What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
Ecclesiastes 1: 9-10
Here’s an observation…not exactly original with me… ”There is nothing new under the sun.”
So, recently, a regular participant sent me info about a book that I have heard of, but not read. I took a quick look. It is a good book. But, I thought to myself, “I have read those ideas before.”
Last week, I presented my synopsis of The Heart of Business by Hubert Joly. This is a very good book. But, as I read portions of it, I thought to myself, yet again – “I have read these ideas before.”
Maybe there is nothing new under the sun.
I do read plenty of books that break new ground for me. I read books that inform me about people, or programs, or initiatives, that I was unaware of. And I love learning from these books.
But, when it comes to “soft skills” – you know, those human-to-human skills to help people improve, or even survive, and to flourish and grow and become more productive and effective — well, we know so much, and do so little.
In these areas, there may may be very little new under the sun.
But we are so very slow to learn.
Here is part of what I have read, over and over again, in the 23+ years that I have been presenting synopses of business books.
- Treat each person as an individual; as a person of inherent worth
- Set clear standards
- Expect the best
- Train and nurture and teach and encourage and…
- Personalize recognition and rewards.
So many books on leadership teach these very things, though I first read them in Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner. In fact, this short list above is basically the key content of this excellent book.
And these human-to-human needs represent just one category of ideas and actions that you will find repeated in so many books.
I could write about staying close to the people you lead (“management by wandering around,” Tom Peters and Bob Waterman), overcommunicate – repeat and repeat and repeat some more. (I like the line from Verne Harnish: “repeat it so often that they mock you”).
Now, I am not remotely suggesting that authors steal these ideas from one another. But, like a preacher who has to find new ways to preach “love your neighbor,” time and time again, these timeless principles have to be repeated time and again, by many different authors, in all the many complex contexts of life and business.
In other words, when you read a good book, there is a pretty good chance that you will have seen those thoughts somewhere before. And that is more than ok. Because, we still have a knowing-doing gap (yep; I have read about that too; more than once). And we are so forgetful.
So keep reading. And keep working at it. You have some growing and learning and doing to do. And so do I.