If it's not obvious, a mountain of research proves that reading makes you a better person in just about every way you can think of, from expanding your horizons to boosting mental health. No wonder some of the best known names in business from Warren Buffett to Bill Gates are book lovers. Mark Zuckerberg even challenged himself to read a new book every two weeks this year, starting a book club to keep him on track with his resolution (here are his last two book picks).

But while you probably don't need much convincing that reading is a great activity for individuals, it may never have occurred to you that it's also a great group activity for employees — one many successful businesses encourage on company time.

That's the takeaway of an interesting recent post by entrepreneur coach Andy Bailey on Small Biz Daily. “Book clubs are no longer just for your mother and her friends. Many organizations are finding new ways to establish a modern-day book club during normal business hours,” he writes, noting that with companies like Better Book Club, busy entrepreneurs can even outsource the initiative if they choose. Why bother? Bailey offers three reasons.

1. Employee development

Helping your employees grow in their jobs is key to attracting and retaining top talent, but some small businesses may lack the budget and the staff to send folks to conferences or training. A book club might just be the answer for cash-strapped entrepreneurs looking to foster employee development.

“Creating a book club during office hours is a fast, free way for team members to draw upon the experiences of thought leaders. Not convinced it's worthwhile? Warren Buffett, one of the world's richest men, estimates that he spends nearly 80 percent of his work day reading,” he writes.

2. Increased innovation

Creativity rests on the collision of unexpected ideas, as well as a certain comfort level with ambiguity and half-baked notions. Reading can help foster both. “A study done by scholars at the University of Toronto found that participants who read a fictional short story, as opposed to a non-fiction essay, experienced a decrease in their need for cognitive closure, or, their desire to reach a definite answer. Individuals like this tend to be more comfortable in ambiguous situations and more creative overall,” Bailey explains.

3. Team bonding

In order for your team to work well together they need to really know each other as human beings, not just cogs in the company machine. A book club allows them to interact away from their normal functions and get a 360 degree view of their colleagues. “Whether you head to a coffee shop or discuss your findings over happy hour, the event allows team members from various roles and pay grades to share knowledge that may not have otherwise been exposed,” Bailey says.

Would you consider starting a book club at your business?

Published on: Oct 1, 2015