The busy business owner rarely has time to indulge in extracurricular activities, but there are still ways that you can make progress--even when you’re not actually in the office or working on important plans, there’s still the opportunity for self-improvement. One way that you can do this is by being well-read. In fact, science has practically proven that reading literary fiction is just as beneficial for your professional development as other seemingly more practical works.
Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson has a reading list, and you might be surprised to hear it features a number of critically acclaimed literary classics. Here are just a few of them:
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
- Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie
- The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
- The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
- 1984, by George Orwell
While there are others on his reading list, this goes to show that the classics are still very important. In fact, reading helps to improve your emotional intelligence and better understand those around you.
We’re sure you’re already aware of this, but running a business means that you’re communicating with people on a daily basis. Your organization wouldn’t exist if not for your employees or your clients. You need to understand both if you want to guarantee the survival of your organization. Venture capitalist Mark Suster states, “You need to understand power, ownership, leadership, performance, relationships, motivations, alcoholism, depression, resentment, jealousy, scorn. They all exist and ignoring them is like ignoring human norms." In other words, the better you understand humanity, the better you understand your employees and how they work--hopefully yielding a return on investment in the form of higher retention rates and lower turnover.
Behind the Science
The first connection between literary fiction and improved emotional intelligence was introduced by David Kidd and Emanuele Castano--two psychologists who published their findings in Science. The study used random samples from literary and genre fiction, but was judged as too inaccurate as it overly relied on sweeping generalizations. In the second phase, 2,000 participants were asked to identify familiar authors from a list, and to analyze the eyes of others to determine their current emotion.
The results of this study determined that there was a direct connection between well-read people and the ability to judge emotion in others. This was true even when including other variables such as education, gender, and age.
While this study suggests that literary fiction offers insight into how you understand others, we’d like you to keep in mind that it’s still only a theory, and that the only way you’ll know for sure if it works for your business is by giving it a shot. What are some of your favorite literary classics? Let us know in the comments.