4 Lessons from Warby Parker’s Book Club(s)

It’s never been easier to keep learning and get better at what you do.

If you put in the work, and time.

I remember when my sons were young – mid-to-late 80s. The first baseball team they played on was coached by one for the dads. A well-meaning dad, great guy. But not a super knowledgeable baseball mind.

{Note to younger readers – life was more difficult in those pre-internet days}.

Today, the new baseball dad coaches have a mountain of instructional videos on how to teach kids how to throw, and catch, and field, and bat… And as they coach, and want to get better at coaching, it is all accessible. Easily accessible, at the click of a mouse or a tap of a screen.

What an amazing era!

Obviously, this translates into the work world.

But, sometimes, an old idea is still…magic.

So… here’s your tip of the day.

First. Let’s acknowledge this reality: one very good way to be current, learn more, keep making progress, is to read good books. And then, you enhance the effects by discussing what you read with others.

Glasses and books -- they really do go together, don't they?
Glasses and books — they really do go together, don’t they?

Here’s a model: Warby Parker and its multiple book clubs. Fast Company has this as the lead article on its web site at the moment: THE WARBY PARKER BOOK CLUB: BOOK CLUBS ARE SOMETHING MANY OF US DO IN OUR FREE TIME. AT WARBY PARKER, THEY DO IT AT WORK. HERE’S WHY, by Rebecca Greenfield.

Here’s the concluding paragraph of the article:

The book club helps keep that tradition alive. “At Warby Parker, we’re constantly looking to find new ways to both challenge and inspire our employees,” said (company cofounder) Neil Blumenthal. “One of the most obvious, but often overlooked, ways is simply to pick up a book and read.”

Here’s how it started:

The Warby Parker book club has gone through multiple iterations in the last four years. What began as a few people talking about their current reads has evolved into multiple department-specific book clubs and a company-wide speaker series.
“It happened very organically,” Warby Parker cofounder Neil Blumenthal says. In the summer of 2010, he and some of the early employees at the eyeglass retailer started exchanging books. Soon enough, they had all read each others’ books and decided it would be nice to talk about them. They would swivel their desk chairs into the office showroom and have informal discussions.

And, what started as one book club has spread throughout the company:

Today, among Warby’s 300 employees, there are 11 mini book clubs, which meet at least once a month.

And now:

Although the company-wide book club no longer exists, at the team meeting, Blumenthal or another executive will suggest a book for the smaller sessions (although the clubs can pick whatever they want to read)

About the benefits of a book club:

Sometimes the benefits of the book club are more subtle. “From a team dynamic standpoint, it helps build stronger working relationships,” explained Blumenthal. “It helps build trust when you create what is a safe environment to share ideas, or to debate ideas.”

So – the lessons:

#1 – Reading books is good.
#2 — Discussing what you are reading is better.
#3 – The more people you can get in the reading conversation/discussion book groups, even better. Trust is built, ideas are generated, teams are solidified and nurtured.

In other words
#4 – Reading books – together –keeps everyone fresh, and growing.

This is the current selection for the Warby Parker Book Club
This is the current selection for the Warby Parker Book Club

If your company or organization does not have a book club or two, or eleven – if you are too busy to have such a club – I think you are missing a great opportunity.


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