audiobooks work for your style and your schedule, go for it. I’m currently “reading” a book in three different formats at once. I have a hardback copy of Ron Chernow’s dense Alexander Hamilton for the tactile pleasure of its pages, and its many illustrations, paintings and drawings. I also have an e-book copy to read when I’m traveling, since the hardcover takes up a lot of luggage space. And finally, I have an audible copy, for when I’m working out or taking long walks. I did something similar, and for similar reasons, when reading the outstanding Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel Prize in Economics winner Daniel Kahnemann. Remember what I said about authors being like friends? Just like real friends, sometimes, once you deem them worthy, you invest the time and money needed to spend time with them. Good books, like good friends, are worth it.
  5. Use books to focus your thinking. To paraphrase the late David Foster Wallace in his famous “This Is Water” college commencement address (Google it; you’ll thank me), the worst cliché of such speeches is, “An education isn’t about filling us with knowledge but about teaching us how to think.” It’s easy to find that insulting. It’s not. He points out that “how to think” is not so much about the capacity to think, but the choice of what to think about (getting us back to point 1, above). Books that help us build our careers direct our thinking in important directions. This is crucial, because there is a lot of other stuff that really doesn’t matter. They’re distractions preventing us from doing great things.

More Reading Recommendations

So, in crowdsourcing my network, I’ve compiled a list of reading material that will both educate and inspire. Mine are sprinkled throughout the five points above. Happy reading.

    • Ben Kaczmarski, Accenture Federal Services, offers a book “very much in the realm of design thinking, written by two brothers from IDEO and Stanford’s d.school.”

 

Recent tour inspires Chicago makers and leads to tips for potential Accenture new hires

Note: This blog post originally appeared in an Accenture Careers blog.

A social media profile for me says I’m a “Digital Analytics Leader at Accenture.” More specifically, I’m in our Personalization and Customer Analytics practice. That means I help clients use customer information to provide them with better digital experiences.

It’s literally a dream job.

Once, when I was a kid in a small-town library in an American backwater (the Upper Peninsula of Michigan), long before the internet, I read a biography of someone who made his career back in the 1950s. It was just as television was becoming a transformative technology. You’d think I would have been inspired, but I was devastated. I thought, ‘It’s all in the past! I’ll never live through another period where I can get in on ‘the ground floor’ of an emerging technology.” (To be clear, as a 10-year-old boy, I didn’t think in exactly those words, but you get the idea.)

How naïve of me. Now we have this innovation wave under our feet that is ascending at an accelerating pace. It began late in the last century, with the digitization of everything. I’m riding it now, and loving it, but it is nowhere near cresting.

As I discovered on my recent visit to Chicago’s mHUB, an innovation center for product development and manufacturing, it will be rising for quite a while. And everything will be changed in its path. In other words, the best is yet to be, and Accenture is going to be a major player in how this future unfolds. Perhaps you’ll want to join us.

My mHUB Adventure

My profile continues that I’m an “avid reader, a film nut and a music omnivore.” And it’s through my reading [in the Economist Magazine, about urban manufacturing in Brooklyn, NY and elsewhere] that I first learned about the manufacturing incubator that was our “field trip” for a recent Accenture Digovation (digital + innovation) Event, to Chicago’s mHUB. I had to see what it was all about, so I joined the group from our Chicago Digital Hub for their visit in mid-September.

The mHUB is a 63,000-square-foot facility that contains 10 fabrication labs. The mHUB mission is helping Chicago’s “makers” ferry their ideas across “the chasm.” Let me explain. There is a place of maximum mortality in the lifecycle of most inventions. They start with promise, with a prototype, a business plan and some investment dollars. Then the invention advances, and often hits a deadly obstacle. Let’s say a product needs to produce 3,000 units to show market viability. A commercial production source—a traditional manufacturer—usually requires a minimum order of 5,000 pieces to even begin production. So, the challenge is: How to produce the next one thousand, two thousand or four thousand units, in order to reach a critical mass of sales? Before mHUB, this might not be possible, and another potentially brilliant invention will fall into the chasm and oblivion.

mHUB helps scrappy entrepreneurs reach the critical mass necessary to begin production. They do it by providing cool, otherwise inaccessible tools that operators can master quickly. The photo below shows a device that was used by our tour guide’s preschooler to make her own version of fidget spinners.

Our tour guide’s 4 yr old used this machine to make his own Fidget Spinners. #manufacturing #preschoolers

A post shared by Jeff Larche (@jefflarche) on

Lessons Learned at mHUB

What inspired me most was meeting and talking to inventors and entrepreneurs who happened to be there when we toured the facility. They were a diverse group, but what unified them was their vision and determination. I loved their focus. And I have no doubt that many will traverse the chasm and ferry their innovations into our lives.

We’re aligning ourselves with extraordinary innovators at Accenture, always finding exciting ways to turn innovation into solutions for our clients. Interested in a career where you get hands-on with the latest innovation? Here are a few tips to prepare yourself:

  1. Become really good at learning. I’m working with technologies that literally did not exist seven years ago. There is no way that your advanced education can teach you a trade, so don’t expect it to. Whatever your degree is in, continue to learn what interests you. Prepare to follow those interests (and to see them unexpectedly change!) throughout your career.
  2. Learn in the manner that works best for you. For example, I’m a mild dyslexic. That means in addition to reading books and articles the traditional way, I learn a lot through listening. I’m a podcast omnivore, with more than 40 podcast feeds, which in turn, feed me.
  3. Embrace the weird. It’s not an accident that in the last few years, Accenture has acquired two digital agencies based in Austin, Texas, where the motto is, “Keep Austin Weird.” Unconventional thinking leads to new ways of doing things. And only new solutions will bring us to a better future. Be part of that future. Embrace diversity by getting to know people from every culture and background.

Here’s a final bonus tip: If you’re interested in joining us, find a friend who works for Accenture, and have them recommend you. That’s what I did seven years ago. A friend referred me, and I never looked back. I’m loving where that decision has taken me. And if you don’t have such a friend, contact me. I’ll help you learn more about my extraordinary employer.

Take the next step in your career with Accenture and lead clients across the globe into the new.

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