The team at Warby Parker isn’t just obsessed with revolutionizing the eyewear industry, they’re also obsessed with books.
In a world where the vast majority of companies don’t even offer a single book club to their employees, the team of about 300 people over at Warby Parker, offers more than 10.
And if you were to step into their spacious flagship store in Lower Manhattan, you’ll see something that looks more like a book store and less like an eyewear boutique.
Even their name references their passion for the written word.
“Warby Parker” is an amalgam of the names of two characters found in the personal journals of Jack Kerouac—Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper.
So why such a strong devotion to books?
What is it about books and book clubs that appeals to this disruptive innovator?
“At Warby Parker, we’re constantly looking to find new ways to both challenge and inspire our employees,” said Neil Blumenthal, one of the company’s co-founders, in a 2014 interview with Fast Company.
“One of the most obvious, but often overlooked, ways is simply to pick up a book and read.”
Yes, picking up a book and reading it on your own may be a great individual investment of time and effort but if you were to take that experience and share it with your co-workers, it could be transformative.
Starting a book club at work not only helps you, it’s beneficial for everyone in the organization.
Here are 4 reasons why you should consider starting one at your company:
1. Getting to know your co-workers builds connection and trust
I’m always amazed at how little we know about the people we work with all day long.
Maybe it’s because we tend to put people in neat little boxes, like Mary in Marketing or Tom in Accounting. But how much do we really know about Mary and Tom?
A book club can fix that.
There’s something special (if not magical) about people coming together to share their ideas, opinions and insights in a safe and open environment. You learn things about people you would otherwise never have known. Over time, this builds connection and trust—the mother’s milk of effective team work.
So, did you know that Tom used to be a high-school calculus teacher?
And Mary has published a book of poetry?
2. It Super-sizes your own learning
Turns out that reading a book on your own is a great way to learn new things, but you can super-size that learning by exposing yourself to the ideas and insights of your co-workers. By reading and discussing a book together you unearth concepts and observations you otherwise wouldn’t have considered.
This is not all that surprising. People bring their unique experience, knowledge, skills and world-view to the group and this enriches the reading and learning experience for everyone.
You’re able to draw out more value from the act of reading, by doing it together.
3. It reinforces and helps you retain what you learned
Another advantage of reading a book with a group is that you retain more information by going through the process of discussing it once a week, or once a month. Without that discussion it is all too easy to glance over important information and to forget much of what you read. By preparing for the discussion, you sort of force yourself to go over the material and clarify your thinking about it. The discussion then acts to further re-inforce what you’ve learned. This allows everyone to get more value from the reading experience.
4. It keeps you and your team on the cutting-edge
As you well know, the market is fiercely competitive, for companies and individuals alike. The way to thrive in such an environment is to embrace learning as a fundamental pre-requisite for future success. A book club keeps you on that cutting-edge by combining the insights of every team member and focusing that collective intelligence on new ideas that can transform the organization and improve its results. By embracing the values of learning and growth in this way, we can establish a virtuous cycle in which everyone associated with the business can win.
If it worked for others, it can work for you
For all these reasons, book clubs can have a strong impact on your organization. They’ve been successful, not only at Warby Parker, but at other industry leading (and forward-thinking) companies such as Zappos, Google, and Facebook.
It can work for you too.
All you have to do is make a decision.
All you have to do is give it an earnest try.
Go ahead, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.