Ten Tips for a Meaningful Reading Group Discussion

    As hundreds of people have told us in the more than 85 reading groups which have field-tested the "communal learning" concept, people find a group discussion of the ideas in business books a much more meaningful, enriching experience than reading them alone. The following points are what people have told us have worked particularly well for them.

    1. GET A CHAMPION FROM WITHIN THE ORGANIZATION

      Don't expect an e-mail message from the human resources department about a reading group meeting next Tuesday to be greeted with a lot of enthusiasm on its own.

    2. SET A REGULAR MEETING TIME

      The group may want to meet over lunch, or take 20 - 30 minutes near the start of a work day to meet. Groups meeting in the afternoon or after work are, in general, doomed to failure.

    3. MAKE SURE THE BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE

      Plan accordingly, and order the books about 4 - 6 weeks before you actually need them. Groups in general need about three weeks to read the book for meaningful discussion. Keep in mind that not everyone in the group needs to have read the book completely; often the discussion of the ideas in the book is robust enough on its own merits. In other words, don't cancel the reading group just because not everyone has had a chance nor the time to read the book.

    4. APPOINT A FACILITATOR

      This person is the one group member who must read the book. It is also this person who needs to send reminder e-mails periodically to make sure the group is keeping up with the reading. A provocative statement in the e-mails is also a good idea ("I'll be interested in hearing what people think about the author's radical ideas in chapter 3," for instance.) The facilitator is the person who needs to keep the group moving, focused, and on time.

    5. GIVE THE GROUP A MOMENT TO GET "IN THE MOMENT"

      Take a minute before the discussion begins to pause, breathe, become aware of the group, and align your thoughts and energies to have a positive and uplifting meeting.

    6. ASK EACH PARTICIPANT TO PARTICIPATE

      It may be a good idea, since there will be people from all levels of the organization, to go around the room/table and ask each person to relate something from the book that was particularly resonant for them. Make sure people understand this is a "judgment-free" environment and that all opinions and experiences have equal value.

    7. INVITE RESPONSES

      Download and use the discussion guides provided for each book on our website. Discuss ways these ideas might be implemented in your workplace.

    8. ASK FOR COMMITMENT

      This is a good time to ask participants if they want to make a commitment to do something THIS WEEK that will make a difference in the organization. Reinforce the fact that this is purely voluntary and that no judgments are being made.

    9. DETERMINE THE NEXT BOOK, AND SET THE MEETING TIME

      It is often a good idea to set the meeting time up to three months in advance, on the same day of the week and time on the calendar. Many groups have also had success choosing books not only for the next scheduled time but for two sessions hence, just in case participants are planning to be out of the office, and to facilitate ordering.

    10. CLOSE ON A POSITIVE NOTE

      Take a minute or two at the end of the discussion to acknowledge each other's contribution, and close with a handshake, hug, or inspiring thought for the week. Allow an opportunity for networking and community-building. Express management's desire for these forums to be the next "idea generators" in the organization.


    • Why Start a Reading Group
    • What is Bussiness Literacy?
    • How To Start a Reading Group
    • 10 Tips For Success
    • Discussion Guides