In a story carried by TechZim a quote was taken from Strive Masiyiwa as he spoke about the reason why Econet, though born two years after Net One and Telecel took only 6 months to surpass their subscriber numbers and they have never had a chance of catching up since. He attributed it to his reading habit and how they caught on to prepaid billing technology early because he had been reading about it. You can read the Techzim story to get the full story.

I’ve written a lot of articles listing books we should read on different aspects but reading that story on Strive Masiyiwa made me realise I’ve never talked about why we should read. I recently had a conversation with a young lady who intended to start a new business but she wanted something that doesn’t involve reading. I respectfully advised her to save her money and not go into business if she doesn’t want to read.

Firstly books contain lessons from the past. Think of the timeline of the world and imagine for a second that information flows efficiently across places. Business practices today contain all the information of the past and all the information has been captured somewhere. It makes no sense to reinvent the wheel so why go to the pain of experiencing lessons that have already been captured. Read books about business, about your business area and sometimes unrelated ones. You can learn a lot.

Strive Masiyiwa mentioned reading about an Israeli firm which had just come up with the prepaid billing system in 1996. Evidently he wasn’t reading about the past but rather the present in relation to the future. Reading is also an exercise in awareness. If you’re in a particular industry it’s important to read on trends related to or in your industry. This brings you up to date with best practice and keeps your offering relevant. This means reading not just books but periodical magazines that are focussed on your area of interest.

Some of the best books out there also tell you where we are going. As much as we would like to believe mobile internet and Ecocash just happened nothing could be further from the truth. In most great shifts there is a combination of factors that come together. Predicting the future is a difficult task, trends are little easier to see. Masiyiwa makes reference to his excitement about prepaid and how he told investors what it would bring. He correctly analysed the terrain and what had hindered mobile penetration in Africa up to that point.

In addition to teaching you these important things about business itself, books can also impart you with skills. There are many books on specific skills such as sales, leadership, management, habits and many more. Real practical useful tips and systems that help you develop yourself in any facet of life. It’s hardly a one size fits all but the right books will have their tips and findings grounded in solid research.

I would love to sit at the same tables as Robert Kiyosaki, Donald Trump, Strive Masiyiwa and Warren Buffet among others and hopefully the future holds that. Until then the closest I can come to exposing myself to their thoughts are books which cost a lot less than the tables these people dine at. There is an eye-opening effect that books have. Especially in cases of things you have e experienced perhaps as a consumer and understand how they were engineered from the business point t of view. The rise of PayPal is an example of such an experience for me as is Econet bringing prepaid to the party. This gives you an idea of some of the business level thinking that goes into affecting lives.

Garbage in, garbage out they say. You’d not expect someone to run a marathon without training. So why would you send your brain out to run the marathon of entrepreneurship without any training at all? It makes no sense. Consider reading as an exercise for the brain, the more you read in an area, the better your brain becomes at performing in that area.