Here's what makes us smarter

A cup of coffee and a book sit on a desk next to white font reading, "What we are reading: Biz Focused."

We are big believers in the ‘never stop learning’ philosophy. If you shut your mind off to new ideas, concepts and refuse to push the boundaries of your own understanding then how do you ever grow intellectually? We read, we watch we observe. Here is what we are digging into to make us smarter.

Kim Bode, Boss Lady
Our culture at 834 is what sets us apart, it is what makes our work standout and our employees stay. As a small business your culture is often threatened with growth. In an effort to combat this and to ensure the team feels engaged, challenged and accepted; I started reading Nimble Focused Feisty by Sara Rabits. The book focuses on organizational cultures that win in the new era and how to create them.

The book description reads:

Leaders have talked about the importance of corporate culture for decades, but the success of iconic companies like GE, Apple, and Google shows how culture is a strategic lever that can be utilized for driving growth, change, and innovation. In this new age of globalization, rapid technology shifts, and constant disruption, the 21st century marketplace is more volatile and uncertain than ever. To thrive, businesses need a new kind of emphasis around culture.

Management is hard and so is running a business; however if your people aren’t the focus you will have a lot bigger problems to tackle.

Adrienne Wallace, Digital Director
I’m a trainer, mentor, coach and teacher. So my role requires a great deal of investigation into issues that are process and people deep. Oftentimes figuring out why something isn’t working doesn’t have anything to do with the process, but rather the people and their limitations. So to find out what that is, I try to understand people better. It’s almost too “granola group hug” I know. Think what you want, but my results speak for both the method and the madness. I just finished reading over the break:

Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution by Brene’ Brown, Ph.D.

From Amazon:
“When we deny our stories, they define us.
When we own our stories, we get to write the ending.

Social scientist Brené Brown has ignited a global conversation on courage, vulnerability, shame, and worthiness. Her pioneering work uncovered a profound truth: Vulnerability—the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome—is the only path to more love, belonging, creativity, and joy. But living a brave life is not always easy: We are, inevitably, going to stumble and fall.

It is the rise from falling that Brown takes as her subject in Rising Strong. As a grounded theory researcher, Brown has listened as a range of people—from leaders in Fortune 500 companies and the military to artists, couples in long-term relationships, teachers, and parents—shared their stories of being brave, falling, and getting back up. She asked herself, What do these people with strong and loving relationships, leaders nurturing creativity, artists pushing innovation, and clergy walking with people through faith and mystery have in common? The answer was clear: They recognize the power of emotion and they’re not afraid to lean in to discomfort.

Walking into our stories of hurt can feel dangerous. But the process of regaining our footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Our stories of struggle can be big ones, like the loss of a job or the end of a relationship, or smaller ones, like a conflict with a friend or colleague. Regardless of magnitude or circumstance, the rising strong process is the same: We reckon with our emotions and get curious about what we’re feeling; we rumble with our stories until we get to a place of truth; and we live this process, every day, until it becomes a practice and creates nothing short of a revolution in our lives. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness. It’s the process, Brown writes, that teaches us the most about who we are.”

I have read all of Brene’ Brown’s books, listened to all of her podcasts and I conclude she understands things about me I used to not even understand about myself. It’s self help without the self help tone. Get some.

Leigh Rapaport, Project Manager
This is perfect timing for this blog topic because I just started reading Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founders of Basecamp.

We use Basecamp for everything – project management, document tracking, client communication, and overall control of the chaos. Rework pushes back on the traditional ideas of business plans. The overall idea is this: real-life experience provides the best learning. You don’t need fancy plans or productions, Rework gives the reader guides and tools to be as productive as possible. It’s informative and edgy, which is right up my alley. It’s a must-read for anyone in any position within their organization.

Grace Johnson-Connor, Internal Project Manager
I’m actually just finishing up, Jen Sincero’s, You are a Badass.  I started it awhile ago and picked it back up last week.  I believe the rest of the 834 team read it before I came on, and I happened to have picked it up last summer.  This book is a great read, mainly because it reminds me how to harness my full potential. It’s compilation of many amazing theories all wrapped up in a blunt and translatable way.  As a project manager, for our internal work, this book is really helping me to focus less on the negative and remain positive, keep moving forward, and a to recognize things I shy away from or fear in my day to day life.  Challenging myself and believing in my capabilities, is huge, so this book is a great reminder on how to do that. This strategy is helpful when looking at client strategies, helping other teammates succeed, and looking towards the overall vision of our agency.  I recommend it to anyone that feels stuck (either personally or professionally) and needs a reminder that we each have the power to create a life to truly love.

Julie Sheeran, Creative Director
I love a good book but I’m more of a mystery/thriller enthusiast when it comes to novels, so in the design and branding realm I tend to lean toward digital publications and magazines. It’s so much easier to scan your fav blog for a great article when you are looking for a little design knowledge and inspirations. One of my favorites when it come to inspiration is FOLK Magazine. FOLK is filled with photographers and their stories and makers of all things craft oriented. There are all sorts of topics to explore, but the amazing visuals feed my creative vibes, especially when you’re having one of those ‘designer’s block’ kind of days.

Another favorite of mine is a little more typography, technical design, design strategy and management and client relations/communication focused. Jessica Hische is known for leading the way in the typography industry, but her insight on design in the professional realm is incredibly relevant to what being a designer is really about. She keeps her blog posts light and witty while simultaneously being a total badass. If you love design or just want to learn a little more about the craft, these posts are a great read.

Jessica Krysinska, Digital Lead
While I wouldn’t say my current book is entire relevant to my field of digital and social, I could say it’s relevant to my role as a team member at 834. The book is called “Get Your Shit Together” by Sarah Knight. We work at a fast pace and something new seems to pop up everyday. The unexpected is always expected and we need to be ready. So instead of freaking out, we need to get our shit together and make it work. Being only a few months in to the agency/firm life, I can’t say I have my shit together 100% of the time and that I’m 100% calm when under pressure. Who really is anyway? This book gives me a great laugh while also supplying me with all the tools I need to stop worrying, finish my shit, and start doing more of what I want to do.

Emma Thibault, Associate
The novel I’m currently reading comes from the Boss Lady, herself, Kim Bode.

Kim highly recommended “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?” by Seth Godin and acclaimed that the novel as one of her favorite books, ever. I immediately dove into the novel and I could quickly see where she was coming from.

Seth Godin breaks down the two teams in every workplace: management and labor. Now there’s a third team, the linchpins. These people figure out what to do when there’s no rule book. They delight and challenge their customers and peers. They love their work, pour their best selves into it, and turn each day into a kind of art.

As Godin writes, “Every day I meet people who have so much to give but have been bullied enough or frightened enough to hold it back. It’s time to stop complying with the system and draw your own map. You have brilliance in you, your contribution is essential, and the art you create is precious. Only you can do it, and you must.”

This book is applicable to both my work life and personal life. As a second-semester senior at Ferris State University and an associate of 834 Design & Marketing, this novel has given me an extra ‘umph’ to set myself a part from my peers. I highly recommend Linchpin to anyone who is looking for motivation and thinking outside the box.

Share with us what you are reading. What should we add to our list?

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