Don’t depend on print or audio clipping services—they do your thinking for you.
Instead, subscribe to at least 30 magazines covering fields in which you are interested.
Have them come to your home, because if you have a boss, it really doesn’t look too good when you’ve got 30 magazines on your desk and you’re reading them.
Don’t read the magazines—scan them.
And scan them yourself.
Don’t delegate razor blade reading to your secretary, because after a year you will have a very knowledgeable secretary and you won’t know a damn thing.
However, if you have a big company, you could get four or five people to take 10 different topics each and do their own razor blade reading.
Once every 2 months, get together for dinner, have a little wine, and exchange views.
When do you have time to read magazines?
You’d be surprised at how many opportunities you have: early morning, at night before you go to sleep (I find that the Journal of Petroleum Statistics is better than a sleeping pill), in the bathroom; waiting in line, while you’re traveling.
Whatever you read, ask yourself:
Can it affect my business?
What problem may it create?
What opportunity may it create?
Whenever a piece of information triggers a potential connection with your business, cut out the item with a razor blade (or suitable substitute that you always carry with you).
Don’t hesitate to mutilate your newspapers and periodicals—then throw them away.
Don’t keep useless information.
And don’t read for “later reference.”
Clip immediately and date the clipping.
Establish no more than 10 files in ordinary manila folders, each representing a key interest or area of responsibility in your business. Some examples:
Overall economic trends
Status of competition
Raw material costs
Every day, file your clippings in the appropriate folders to create chronological series of data, information, and clues on the particular subjects.
Review each file once a month.
You’ll find that it can be a revelation.
When new things begin to happen, you find references to them in many different sources.
When you put all the bits and pieces together and review them, you can see a definite trend, whether opportunity or threat.
You know something is happening, and that’s your trigger point for corporate action.
Just 6 months ahead is all you need to beat the competition.
Razor blade reading is useless unless it leads to a decision and action.
This is the final test of the real value of the process.
Will it generate better decisions and trigger earlier actions to exploit new opportunities or solve or prevent potential problems?
Try it and see.
Pick your own reading material according to your specific interests, but a good basis for getting started is the carefully selected list you’ll find at the end of the book.
For daily coverage, The Wall Street Journal is essential.
Another outstanding newspaper is The Financial Times of London, which has a high-technology communication system for early distribution in major U.S. cities.
Business Week and U.S. News & World Report are excellent weeklies, and an informative biweekly is The Economist.
Among monthlies, Fortune, Forbes, and INC stand out, and an indispensable quarterly is Quarterly Economic Outlook U.S. A., put out by the University of Michigan.
For statistical reference material, the U.S. government is the most prolific source.
Some useful monthly publications are Economic Indicators, Survey of Current Business, Business Conditions Digest, and Monthly Labor Review.
For annual statistics, consult the U.S. Statistical Abstract (Commerce Department) and the Economic Report of the President, available from the Government Printing Office.
Razor Blade Reading in the Sky
I subscribe to 120 magazines—and scan them all.
(I don’t recommend this for busy executives, however.)
Since I also fly a lot, I combine the two activities to get much of my reading done in the air.
Flight attendants see me stagger on board with about 30 pounds of magazines-and then walk off at the end of the flight without any.
They’re neatly stacked up on my seat—all I’m carrying is a small bundle of clippings.
It works well.
One thing I’ve learned, though, is to cut my address label out of each magazine.
I’ve done that ever since a friend called me and said he’d found a stack of magazines I’d accidentally left behind on an airplane seat—and he was sending them all back to me.