From experiencing new worlds to understanding the lives of others, a book is still one of the most effective and immersive forms of learning and discovery. So with the arrival of world book day we asked Sitel Group leaders to share the titles that have had the biggest impact on their professional lives
When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the early 15th century (no scholar is certain of the actual date), he changed the world forever. The ability to mass-produce books meant for the first time in history, knowledge could be accurately captured and shared. Anyone that could read was able to learn new ideas, to expand their horizons and educate themselves. Mass communication was born.
Even in this increasingly digital age, the power of books shows no sign of wavering. The global publishing market continues to grow and is currently worth $143 billion annually. In the U.S. alone, over the past five years, printed book sales have continued climbing, hitting $695 million in 2018 – up from $687 million sales in 2017.
One of the reasons for this steady demand is an emotional attraction. A book strengthens our ability to be empathetic. Through reading we embody the hopes and fears of the characters, understanding the world in their eyes and their motivations for seeking resolutions. And the science supports this.
Researchers at Stanford University observed the brain activity patterns of PhD candidates while reading a Jane Austen novel and found that the parts of the brain responsible for touch and movement were active while subjects were reading the text. This led the researchers to conclude that they were physically putting themselves in the story.
As a company founded on empathy that aims to understand the world from a customer’s perspective to deliver the right experience, it seemed only right to ask its leaders about their favorite business books – the titles that have had the biggest influence on their professional lives.
Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a book that’s had a lasting impact on Sitel Group President, CEO and founding partner Laurent Uberti. “It has taught me to embrace uncertainty, as we drive change,” he explains.
Antifragile clearly argues how improbable and unpredictable events are not only necessary, but desirable if an individual or an individual organization wishes to flourish in the modern world. Penned by one of the world’s most original and engaging thinkers, it urges readers to take the steps needed not to protect themselves, but to actively benefit from stress, disorder and turmoil.
“As an entrepreneur, I really connected with this book,” says Uberti. “To be ‘antifragile’ means the more pressure you’re under – personally and as a business – the more you will grow, strengthen and learn. A reed blowing in the wind doesn’t resist stress. It flexes with the breeze but it doesn’t break.”
History repeats itself, and sometimes all that changes is the lens through which the events are viewed. Relating to these different views and applying what you learn to the modern day – and business – is why Olivier Camino, Sitel Group Chief Operating Officer and founding partner, is more likely to pick up a book about Thomas Jefferson, than have a favorite business book focused on work strategies and competencies.
“I enjoy reading historical biographies,” explains Camino. “I believe I learn more from others’ past experiences rather than from material based on someone’s opinion. In our mission to create real, emotional experiences for our clients’ customers, applying these real-life lessons adds value to our business – for today and tomorrow.”
Written by renowned futurist Daniel Burrus, The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage takes a strategic look at what is becoming an increasingly disruptive business environment and attempts to give readers the tools they need to continue navigating forward no matter how fast things are changing.
“This is a book that will challenge your assumptions,” explains Mike Small, Sitel Group’s CEO – Americas. “All business leaders have digital disruption top of mind at the moment and that’s important. But if you’re not innovating, someone else is. But you also need to disrupt yourself, so you can take a different perspective, where you can see the difference between a trend and a fad and a risk and an opportunity. This book has helped me sponsor a culture of innovation and agility.”
For Sitel Group’s Chief Marketing Officer, Martin Wilkinson-Brown, Human Sigma: Managing the Employee-Customer Encounter was particularly memorable as it made him see and think about work in a different way.
Written by John H. Fleming and Jim Asplund, the book takes solid research and real-world business examples to demonstrate how the revolutionary manufacturing approach – Six Sigma – can be used as a matrix for revolutionizing employee engagement and customer experience.
“This book allowed me to consider a new, more human perspective for Lean Six Sigma – a methodology I was directly working with and recognized as a commonly held source of truth at the time,” explains Wilkinson-Brown. “The insights in the book compelled me to look at things differently to align and apply them with the strategic direction of our business, balancing process improvement with the human, emotional nature of the business we work in. Although this was a book I first read several years ago, the principle rules of Human Sigma still have relevance today. As we continue to see increased focus in our industry on the customer experience journey, focusing on the human and emotional connection to the customer – and not only the process – I know we are on the right path.”
By breaking down successful teams across business, sports the military and even organized crime into their composite parts, The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle gives readers the insights they need if they are genuinely committed to building successful, self-sustaining groups. However, according to Jim Flynn, Sitel Group’s Chief HR Officer, for whom this is one of his favorite business books, it takes more than words of motivation gleaned from between its covers to actually build a team.
“The central message is to lead by example,” he says. “If you want to permeate a positive or successful culture, you, yourself have to represent it. Actions speak louder than words. Embody the culture you want to spread and in doing so you’ll constantly edit and refine it to speak to each individual while achieving the same results.”