Reading is a wonderful thing. It puts new ideas into your brain. It fosters creativity, new concepts and learning. It has taken me to some amazing places over the past few months. I have walked with Phil Knight around the world and into Japan to get a manufacturer for his future Nike shoes. I spent time with Ed Catmull at the Pixar campus learning how to overcome obstacles that stifle creativity. I won’t soon forget the lessons of extreme ownership from the streets of IRAQ with Navy SEAL officers Leif Babin and Jocko Willink. I took these journeys and many more with the 97th Floor book club.
Welcome to your own personal meeting with the club. Each month 10-15 marketing professionals from our agency get together to discuss the book of the month. Every employee is invited to attend each month, with the company providing the books.
The book club pushes 97th Floor employees not only to read new ideas and concepts, but also talk about them in a group setting and expound on those ideas and concepts. The 97th Floor book club strengthens individual minds, fosters relationships within the company and improves the quality of work we do. Let’s dive into how this is done and why it works so well here.
Eat and choose the next book
If the exciting atmosphere of discussing an intellectual piece of art is not enough to get you into book club, maybe food will do the trick. Each month the meeting starts out with food delivery. Food brings people together, and is always a good way to get the party started. We also invite any member of the book club to nominate a book for the club to read the next month. Any book from any genre is accepted as a nominee. We vote on the book, make our decision and have next month’s book ordered within the first 10 minutes of the meeting.
Rate the book
The discussion always starts with rating of the book. Books are rated from 1-5, but this isn’t your typical Amazon review section. 5’s are rare, 4’s are common and 3’s and below are not great. Many scores often end up around 4 because of the difficulty of earning a 5. The rating gives the group an idea of how well the book was received before we start the discussion.
Each time the book club meets there is a moderator who has questions, thoughts and ideas prepared to facilitate the discussion. This helps the group pose meaningful theories about the book and keeps there from being a lull in the meeting. We talk about things that we didn’t like about the book. We disagree on different ways that the author tried to convey different concepts. We always take away actionable insights for our own personal work. This is the bulk of the book club and it is time well spent.
How does this relate to 97th Floor?
The most important discussion questions often end up being the ones that relate directly to the company. At the end of the day the books are not just to talk about and explore ideas. If we fail to take away actionable items for ourselves and our team at 97th Floor then we did not get as much out of the book as we could have. There is always something valuable from any book that we can take and apply to the company. Typically there is a member of upper management that comes to every book club meeting, and they get to ask and answer questions with the rest of the employees. That gives management insight into what their employees think and gives the rest of us ideas of why management does what they do. It is a win-win for everyone.
Books that we have read in the past 6 months
I am sure you are ready to start your own company book club if you have read this far down, but what book should you read first? Here are some suggestions of where where to start.
How do you measure success in your own life? What makes it meaningful? Clayton Christensen not only poses these questions, but gives his own answers to what matters in his life to give readers an idea of what to look for.
Nike founder Phil Knight wrote this memoir about his life from graduating college up until Nike went public. It takes you through the story of how Blue Ribbon Sports began and became the sports behemoth Nike.
Navy SEAL officers use real combat examples to illustrate the leadership concept of extreme ownership. They never place the blame for a failure of a mission on anyone other than themselves.
Many companies are good, but what makes the greats great? This book dives into to what great companies do better than everyone else. It is a must read if you want your company to go from where it is to somewhere special.
Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull takes you through what challenges creativity and how you can overcome those challenges. This is a 97th Floor employee favorite as we are currently reading it for the second time!
Why read books?
What do you spend your time on in 2017? Is it Facebook or Twitter? ESPN or Tinder? TV or XBOX? There are so many ways to waste time and brainpower. It is so easy to shut our brains off and go into autopilot with the technology we have. When we apply our minds to reading or listening to a book we put new ideas in our brains. While no one remembers everything they read, having pages of books filed into the cabinets of your brain is what makes a smart person. It is what makes a creative person. It is what makes an intelligent person. Sometimes it’s hard to make the time to read a new book, but doing it with a group and a deadline it is easier to make reading a priority. A book club fosters a culture of learning in any company that wants their employees to learn and grow.