Turn the Page, Together: Book Clubs at Clarity

November 23, 2020

Clarity culture

A few colleagues here at Clarity have championed the idea of forming book clubs as a fun way to read about an interesting topic alongside a wide swath of coworkers. Earlier this year, with a few new hires in the fold, we decided to use their onboarding as an opportunity to implement the idea.

Our onboarding efforts have become much better established in recent years. In addition to the basics of helping new hires become familiar with who does what, and comfortable with the tools and processes we use, it’s just as much of a goal to get to know them. We envisioned book clubs as another way to ultimately make them feel welcome with all of their new colleagues. 

Our Book Club process: 

  1. We began by crowd-sourcing options for books in a Google Form, with the stipulation that the book be recommended based on some connection to either education, technology, or how to work better together.

  2. Management and the Onboarding Team selected the five finalists, and created a Book Selection Google Doc. Readers could select their top two choices in a new Google Form, including whether they preferred an ebook. 

  3. Clarity ordered the books and hosted a kickoff, where they met their groups and worked through a group plan.

  4. Groups read and met to discuss the book, which culminated in an informal lunch and learn session to share their thoughts about the book to the rest of the company. 

It was an enormous success, with over 75% employee participation and positive feedback, including reports of growth between colleagues who may not get to work on many projects directly together. Here are some thoughts and takeaways from a member of each club:

Don’t Make Me Think Revisited: A Common Sense Approach To Web Usability, by Steve Krug

“While this book covers the basic topics of user testing and UX in a readable manner, our team felt that even in the revised version, it did not account for current trends in web and application design, such as progressive web apps and elearning tools. As a result, this book only served as a good first step to introducing the topic of usability—yet those discussions were worthwhile in and of themselves.”

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law, by Haben Girma

This is an inspirational story of a woman who was determined to succeed in a world designed for sighted, hearing people. She turned success into advocacy for accessibility. The accessibility lessons of this book are important to our work and can inform our design and development processes.”

Radical Candor: Be a Kick Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, by Kim Scott

“Radical Candor is all about feedback, arguing it’s most useful to provide a healthy mix of both praise and challenge. One of the best parts about this book is that it spoke to everyone in our group, regardless of their role. The managers appreciated the ‘care personally, challenge directly’ approach to leadership, while others enjoyed the reminders to embrace discomfort, avoid ruinous empathy, and make room for various types of growth within the organization.”

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth

“The author defines grit as having the passion to accomplish a goal and the perseverance to follow through, arguing that this trait yields outstanding achievement – even more than talent. Furthermore, this book shows grit can be learned. It had parallels to Radical Candor, in that feedback can be provided in a way that motivates further effort. The author presented a popular TED Talk on this subject.”

Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity Through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play, by Mitchel Resnick

“This book had the most direct correlation to a classroom setting, positing that we learn best when we’re actively involved in doing or creating. We found ourselves actively discussing what ‘creativity’ constitutes; who we remember most from our teachers; and how we engage in ‘play’ as adults. This book fostered lively debate!”

These book clubs were a lot of fun and helped accomplish building further camaraderie. When this idea began, little did we know the world was about to be turned upside-down due to the COVID pandemic. Since we’ve transitioned to a fully remote work environment, these book clubs have had the added benefit of helping us to feel a little more connected to each other. We’ll certainly do another round of book clubs again soon and are soliciting further book recommendations. We wholeheartedly endorse book clubs as a creative way to foster the spirit of learning, together.