Peabody Library

Peabody Library – So many books, so little time.

We live and work in a dynamic era. In the software development field we are experiencing changes across the board in computing power, management styles, frameworks and techniques. Movements such as Agile and lean are just the tip of the iceberg. In order to build a base of knowledge and grow, IT practitioners need to read, listen, collaborate and experiment. While blogs, podcasts and conferences are great tools to explore the cutting edge, books are an important tool for building or expanding a base of personal knowledge.

I introduced the Re-Read Saturday feature on the Software Process and Measurement blog to help expose both my readers and myself to at least a few of the most important books. We have now re-read Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and we finished Kotter’s Leading Change last week. I choose the first two books, and it is your turn to choose the next book. Over the last twelve weeks I asked you to send me the two books that you felt were most influential to your career. A few observations:

  1. The list has 30 entries.
  2. There was NO runaway leader on the list.
  3. The first five on the list each got two mentions.

Since there was no clear winner, I have created a poll. The poll will allow each person to vote for three books. Pick the top three books that have had major impact on your career, OR perhaps the books you always wanted to read. The book that is on the top of the list on February 14 will be the next to be featured on Re-Read Saturday.

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Conferences force us to sit next to people we don’t know, to interact during exercises and maybe even have a conversation that would not happen if you were watching a webinar in your cube.  Professional conferences force attendees to step outside of their comfort zone. Even if it is a tiny step, it can possibly change how we perceive the world.

Shifting outside of our comfort zone, a state of mind without a sense of risk, makes it easier see things differently. Our comfort zone can be limiting, because it insulates you from perceiving change. Dr. Bill Joiner, in his keynote at the Scrum Gathering, Las Vegas 2013, suggested that today’s managers must have the ability to achieve sustained success in a rapidly changing environment or they won’t survive. I translate that to mean that comfort zones are a thing of the past.

In person professional conferences are a tool to challenge us intellectually and provide a platform for changing how we think about our professional challenges. For example:

  • Presentations that challenge orthodoxy that wouldn’t draw as mass-market webinars.
  • Free form programming such as Open Spaces or Un-conferences that open the lectern to anyone with an idea or a question.
  • Access to experts for formal and informal conversations.

Regardless of your profession, not challenging ourselves to move outside of our comfort zone will make us intellectually lazy.  Without challenges we can’t hope to raise our game to meet the future.  Attending professional conferences and benefiting from not only the presentations but from the interactions is a powerful tool to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s workplace.