Why Reading Poetry Can Make You a Better Leader
Business books are fine, but poetry is the key to innovative thinking
A poem is a story concentrated into a careful handful of words, each of which is curated to hold utmost meaning. With diction and form, structure and sound, a poem navigates you through an emotion-laden experience in hopes of leaving your mind with a complex bounty of thoughts and, often, a new perspective. A poem is almost always multifaceted; it is, as Clare Morgan describes in her book What Poetry Brings to Business, a “puzzle with multiple, inexhaustible, co-existent — and interchangeable — ‘solutions,’ each more or less dependent on the others for validity.”
Frequent poetry reading develops your perceptiveness and thinking capabilities, nurturing problem-solving skills for complex, multifaceted, and ambiguous problems.
Because the format of poetry requires unpacking and consideration, reading or writing poetry tremendously benefits business people and entrepreneurs, in a number of different ways.
Poetry can improve your problem-solving abilities
Frequent poetry reading develops your perceptiveness and thinking capabilities, nurturing problem-solving skills for complex, multifaceted, and ambiguous problems. In reading a poem, you develop meaning and interpret a story from words filled with both intentional and unintentional ambiguities. You extract such meaning by drawing upon the poem’s content, context, and use of poetic devices. When facing complicated managerial problems, having this ability to balance unknowns and generate solutions from nuanced reasonings allows for more imaginative and effective solutions. In an article for Harvard Business Review, John Coleman argues that “poetry teaches us to wrestle with and simplify complexity.” He mentions that Harman Industries founder Sidney Harman once told the New York Times, “I used to tell my senior staff to get me poets as managers. Poets are our original systems thinkers. They look at our most complex environments and they reduce the complexity to something they begin to understand.”