Continuous learning is at the heart of Polen Capital’s culture. We believe in expanding our boundaries and acquiring new knowledge.
Each year, we choose four books to read together as a firm. Our Culture Club meets weekly to engage in peer-led discussions of these books, exploring how they apply to our personal and professional lives. Beyond their educational value, these sessions offer valuable opportunities for colleagues to connect across teams and geographies.
For anyone looking for inspiration heading into 2023, here are the four books we read together this year at Polen.
The Trust Edge by David Horsager
This book set the tone for a full year of exploring the theme of trust at Polen. It quantifies the business value of trust and unpacks the eight pillars that are essential to creating and maintaining it.
We invited author David Horsager to speak at our firmwide gathering in May 2022, where he delivered an engaging, inspiring message at our Triannual Meeting. We then began a deeper exploration by designating one trust pillar each month as an area of focus for the firm. Polen employees recognized each other for the actions and traits aligned with individual pillars, resulting in an award each month for the employee who most exemplified the chosen facet of trust.
Source: Trust Edge Leadership Institute
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
In this uplifting book, acclaimed author and researcher Brené Brown gives her perspective on “wholehearted” living — a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness. Packed with practical strategies and tools, this book challenged us to identify the barriers we all face and understand how to overcome them.
The message of this book was particularly resonant during a year of market turbulence and challenging factors outside our direct control. We had the opportunity to follow up the reading with an impactful firmwide learning event in August, Building a Growth Mindset and Learning Culture, Unlocking Potential at All Levels. It helped us explore how our thoughts, words, and actions can drive different outcomes.
Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard
A personal favorite of our CEO Stan Moss, this quick read imparts great wisdom. George Leonard draws on Zen philosophy and his expertise in the martial art of aikido to illuminate the path toward mastery. He describes the rewards of undertaking this journey, even though it can directly conflict with our modern culture’s emphasis on shortcuts and instant gratification. Leonard also explains how progress is naturally uneven, interspersed with periods of struggle and plateau – a salient reminder for any investor.
Mastery is a core element of Polen’s common language, along with Autonomy and Purpose. This book helped us explore the concept in depth and encouraged employees to openly share the diverse goals and pursuits they strive to master. Hudi Krasna, a member of our People & Culture team, reminded us how important it is to maintain a sense of gratitude – even for the challenges of the plateau – as those times allow for reflection and often accelerated growth on the other side.
Agile for Everybody: Creating Fast, Flexible, and Customer-First Organizations by Matt LeMay
This guide offers something for everyone, no matter where they sit in an organization or their familiarity with Agile principles. It demystifies the jargon and contextualizes the rules and rituals commonly associated with the Agile movement, recentering the discussion on the more rightful focus of people and culture.
Our book discussions reflected the varied experiences and possibilities of applying Agile thinking at Polen. Our rotating book discussion moderators brought thoughtful insights to each meeting. For example, Neil Kumar Venkateswaran of our Analytics & Technology team elaborated on three core principles outlined in the book and how they manifest at our firm: customer-centricity, collaboration, and willingness to change.
“Develop into a lifelong self-learner through voracious reading; cultivate curiosity and strive to become a little wiser every day.”
—Charlie Munger, Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway