Book Clubs: The Final Frontier

“It is only by doing things others have not that one can advance.”

– General George S. Patton

In today’s fast-paced business environment, who has the time to read a book? Let alone read a book and then discuss it with colleagues – at work. I found out that taking the time to participate in a book club proved to be a great asset and helped me to grow in my job.

Six years ago, I joined an at-work book club. We were about 30 members strong, and every week we read and discussed a variety of books on business topics, such as The Paradox of Excellence by David Mosby, and Michael Weissman, and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. All relevant to business.

Then came Apollo by Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox; this book looked to become my next great nemesis.

Back in college, I majored in English Literature and was introduced to a variety of novels, poems, and essays. Most I absolutely enjoyed, while others ended up in my “nemesis” category. Like Sherlock Holmes, I had my Professor Moriarty – in the form of novels that tortured me with dry wording and long, drawn-out suffering of characters – books like The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, an admirable work on its own, though difficult to appreciate by my then-20-year-old self.

I thought Apollo was going to be another such beast. At 512 pages, it wasn’t really that long, and the story was intriguing, but I couldn’t get over the fact that we were reading about the Apollo missions of all things – at work. Where were the business connections? How would this help us achieve our business goals?

After our first Apollo discussion, the pieces fell into place. This book went from my “nemesis” category to my “all-time favorite.” The story of the Apollo mission proved to be extremely applicable to business. It explored courage, perseverance, overcoming impossible obstacles, and meeting difficult deadlines. It was all there in black and white, but I had been too obstinate to see it, until I changed my perspective.

A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points but it is by no means the most interesting.”

-The Doctor in Doctor Who: The Time Warrior

Having a book club at work proved to be a great asset, and the time I took to participate was well worth it. We grew as individuals while also growing as a team. We found camaraderie, gained insight into the world around us, and had frank, open discussions that would otherwise not have been possible. The book club broke down barriers and opened new doors, as well as changed many people’s perspectives. We continued to read a variety of books; some were traditional “business;” others were from the fringes. However, after my Apollo insight, I found myself more open to new ideas and ways of doing things.

Consider starting a book club at work, and you may also experience this growth. Star Trek taught us that space is the “final frontier.” Most of us aren’t going to explore the universe, so let’s make our own final frontier here, on earth. Journey there now, with a book club. You may also find your Apollo moment, and keep your business moving to “where no one has gone before.”

If you don’t know how to start a book club, check out your local library, which has many resources; there are group book packs with discussion guides you can check out for free. Librarians are also a great resource for finding the next great book club novel. Here are some links you may find helpful:

Finally, I’d love to hear about your book club. Did you have an “aha” moment when reading that changed your perspective or helped you to move your business forward?

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