“In the case of good books, the point is not how many of them you can get through,
but rather how many can get through to you.”
Mortimer Jerome Adler – American Author and Philosopher
Recently our studio instated its first official book club, which we have coined Book Klub to give it a more personal touch. I had been thinking about starting one for quite some time, as I felt it was important to inject learning into our culture more directly. And in full disclosure, I thought it’d be a good way to motivate me to finish books.
Karten Design has long fostered a culture of learning – we not only hire those with an innate thirst for learning, but we also make sure to provide outlets to learn in our studio through events like our Conversations series and Lunch N’ Learns. But a book club provides an entirely different learning venue for us. We get to seek knowledge, explore current thinking, and learn together.
The books we’ve chosen thus far incorporate relevant, tangible practices that are near and dear to how we operate and what we deliver to our clients. They inspire us to further design ourselves personally and as a design firm to be better at what we do.
We’ve read three books now, and, for me, the best part hasn’t been reading – though I like that too – but rather the group discourse that has transpired. These talks remind me of what I loved most about my lit classes in high school and college: really digging into whatever book we were reading. That same level of in-depth analysis and dissection that took place in the classroom is taking place on the patio of our studio.
Similar to a classroom, we’ve formed a place to gather and share thoughts, ideas, and emotions. I am able to see how my team thinks, what stood out to some people and what stood out to others. I learn more about my employees and what they care about. What was the most refreshing, though, was the honesty and insights that were brought to the table. Our monthly Book Klub meetings are a time when we can truly blend together, build community, and cultivate our office culture.
The net effect of this discourse? We end up turning the mirror inward. Book Klub becomes an open forum where anyone can weigh in. It is an organic opportunity for our entire organization to share their opinions, ideas, and rants in a non-judgmental environment. In this setting, we are able to examine and dissect, relate and compare these cited case studies and practices to what we are doing and what we are not doing, for good and for bad. As the principal of a studio, it is pretty cool to hear everyone’s perspective on how to implement change and successful practices that we’ve read to our work.
Much of Book Klub was founded out of the collective desire to continually grow and eventually change for the better in the workplace and in our personal lives. And I can see this beginning to happen. By reading about habits in Charles Duigg’s The Power of Habit, for example, we learned how our behaviors could be distilled into one “keystone habit.” At Alcoa, creating a keystone habit of safety revolutionized every facet of its business. This example opened up a dialogue on our habits – good and bad – at Karten Design. Another example of this is from our last meeting on Imagine by Jonah Lehrer. In the book, Lehrer writes about Pixar to illustrate the power of group creativity. Teamwork, he writes, and the belief that you can learn a lot from your coworkers have been the secrets of Pixar’s success. This got us thinking about how we work together in the studio, and what we can do maximize our creativity through more collaboration.
We are still learning how to adapt and implement these lessons into our daily routines, work habits, procedures and processes, and culture. With time, I am confident that this unique forum where we can gather together and engage in a higher level of conversation than we normally have will benefit us…stay tuned as we discover how…