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How our business book club changed us for the better

This blog post was written by Jennifer Janson, founder of my Business Book club and owner of Six Degrees

A couple of years ago we set up a book club in our business. The concept was really simple – as a group, we’d choose a book (related to business in some way), then meet to discuss it. The implementation was equally simple. We have rarely had strong objections to the books that we read, and enthusiasm for the book club hasn’t waned, as can often be the case with company-wide initiatives. Despite the simplicity of the concept, the effect of the programme has really been quite far-reaching, and incredibly positive. And in fact, it was the genesis of this business, as a passion project for a group of Six Degrees employees. As I reflect on the experience so far, I think there are three main impacts that the book club has had:

1. It’s made us more social. Despite the fact that we talked a lot about doing more together socially, there were always deadlines looming, families waiting, or other obligations getting in the way. Somehow, by connecting the social activity to a real business benefit, all of those blocks fell by the wayside. It seems acceptable to stop and talk to your colleagues for 45 minutes if it opens your mind, challenges your thinking and helps you be a better person in some aspect of your life. The discussion creates a focal point for conversation and respectful debate, and in the process we learn a lot more about each other.

2. It’s made us better salespeople. I’m not sure if it’s our industry or our company, but we have not traditionally been very good at ‘selling’ ourselves or our services (most of what we do comes from recommendations). But a number of books that we’ve read have redefined ‘selling’ and reinforced our own strengths. I’m thinking specifically of Dale Carnegie’s How to win friends and influence people (chosen by the more junior members of our team, which I love). It instilled great basic principles and from one day to the next I saw people talking and acting in a different way, both with their clients and with each other. And as a result, we’ve increased the business we’re generating from existing clients, and getting more new business too.

3. It has enhanced our thirst for learning. On occasion we have let the date for the next book club slide. And without fail, each time this has happened, it has been one of the team, not me, who has reminded us to get it back on track. That suggests that it adds real value. We miss it when it’s not happening. As a business, we are always hungry to know more, to learn knew things and to challenge our thinking. And the more we read it seems, the more we want to learn.

If you are thinking about a new way to contribute to company-wide learning, or to bring people together, I can’t recommend a book club highly enough.

Our list of books to read is growing so if you do decide to start a bookclub in your business, check back often to read our book reviews. And if you are a business owner and would like to contribute with a review of one of your favourite books, please get in touch!

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