I’m thinking a lot about book clubs at work. I always have, and the article about Warby Parker’s book club has reignited my thoughts about this. (Read my earlier blog post about the Warby Parker club: 4 Lessons from Warby Parker’s Book Club).
Many years ago, when I served in ministry, I hosted a regular “by invitation” book club, kind of to cultivate young leaders. I did this a few times, with a different group each time. We would meet for about 10-12 sessions, over lunch (brown bag, in a church conference room). I would give each participant a copy of the selected book (I’m pretty sure I started with a classic C. S. Lewis book – but it’s been a while!) and I would lead a discussion of the first chapter. Then, each participant would lead a discussion over a chapter of the book in the following weeks.
Here’s what I remember – a book club is not about the book, or about books, or about reading books. The book, and the book club, was just our excuse to get together to learn and grow as people.
In other words, reading books is the “tool” to accomplish other, more important goals.
Here is what I remember:
#1 – The book club builds close relationships. Our group was never large – 10-12 folks. At the end of the process, these participants got to know one another well, and they then worked together on various church projects.
In other words, a book club is a great team building experience – with good, lasting, ripple effects.
#2 – The book club was a means to facilitate life-long learning. They had to read – at least one chapter of a one book.
For many people, now out of college, and no longer turning in assignments to professors, well… they simply do not read many books anymore.
Reading at least one book – or, at least one chapter of one book — very carefully – is a good way to remind people that reading books is a valuable life-long learning discipline.
#3 – The book club was an “organization strengthening” tool.
When people connected to the organization (in those days, our church) get together for any reason, — but especially to learn together – the entire organization is strengthened as a result.
So, these are some reasons why I am a such a big fan of book clubs in the workplace. If you don’t have one, start one. My first model was simple – get 10 folks together, choose a book, and have each person lead a discussion of one chapter each session. What could be easier?
And the positive outcomes, the beneficial ripple effects, are genuinely worth the effort.
As I think about it, I remember this line from my church days. Soeone once put it simply: a church member, to stay a church member, needs to have someone to know, and have something to do. Let’s add a third, and put it in the workplace context: a healthy and engaged employee has to have something to know, someone to know, and something to do…. A book club can accomplish the first two, and lead to accomplishing the third.
(Yes, I have turned this love of reading into a major piece of what I do professionally. Some leaders in companies or organizations purchase one our book synopses. They get their leadership team together, listen to the audio as they follow along with our handouts – and then discuss the implications for their company or organization. Check out our synopses at our web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com).