on March 31, 2016
I love the idea of workplace book clubs, and have recommended to some of my clients that they consider starting one. When executed well, book clubs are a terrific way to bring a cross-section of employees together to discuss ideas and opinions, thus building and strengthening co-worker relationships.
I recently came across an outstanding blog post on techcrunch.com, “How To Use A Book Club To Turn Your Startup Into A Learning Machine,” written by Dmitry Koltunov, co-founder and CTO of Alice, a hotel industry software company.
In his post, Dmitry explains the genesis of the Alice book club:
The idea to start the book club came to fruition over a year ago when we were dealing with a customer training problem. I made a suggestion to our team based on something I read in Delivering Happiness, a book by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh detailing how he created a corporate culture with a commitment to support. That’s when one of our team members turned to me and said, almost bewildered, “How do you have time to read?”
…and that question got Dmitry thinking:
As a leader, this raised a huge red flag. The short answer is: We don’t. In the startup world, the days are long, the tasks are endless, your ambitions are growing and there is not enough time to get dinner, let alone read a book at your leisure. I realized we had to prioritize learning as a culture, or we would never find the time — and be doomed to constantly reinvent the startup wheel.
He realized that regardless of the industry, all startups deal with similar challenges, and “given that 80-90 percent of startups fail, books provide direct access to people who have done it and can help you ‘grow up’ before you run out of funds.”
So the leaders at Alice decided to create a tradition: a monthly book club, with titles selected to address challenges the company was facing at the time. For example, when the leaders wondered how best to encourage innovative thinking, the book was Daniel Pink’s Drive. And when they needed ideas for hiring incredible talent, the book was Who: A Method for Hiring, by Geoff Smart.
Dmitry provides excellent guidance for structuring a workplace book club, and I strongly encourage you to take a look! Though he writes from a startup perspective, his suggestions could certainly be adapted to larger organizations, or a department within a big company.
Alice is now three years old, and Dmitry says in his post:
Our company and how we do business has changed quite a bit with the book club tradition. The books did not always have the answers, but they always fostered a good conversation. Sometimes we applied the things we learned directly, sometimes we adjusted to our culture and other times what we read simply reinforced what we were already doing. Each session brought the team closer and helped us understand our company better.
Thanks for the inspiration, Dmitry!