Reading: Just Enough to be Dangerous

Investor Mark Cuban says that when he started his first company, he was scared of visiting customers because he was afraid of being shown up. He was nervous that people would know much more about the industry than him.

So before every meeting, he’d cram as much as possible on the topics of the day. He’d read every trade magazine going so he could sound like he knew something. In meetings, he’d toss out tidbits here and there about software or hardware – features and bugs he’d read about.

“I expected them to say: ‘Oh yeah, I read that too in such-and-such.’ That’s not what happened. They hadn’t read it then, and they still haven’t started reading it. Most people won’t put in the time.”

I think this illustrates an interesting point. If you’ve read three books on a topic, you’re better informed than the vast majority of people – even those who are very well established in a topic.

Often in internal communication, new communicators are worried about ‘getting out there’ because they don’t have the subject knowledge to hold their own. But I think the truth is that reading one or two trade magazines is usually enough to put you in good shape.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. What do you do to make sure you’re ‘read up’ on the field you’re communicating to?

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