I know what you're thinking: You don't have time to breathe, much less read something new. But I know you can eke out 15 minutes a day--while on the treadmill, waiting to board the plane, or instead of watching the NFL halftime report--if doing so is worthwhile.

Let's cut to the ROI: Reading these five media gives you valuable insights into how customers, employees, and other key stakeholders think and make decisions.

The idea is to gain a fresh perspective and escape from your own headspace. One of the traps of being a leader is that because your team nods in agreement a lot, you begin to believe that everyone thinks like you. They don't. So to be able to influence others, you need to understand their perspectives. Here are five sources:

  1. The Economist--for the worldview. American media is notoriously U.S.-centric, as if everything important happens from sea to shining sea. So you have to go British to get a truly global perspective. Yes, The Economist is weighty, and you may initially be put off by how much reading is required--so many pages full of long articles! But feel free to skim through and pick out a few pieces that resonate. Bonus points for skipping the U.S. news and going right to sections on Asia and Africa. (No time? The shortcut is BBC.com. Faster acting, not as detailed, just as global.) Your takeaway question: How can you develop a global mindset?
  2. Your local weekly newspaper--for how grounded people are in their community. My paper is the Glen Rock Gazette, and it's typical of its breed: town council decisions, girls' soccer results, and upcoming events at the library. Plus, ads from Kilroy's Supermarket and the dry cleaner. As the late U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill famously said, "All politics is local." People care most about what's close to home. Your takeaway question: What's in it for them?
  3. Good Housekeeping--for a friendly, helping hand. Want to get better at appealing to your audience? Learn from service magazines such as Seventeen, Men's Health, and, yes, Good Housekeeping. The purpose is to help readers do something better: be happier, thinner, have a nicer house, and better-behaved children. Your takeaway question: How can you help your customers solve their problems and achieve their objectives? How can you remove obstacles so your employees can do their best work?
  4. Game Informer--for understanding unbridled enthusiasm. Everybody's mad about something, from video gaming to Bruce Springsteen to Harleys to scrapbooking. So it's helpful to dip into special-interest magazines to get a glimpse of these passions. (This is a great activity for the airport newsstand, since you can discreetly browse without actually buying.) Your takeaway question: How can you unleash this level of deep commitment?
  5. Reddit--for channeling Millennials. I asked my nearest Millennial last night how he keeps informed about what's happening. His answer: The Reddit news feed. If you're not familiar with this crowdsourced channel, you should be: It allows registered community members to submit content, such as text posts or direct links. Then users vote "up" or "down" on submissions to organize the posts and determine their position on the site's pages. Reddit is about as different from official news media as it could possibly be; it's the Wild West of information. Your takeaway question: How do you succeed in a world where everyone gets to vote thumbs up or down?

Happy reading!

Published on: Oct 28, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.