On the surface this really sounds like a dumb thing to say particularly coming from someone who has co-authored a relatively successful lean book. It is also counterintuitive. Shouldn’t you always read books specifically about the subject you are trying to master? What I recently discovered is that I’m learning more about lean by reading seemingly unrelated books.
Apparently, based on a book I read, I am somewhat skilled at what’s called “conceptual blending” or the ability to take two or more seemingly disconnected concepts and see a connection. I recently finished a book called IMAGINE-How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. After reading this book I came to realize how much more I have been learning about lean without actually reading lean books. Of course this does assume, however, that you have a working knowledge of the principles and practices of lean.
For example, Jonah Lehrer tells the story of the development of the Swiffer Sweeper™. From this story it was easy to see how inspiration can come from a deep understanding of the current state through direct observation. Proctor & Gamble didn’t reinvent the mop; they got rid of the mop. We have always preached that deeply understanding the current state is required to build the future or ideal state. What I didn’t realize is that it’s not just about understanding; it’s also about inspiration–another lean lesson I learned but not from a lean book.
Read any non-fiction and look for the lean connections (although I’m sure conceptual blending is a learned trait). I think you will be surprised.