Human beings love stories. They are an integral part of the heritage and evolution of every culture on earth and they not only connect us to times gone by but also teach us lessons about how to successfully approach our future.
Reading fiction, for many people, ends the day we walk out of our final high school English class. As we move into adulthood and the world of business, we tend to focus solely on non-fiction in both our studies and our efforts at self-improvement. Reading, in general, has countless obvious benefits in the workplace – including improving our business writing skills, helping us to get published and recognized in our fields, and assisting with reviewing resumes for new team members.
Are we missing out, though, in assuming that the consumption of fiction literature has no benefit in the workplace? Can business leaders use fictional stories to improve their teams and businesses?
Reading non-fiction has some clear benefits. These include helping us build our skills, learning new ways to develop good habits, and providing us with factual information about the industries we work in. However, while non-fiction helps us to build our intelligence, it does not really help us to build emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is one of the most important contributors to success in business, both right now and in the future world of work. Individuals with a high EQ also have high levels of empathy, and developing empathy is one thing that consuming non-fiction literature does not help us with.
When we read fiction, we live life through someone else’s lens. While you are reading a novel, you are forced to live the life of the characters, see how they solve problems, and experience challenges that you may otherwise have never been exposed to. By following the path of a character who may be very different from us, we are able to learn how to better predict the emotions and reactions of others.
The plot in a fiction book has no real-world impact on you; and because it doesn’t, you are able to keep an open mind and exercise your own skills of analysis to help the characters solve their problems and explore the decisions they have made.
There is a direct correlation between reading fiction and increased EQ and empathy that simply cannot be ignored and the benefits of developing these skills are essential in the workplace.
A Vacation for Your Brain
Reading non-fiction may be beneficial, but it is often hard work. We have to use the same neural pathways that we do when we work, so reading fiction can also be like sending your brain on an island holiday for a few hours. It really is a great way to practice self-care.
When you read enjoyable stories, you are able to just focus on the tale being woven before your eyes. You don’t need to worry about developing skills or absorbing information, but you are still gaining great benefit from the act. So, really, it’s a win-win all around.
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Tales of Critical Thinking
Another vital skill in the world of work is critical thinking. Reading fiction helps us to exercise this skill as well as we are forced, albeit subconsciously, to make connections between characters, assess how they interact with their world, and consider whether there may have been better solutions to their problems.
Fiction As a Team Builder
Reading fiction can also have benefits that go far past personal development and relaxation. It has the ability to be a team builder and training tool, as well.
Business leaders can (and, in my opinion, should) use works of fiction to help build their teams. When you present your team with a work of fiction to discuss, you open up the room for a wider discussion than you will likely ever experience.
By being presented with a fictional situation, the barriers that so often exist are broken down and you will start to see ideas and thoughts being presented that would otherwise never have seen the light of day. When you discuss a story that is not real, team members suddenly feel able to express themselves far more freely – which will then translate into everyday work. The team builds critical thinking skills and empathy together and is able to gain a deeper understanding of how others think.
It’s A Wrap
While there will always be a place for non-fiction reading in business, adding fiction to your own and your team’s library will undoubtedly yield numerous benefits.
As our world of work starts to shift toward remote operations, the changing of priorities, and greater global inclusion, building emotional intelligence and including empathy has never been so important. It truly will be the difference between success and failure.
By using fiction, you can help your team to build communication skills and increase collaboration in the most unexpected ways. So what are you waiting for? Go tell your team a story.