I was having dinner with two colleagues on the road, at a Holiday Inn Express Sports Bar in a small town. We could have gone to Olive Garden, but we heard the sports bar had 36 varieties of beer and lots of big screen TVs. The hamburger was pretty amazing, too. Ten inches high, on thick Texas toast. But it was the land of flat screens that put us in a trance, lining all sides of the restaurant. I stopped counting at around 56. Lacrosse, golf, NBA playoffs, NBA draft. You could get dizzy without having a sip of Sam Adams.
What's on all those TVs? Believe it or not, at last count there are 50 networks (32 official sports channels nationally), and thousands of "channels" of TV, depending upon how you define a channel. 90% of them are owned by major media companies like Viacom and Time Warner. With apologies to Bruce Springsteen, (who wrote his hit song "57 Channels and Nothin' On" in 1992) there is too much on. And we haven't talked about the number of publications and books you "should read."
The other night I was having dinner with the general manager in a division of a Fortune 50 company, and he was saying that he has no time to read anything but email. As a matter of fact, he said, "If I just answered email all day long, I could fill my day." The point is, if we don't make time to read and get input from sources that nourish our brains, as leaders, we won't have quality output. So how do we choose what to watch or read?
If you think of input as an acronym, (I.N.P.U.T.) these are my rules:
I-Interest - even if it is "good for you," you don't have time for "homework" - focus on high value information that's presented in an interesting way
N-News -news is NEW. Read and learn. Expand your horizons.
P-Perspective - get different viewpoints from a variety of trusted sources - read and watch widely
U-Umph - Knowledge is power and a good book or article empowers you - that's a rush
T-Timely -a topic of high interest right now because of your business interests, strategic focus or future needs
One of my mentors and friends has written more than 40 books, and reads a book a week. He is a busy, successful consultant. Do that math - 50 books a year, 250 in five years. His philosophy? To be a person of interest, you have to be interesting.
There's another reason to be strategic about your input. Research shows that leaders who lead innovative companies have certain characteristics. One of them is they read widely and make connections between seemingly disparate ideas.
In addition to the I.N.P.U.T. strategy - you can also hone your scanning capabilities. I'd like to read more, but I do use the time I have well. I am a champion skimmer; it's important to be able to quickly peruse the beginning, end and key points in an article, proposal, email or book chapter. You get the gist. This strategy doesn't apply to fiction, of course, which is meant to be savored.
You can eat salad or eat a bag of potato chips. Both fill you up. Potato chips are fine once in a while, but you can't live on them.