PRODUCTHEAD: How to read more effectively (communication toolkit #2)
PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.
Read a format that suits you best, whether physical or digital
As you read, ask yourself questions of the content to keep yourself engaged with it
Analytical reading allows you to understand, then accept or reject the key idea being presented
F-shaped reading occurs on web content because people are short on time or engagement
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Last week, I shared with you some tips and articles on active listening. The next important communication skill for product people is to read.
Yes, yes, yes — I fully appreciate that you can already read, but can you read critically and effectively?
As an aside, I know there are many successful product people out there with dyslexia. One has explained to me in detail about how he uses audiobooks and text-to-speech technology to work around the challenges of reading text.
PRODUCTHEAD this week is really about extracting meaning from the written word, and that applies equally if you’re using someone or something to read it aloud.
Are we out of the habit? #
We probably read more than we realise each day.
I’m going to make a wild assumption that we spend most of our working days (and probably a good proportion of our leisure time also) reading emails, Slack messages, tweets, WhatsApp messages. Maybe we also read some longer-form content on web pages or in some kind of report. Perhaps the least frequent type of reading is when we sit down with a good book.
My feeling is that we have inadvertently trained ourselves to prefer reading short-form, fragmented snippets of text. Perhaps we’ve shortened our attention span because we need the micro-rewards of dopamine to punctuate our reading in order to maintain our concentration.
Do you find longer-form content, such as a long web article or a book, a bit daunting? Maybe we’ve just fallen out of the habit of reading. Or maybe we’ve already read too much that day.
The right time and place to read #
I find it difficult to settle down and read a book unless I’m in the right frame of mind, and in the right situation. To read a book, I need to be reasonably well rested and alert so I can concentrate. My reading needs to be free from distractions and interruptions.
I also need to give myself permission to read, which I know sounds weird. I regard reading as utterly self-indulgent “me time”. If I have the sense that I should really be doing something more important or urgent, such as cashing in a winning lottery ticket, or extinguishing an incipient house fire, I know that I’m not going to give my full attention to the book.
For these reasons, I tend to read most when I’m waiting for something to happen, or while I’m travelling. (Aeroplane or train only, of course. The steering wheel gets in the way of my book when I’m driving.)
For you this week #
Whatever type of reading we do, whether reading for work or pleasure, we still need to be efficient at extracting the meaning from the content, and at retaining the salient details. This week, I’ve gathered some articles and a book (How to Read a Book, a gloriously paradoxical title) to help you read more effectively.
Speak to you soon,
what to think about this week
Whether you’re dissecting Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations or relaxing poolside with 50 Shades of Grey, reading is, for many of us, a regular source of joy, perspective, and ideas, which enable us to grow personally and professionally. But here’s the catch: We live in a world of never ending content and constant competition for our attention.
[Khe Hy / Quartz at Work]
Here’s the good thing and bad thing about reading: everyone learns how to do it early in life. You start off with the alphabet, move on to words, and – before you know it! – you’re reading entire sentences and paragraphs. Reading is a skill that almost everyone in the world has. This is why almost no one stops to think about how to read better and how to read books more effectively.
Or to be put it differently, technically we know how to read, but we don’t question our methods and we don’t think about reading and digesting information philosophically.
Originally published in 1940, this book is a rare phenomenon, a living classic that introduces and elucidates the various levels of reading and how to achieve them — from elementary reading, through systematic skimming and inspectional reading, to speed reading. Readers will learn when and how to “judge a book by its cover,” and also how to X-ray it, read critically, and extract the author’s message from the text.
[Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren]
Eyetracking research shows that people scan webpages and phone screens in various patterns, one of them being the shape of the letter F. Eleven years after discovering this pattern, we revisit what it means today.
[Kara Pernice / Nielsen Norman Group]
Here’s a question I was asked recently:
How would you describe ‘measures of success’ versus the ‘definition of done’? I’m trying to explain the difference simply to my team.
[I Manage Products]
How can product management fit into an agency business model when requirements or specifications are often contractually set in stone by the client up-front? Spoiler alert: not easily
[I Manage Products]
Jason Shah wrote a guest post recently for Lenny Rachitsky’s newsletter, “A Product Manager’s Guide to web3”, which describes how product management differs in web3 companies. He notes that joining a web3 company can be “an opaque process and a risky decision”. I’d add “ethically challenging and morally grey” to that description.
[I Manage Products]
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PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from piles of books waiting to be read.
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