The other day I had a thought–Why not start a book club at work? I read a lot, and I generally like to have two books going at a time. One book is fiction (just for fun). The other book is something related to my career, whether it is technical/software, business, or leadership related.
A constant question with regard to a software career is How do you stay current? To this point, it is of equal importance that the entire team (perhaps even all employees in the company, from receptionist to CEO) stay current. (As a software guy, I am biased, but I feel that software careers have greater requisite upkeep than any.)
I was eating lunch with a friend the other day when I first mentioned this idea. “Funny you should say that,” he said, “I just started doing that very thing where I work.”
My idea (his idea as well) is that the team recommends books to read, and as a group, we select one, spend a month reading it, and meet once a week, perhaps over lunch, to discuss the book. Maybe the conversation would only last an hour or so. A wiki page can be used for further discussion (and as a means of retaining the gained knowledge). I think it would be wise to do this during work hours, as any effort to make this something outside of work could cause a lack of interest.
As far as book selection goes, we wouldn’t read any books that read like manuals (i.e., “Learning Ruby”). We would select books that are more related to software concepts, methodologies, design, etc. Not all books would have to be strictly software related. Maybe a greats topics would include working with teams or leadership. (Even the individual contributor should grow in the area of leadership.)
The best way to get anything like this going is to simply move forward and do it. Too much discussion about the idea could lead to unnecessary over-thinking and possibly frustration with the idea. Does your company have a wiki? (If not, why not?) Get started there. Create a mailing list of interested people. Heck, even if they aren’t interested, maybe they will become interested. Email the group. Propose some books. Discuss a good meeting time with your manager (I’m pretty sure he or she will think the idea is great). One hour a week for employees to become better employees? That’s well worth it!