Good consultants are well read and case performance hinges on having a high degree of business judgment which usually comes from being well-read or well-travelled.

Unless you have lots of cash to fund learning adventures to the emerging markets, London, Tokyo etc., you need to rely on reading about them or watching them. Most would use the New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg, Economist etc. to serve this problem. The danger however, is taking things at face value and not carefully analyzing what is being reported, why it is being reported and how to use the information.

In this podcast, I will introduce 2 ways I use when analyze news information:

The first distinguishes between facts which are public and non-public versus opinion which is credible versus non-credible. You would be surprised to probably learn that a source you treat as factual is actually an opinion. Using this lens, it is very interesting to see how the McKinsey Quarterly and various sections of the New York Times stack up.

The second lens simply asks you to build a 2×2 matrix to see how much news sources you consume that you like versus dislike. Reading what you like is usually confirming a bias so it is crucial to balance this.

You need to critical in everything you do. It starts with being a critical reader.

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Comments

13 responses to How To Improve Business Judgment From Reading

  1. You are most welcome Vlada!

  2. Dear Michael,
    Thank you for this podcast and specifically for sharing your preferred sources. One can simply sink in the amount of information available nowadays, and I was following mainly Russian news as well as those which are related to the industry where my projects are.

  3. Hi Walczak,

    I would like to help but we have over 2,000 videos and podcasts between all our sites so I cannot recall specifically where this is. Best to use search.

    Michael

  4. Dear Michael,
    I really learnt a lot from your podcasts. I wanted to ask you about one particular podcast that I cannot find anymore. In that particular issue you were describing a training routine that you developed for aspiring consultants to teach them reading data, plots, charts etc. Do you by chance remember where could I find it?

  5. Hi Nauruz,

    I feel most articles in general, without charts, have greater value since it forces the author to build a cogent argument. I feel today most people add in charts to make a weaker article seem more credible.

    I generally stick to the same publications since the quality is high. NYT and WSJ are fine to me. I also read to adsorb content and generate my own ideas versus reading someone else’s ideas. I rarely read MQ, HBR etc. I specifically avoid blog posts in HBR etc since they almost always say nothing useful and rely on the name of the author to get attention.

    In other words, I rarely follow an idea due to the author. I follow an idea due to the merit of the idea.

    Michael

  6. Hi Michael,

    Can you help with a slightly different question, not how you should read an article, but whether the article should be read?

    Q1. Having read thousands of articles and research papers, do you feel that consulting articles that don’t have charts and data analysis are on average of less value?

    Q2. There is so much material available for reading. Before you read an article, do you have a mental checklist to help you decide whether an article is worth reading? Checklist with points like: where the article was published, who is the author, does the article have data charts etc. If you have it, can you tell what are your major checks?

  7. Hi Jojo,

    Yes, that is a good idea. You must read conflicting ideologies. I read both the WSJ and NYT and they are completely opposed.

    Remember that the same way Fox News does not make sense to you, NYT does not make any sense to a lot of readers. Every publication has an agenda and is biased. It does not always make them wrong, because it is important to understand the thinking and valid opinions of the other side.

    The same way liberal items dominate NYT, conservative items dominate WSJ. Both extremes bring balance.

    Michael

  8. The Megan Kelly article on NYT really drove home the read what you dislike point for me. I had largely ignored her (and all of FOX News for that matter) previously because of the “this channel makes no sense” phenomenon. After reading that article, I went back and watched some of her videos. I still largely disagree with most of Fox’s views but I guess that was your point. I am making a concerted effort now to read/watch what I dislike, although, I have to admit, it isn’t easy.

    PS: Added Al Jazeera and Russia Today to my “to read” list.

  9. I agree. Strictly going by your definition , it will always remain bottom half. I based it on instance where he plugs in graphs and figures from publicly available sources. But ultimately he draws his interpretation from it.

  10. Krishna, all articles which are not news will always be on the bottom half. That is because all news is public information and must sit on the top half. I suppose it depends on the reader whether it sits on the right or left.

  11. Another great podcast and generously sprinkled with your trademark jokes. Could not stop laughing on your definition of a Canadian :). Paul K is a democrat and not one article of his goes without tarnishing the republican agenda. Some of his articles oscillate between top right hand and middle right hand of the matrix you defined.

  12. Yes William. The main issue is filtering between opinion and facts, and between nuances in words which can always convey one angle. Good consultants need to see past that and look at the facts only, even if they disagree with it.

  13. Outstanding podcast. I find that, in this age of real-time news and social media that its easy for individuals to get bombarded with information. Your advice is pragmatic – as business professionals we need to read, synthesize, and form our own opinions about content that we are exposed to. That means going deeper in our analysis and critique of the content that we are reading. Thanks for the reminder of this and for posting this podcast.

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