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Hosting a business book club

By Caitlin Stidwill – Media Relations Manager at Deloitte, Canada.

Last month we held our first book club meeting. The group was inspired by a desire to share ideas and new thinking related to business among our marketing and communications group. People were also keen to connect with colleagues beyond our regular day-to-day interactions; we’re a social bunch of communicators!

Despite strong initial enthusiasm for our book club, in the end a small – but mighty – group met to discuss Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

As the host of our book club, I’ve learned a few things from our first meeting:

Start small

To get your book club going it might be wise to start by reading a short paper. There are many examples of interesting thinkers who started articulating their ideas in articles before becoming authors. For example, Clayton Christianson’s ideas about innovation were first published in Harvard Business Review before he wrote The Innovator’s Dilemma about his theory of disruptive innovation. Starting with a short piece might help encourage busy people to take time away from their routines to meet with colleagues, because the time commitment to prepare in advance is significantly less. Starting from zero isn’t easy. I think if we had selected a shorter piece to begin with, we would have had more participants and a stronger foundation from which to build momentum for our book club.

Choose the right venue for discussion

For our inaugural book club meeting we decided to meet over lunch. There was a desire to get out of the office and avoid another boardroom meeting. The food was delicious and we enjoyed great conversation, but looking back our actual discussion of the book was quite short. Perhaps a discussion over lunch wasn’t the best choice for us. Next time I think we might consider meeting after work, so we have more time for discussion. There will still be food involved though!

Share discussion questions in advance

I came to our lunch with a list of questions I had prepared to help guide our discussion, but I think it’s a good idea to share these with participants beforehand. Maybe it would have helped to get the conversation going if people had the chance to collect their thoughts beforehand. I think it might also be helpful as you’re reading the book; you can dog-ear your pages and take notes based on what the book club will be discussing. Of course, there is lots of room for people to colour outside of the lines and share ideas that aren’t covered by the questions, but it doesn’t hurt to help encourage some advance thinking.

As for what we thought about Think Like a Freak, the promise is the book will “retrain your brain.” I think we may have a way to go before we’re truly thinking like freaks, but the book did offer some useful tips in a really digestible format. We spent the most time discussing Levitt and Dubner’s suggestion to think more like a child. What they’re really saying is keep it simple. Too often we focus on “thinking big” when actually “thinking small” would be far more effective.

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Caitlin is a Toronto-based media relations manager at Deloitte who loves to share stories and spread ideas that advance thinking and shape public discussion. She has supported clients across industries including, non-profit, public sector, financial services, analytics, tax, energy & resources. Follow Caitlin on Twitter @cstidwill.

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