How To Find Innovation In What You Read

There’s More To Productivity Than Productivity Books

Did you know that 4,600 new stars are born every second?

I learnt that in a non-fiction book. Can’t remember which one.

Did you know that ‘Expelliarmus’ is a spell to remove an object from someone’s hand?

I learnt that in Harry Potter.

We’re Reading Again!

I’ve noticed more and more people reading books and I’m loving it. I look around the Tube carriage and I see heads down, books up. I forgive those staring into Kindles — I hear the new Paperwhite model is great, and I’m tempted to invest.

I head onto Instagram and scroll through pages and pages of book recommendations under the hashtag #Bookstagram. This is how I discover new titles both inside and outside of my usual genre. I also use GoodReads, a social network for books that I didn’t know existed until a few weeks ago.

I walk over to my local Waterstones on a random Saturday morning in time to see it open. When I get there, I have to join a queue waiting to enter. It’s a North London suburb, not Oxford Street—there shouldn’t be a queue.

Reading is back in. People are reading more books. It’s becoming cool again.

Whether we’re embarrassed that Apple and Android keep telling us we’re averaging 4.5 hours of daily Screen Time, or whether it’s because I’m getting older and am starting to appreciate the more mellow activities in life, who cares?

What’s important is that we’re seeing more people read books, and that can’t be anything but brilliant.

Growing Trends Toward Productivity Books

But I’m also noticing a lot more conversation around business books and productivity. When scrolling through LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook, all I see is content about entrepreneurship and hustle and self-fulfillment.

While I don’t think this is necessarily a bad trend, I do think it pushes people into a corner a lot of them wouldn’t have otherwise entered.

The same goes for marketing — there are entire sections of books dedicated to this discipline. I see articles listing the latest marketing-related titles, from Seth Godin to Dale Carnegie to Tim Ferriss.

I don’t have a bad word about these books — there’s a lot of wisdom in each one. These writers condense huge amounts of information into small(ish) books to help us mere mortals cope with the fundamentals of digital marketing without needing to trawl through encyclopaedias and weeks’ worth of YouTube tutorials.

Yet, what these books miss is the potential to create spark.

Where To Find Spark

Spark comes from venturing outside of the genre we’re so often told to read in order to develop our hard skills. Those genres shoved down our throats, the ones we’re served ads about and the ones that dominate our LinkedIn feeds.

Of course, for those wanting to start a business, it would be a mistake not to read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. For those wanting to make their digital content stand out, it would perhaps be naive not to read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow.

But there’s so much to learn about marketing through reading outside of the marketing genre, just as there’s so much to learn about self-development and productivity through reading outside of these realms, too.

When we open ourselves up to resources beyond our comfort zone, we create opportunities to find an intersection.

Why Do Intersections Matter?

An intersection is ‘a point at which two or more things intersect (connect)’, and I believe it’s one of the most valuable and underrated factors in innovation.

We can picture it as this:

Industry A x Industry B = Industry XYZ

At the intersection lies original thinking; a unique combination that isn’t possible if we follow the beaten path. The beaten path is the marketing book genre. There’s knowledge to be learnt in the marketing genre, but there’s little uniqueness and perspective and innovation.

Innovation is about solving problems, but when a service exists for just about every problem out there, the real question is this:

How can we solve problems differently?

Think of that one friend you try to buy a Christmas present for but you realise she has everything. You could follow the beaten path and get her a new mug, but you could also make her something a little more personal — a little more innovative.

When I think of successful businesses built on intersections, London’s thriving boutique fitness scene springs to mind. There’s Kobox, a three-branch boxing studio combining bag work and high-intensity interval training with nightlife, perfectly encapsulated under its slogan: ‘Fightclub Meets Nightclub’. I don’t need to tell you that the intersection here is fitness x nightlife/social occasions.

1Rebel, Heartcore, and KXU are all similar examples. Exercises that are concepts. If I’m going to throw an irritating buzzword around, they are disruptors that have redefined the parameters of annual gym memberships.

This is why intersections matter, and to find these intersections, we need to read around our genre, in turn exposing ourselves to as wide a content world as possible. The concepts of these studios weren’t built on fitness-based knowledge alone. Intersections matter.

How To Find That Intersection

In this article, Greg Satell writes that ‘The best way to prepare for the future is to develop the ability to learn and adapt’. While perhaps obvious, the ability to adapt is what reading outside of our comfort zone will allow us to develop.

To find that intersection, to become adaptable, expand your reading horizons and move past those bog-standard recommendations. By all means, read This is Marketing, and then read Dale Carnegie. Chuck in a bit of Malcolm Gladwell if you must. These books soar off the shelves for a reason. There’s value in them.

But THEN, have a read of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood, and then the Adrian Mole series by Sue Townsend. And if there’s time, go find the first Harry Potter book, dust it off, and rediscover Expelliarmus.

You might not learn the technicalities of SEO or the eight latest micro-targeting hacks, but you’ll have read something with spark. These books — good quality fiction — possess a certain magic. This magic is inspiration, and it’s what takes knowledge and makes it unique, setting the knowledge beholder apart from his or her peers. It’s what makes someone more interesting to talk to, a brand more timeless and fun.

Don’t Know Where To Start?

I was lost at the start but somehow came across BookBub (this isn’t an ad — it’s legit good), which sends me daily e-book discounts from all sorts of genres I wouldn’t normally consider. It isn’t a big commitment money-wise, either, as most books are about $1. Highly recommend.

To bring this tangent to an end, I implore everyone to move beyond productivity and business books and set themselves a new 2019 challenge: to open up those eyes and take a mental stroll outside of the echo chambers of bog-standard business-based #hustle books.

When you find that intersection between Dale Carnegie and Margaret Attwood, leave a message below.

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