Thursday, December 15, 2016

Reading in Parallel: Becoming Better at Generating Ideas

Reading for information is a bit different than reading for fresh thinking.  Often, when we read a book, we simply absorb the ideas of the author.  When we read for fresh thinking, we actively play with those ideas and create new ones.

An exercise I've mentioned in the past--and that I've used in writing my books--is reading in parallel.  Select a topic of interest and then purchase at least four highly rated, well-reviewed books related to that topic.  Skim each book in advance and mark off the sections most relevant to your selected topic.  Then take turns reading from those sections of each of the books, freely moving from an idea in one of the books to related ideas from the other books.  So, for example, I might read four books on creativity, but will read the sections on "problem finding" (how to arrive at worthwhile questions to ask) from each of the books.  Then I might read the sections on brainstorming from each of the books.

Rarely will I get through every section of every book.  The idea is to create a kind of dialogue among the authors, identifying points of overlap and difference.  Very often, the ideas from one book will trigger ideas that have you scouring the other books for elaboration.  The mixture of ideas from several books will lead to a thought that is not contained in any of the books.  When you read in parallel, it's like being in the room while the authors are conversing.  The intersecting of ideas almost always stimulates fresh ways of thinking about (and applying) the topic at hand.

The key to reading in parallel is starting with worthwhile books.  Curated lists are often a great place to start.  Here's a curated list of good books from James Clear.  The excellent site Abnormal Returns offers an excellent curated list of articles and podcasts organized by categories.  Quantocracy offers a great list of articles relevant to quantitative finance.  Barry Ritholtz regularly puts out thought provoking articles of relevance to macro investing.

There's a world of great material out you access it can help unearth its greatest value.

Further Reading:  Emotional Creativity