Too often, I receive emails in the format “Hey, read this interesting article! [Colleague inserts URL]”. This kind of email misses a really valuable learning opportunity for both the sender and the receiver.

Until you can rephrase something in your own words, you may have retained nothing from what you read. So, the sender misses an opportunity to confirm their learning.

The receiver of the email is given no hint why they should read the article other than on the sender’s recommendation. So, the receiver has to read the article themselves and make their own assessment – meaning there is duplication of effort.

So, two rules:

1. If you read an article, reproduce some highlight quotes, and rephrase for an audience assuming no background on the topic.

Basically, answer ‘what’ did you learn from reading the article?

2. Also, write how this changes or confirms the team’s views and assumptions, and so whether the knowledge can be applied or ignored.

So in this step, answer ‘why should we care?’

Sometimes we are in doubt about ‘what’ we learned, and whether we should care or ignore what we read – and by sharing our doubts, we can invite a productive and useful discussion.

This does takes time and effort – and can dissuade people from sharing material they read if they don’t have time to also analyse it – so perhaps people should be encouraged but not forced to do this.