Experiential Book Club / Lean Coffee Mashup

experiential book club meets lean coffeeI am starting a new experiment at work – an experiential book club.

This is not your auntie’s traditional book club. No tea and biscuits. (Although they’d be nice if we could virtualize them.)

Thru the wonders of technology, anybody anywhere can participate. Share on X

Why an Experiential Book Club?

The problem with most traditional style book clubs is that while they are great for discussion – affording people a common space to talk about common interests (or problems), there’s typically a lot of chatter but not a lot of opportunity for people to practice what they’ve read.

And when practice is not included as a part of learning people can become well read but not necessarily wiser.

An experiential book club works to combine abstract thinking with practical exercises.  It resembles collaborative learning and problem solving instead of just discussing a book. [1]

Use the last 3 minutes of each meeting to share key take aways. Share on X


Thru the wonders of technology, anybody anywhere can participate, as long as timezones don’t get in the way of a restful night’s sleep.

The discussions happen real time, via zoom.us or hangouts or kubi or any audio/video tool you like. I think the ideal club size is 7±2 people, so if you end up with larger number of folks interested, split into multiple clubs.


We’re starting with each group meeting twice a month for 50 mins each session. We expect a typical book will take 5-6 sessions to work thru. Participants will also have the option to meet-up separately (smaller groups or 1-1) to practice learnings, or do assessments/exercises from the book we are reading.


This is not your auntie’s traditional book club. No tea and biscuits. Share on X

This club operates “Lean Coffee Style” – I’ve created a shared topic board with columns for “To Discuss” “Discussing” and “Discussed” – Trello works well.

Anybody in the club can propose a topic at any time by putting a card in a “topics to discuss” backlog.

At the beginning (or before each session) participants will vote on which topics in the backlog they’d like to chat about.

We’ll take the top ranked card, and discuss it for 5 mins.

At the end of each 5-min time box, we will do a Roman Vote:

  • thumbs up = continue on same topic for another 3 mins
  • thumbs down = move on to next topic
  • thumbs sideways = I don’t care either way, I’ll go along with the will of the group.
  • on a mixed vote, folks will have a chance to speak their minds, and then the group recasts.

We rinse and repeat working thru the topics in ranked order until we hit 3 mins before the end of the total discussion time.

Then we’ll use the last 3 minutes to share key take aways from our conversation.

Pro-Tip #1: Set up a back channel

Creating a dedicated and specific back up channel is a great tip I straight up stole from Mark Kilby. Lots of good reason to do so: if someone drops off the main channel due to bandwidth issues, they can be found via the secondary channel. Slack works beautifully – and you can pin stuff there, like links to the zoom and the trello board, and Google Calendar reminders.

Pro-Tip #2: Agreements

Always useful to be clear up front, with things like:

  • Time-box: Do we start on time and end on time? (Or do we punish the punctual by holding up for the tardy?)
  • Mindfulness: Do we agree to be fully focused and present during our discussion time. (turn the notifications off….)
  • Trust, Honesty, Confidentiality: Is it clear that what we discuss as a group stays between those present, unless there is an explicit agreement otherwise.
  • Anything else?

Next week:

Join me as we we dive into Chapter 1.

Learn to build trust, overcome defensiveness, and seek constructive ways of getting things done. Share on X

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