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Garth McAdamDecember 16, 20214 min read

ZZ Culture: Book Club

avatar Garth McAdam

Hi!  Thanks for joining our blog for another discussion of ZayZoon Culture. Let’s take a look…can you guess where? If you said “it’s in a book”, then you are the winner. Today’s post is about the ZayZoon Book Club. 


A Non-Traditional Book Club 

When people think of a book club, they usually picture a group deciding on a single book to read, and then working through it together.  That style works for a lot of groups, but we’ve taken a different tack. Much like a lot of the things we do at ZayZoon, our Book Club is a little different. We don’t pick a book for everyone to read. Everyone chooses their own book, with minimal requirements.  The books must be relevant to the business and our colleagues in some way, so this usually means non-fiction. Beyond that, there are no real restrictions.  

Why do we do it this way?  Because book club is, for us, as much as learning about each other as it is about discussing a book.  

In a traditional book club, where everyone reads the same book, the ideas and discussion often get muted, and we often don’t get as much engagement from all members. A few people (or one) will pick the book, and usually the most extraverted will lead the discussion.  If an idea or thought is shared, some may stay silent because they had the same thought. Others might not speak up if they viewed it differently, but are non-confrontational.  It’s a very centralized process, and we think this restricts how useful a book club can be.

When people get to choose their own books, they’re more passionate about it. It feels less like an assignment.  And with everyone choosing different books, we get to hear from everyone. Each member gets the full attention of everyone in the book club.  We get to learn about why they chose particular books and what they thought about it. Usually, this includes anecdotes and learnings from their own life, and so we all get to learn more about our colleagues.

If a traditional book club is centralized, we’re the opposite.  We are a decentralized book club. Welcome to DeBo: a ZayZoon product. 


What does the ZayZoon Book Club Look Like?

We meet once or twice each quarter. Our goal is not to put pressure on each other, and we don’t want this to feel like homework. This gives everyone time to find and read their books.  Before we meet, each person will prepare a book report. The book reports are simple, and intended to drive the discussion when we do meet. Each report answers the following questions:

  • What is your favorite quote from the book?
  • Which coworkers would you recommend this book to?
  • What is a specific real-world application that you will be able to make from what you learned in this book?
  • What is the one thing that you think you will do differently or think differently about since you read the book?
  • What is one point you disagreed with, or at least questioned, in this book?
  • How does something you learned from this book tie into one of the core values of the company?

The purpose of the report is to get each reader thinking about the book as it relates to both them and their colleagues.  


What tool do we use? 

When the plague started, we had just started up some serious hiring.  We brought on a lot of new members, but suddenly found ourselves in a remote work only situation, where meetups were not allowed.  The ZayZoon Book Club started during this modern Dark Age as a way for us to keep in touch with each beyond work meetings, and for us to meet each other in a social setting. 

We use to manage our books, our reports, and the meeting set up. For the actual meet ups, we currently use Google Meet.  But maybe in some distant, plague-free future, we’ll meet up in person.  

What happens during the meetings?  

Our meetings are about an hour long, and each person will give a brief summary of their book. Usually, this includes going through the book report questions, and fleshing out the comments there.  Afterwards, other members will comment on the book, ask questions, or reference other books they’ve read that build on the same ideas, or offer an alternate take. 

And this is the real magic of DeBo. Friends to know, and ways to grow.  We’re building a web of knowledge and personal connections.  We draw on each others’ knowledge and passions, and get exposed to ideas and books that might have never otherwise appeared on our radar.  Our books have ranged from topics including diversity in the workplace to time management.  From the rise and fall of Blackberry to better skills on listening and communicating. The topics are incredibly varied, but the meetings all have a few things in common: the incredible sharing of ideas, and learning about the intelligence and passion our coworkers.    

What are the outcomes? 

The benefits of DeBo go far beyond just learning about a few new books. We all share ideas, thoughts, anecdotes, and experiences as we discuss these ideas. We see how people think, and what interests them. We learn more about their life experiences.  All of these have strengthened the connections between the Book Club members in a way that would otherwise have been missed in this remote-work life. 

But you don't have to take my word for it. Try it out at your work too, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  

Thanks for reading this post, and I’ll see you next time.