The First Friday Book Synopsis – a Blue Ocean Strategy in a World of Competing Book Clubs

The phrase “book club” is thrown around a lot.  And I am learning it has a number of different meanings.

For example, there are two different “TED” book clubs.  One is for the people who attend the actual, original TED conference.  They each receive a stack of books periodically.  They are then left to their own devices, to read them as they wish.  This is version one of the TED book club.  The other TED book club is a local event, here in Dallas called the TEDxSMU Book Club Meet Up.  People who attend are asked to read (expected to read!) one book before the gathering.  For the gathering in April, the book will be This Will Change Everything by John Brockman.  This is a wonderful, good, challenging book club.  “Everyone read in advance, and let’s discuss the implications of the book” is the agenda.

I remember back in my full time ministry days, I started a book club.  It was a hand-picked, small group of “young/future leaders.”  I gave them each a copy of the book I selected.  They each had to read the book.  Then, each person had to “present” one chapter of the book to the group, and lead a discussion.  It was a very workable, terrific approach.  It went really well.
For the first book.
By the end of the run (about the sixth book), I got the distinct impression that the only person really reading the material was the person reading the chapter he/she was responsible for presenting.

If the TED folks actually all read the book, this will be quite an accomplishment.  They might – TED folks are highly motivated.

But here is a frequent problem for book clubs.  It is common for a CEO, or a top level leader, to convene a book club within a company or organization, give everyone a book, and ask/expect them all to read it and discuss it.  And I know, for a fact, that a high percentage of the participants in such “book clubs” actually barely skim the book before the meetings.  I’ve heard this told, in many ways, over and over again (including from many participants who admitted this to me).

The fact is that most people wish they read more books, intend to read more books, but don’t actually read many books.  I can’t find good/reliable figures on this, but one study once quoted this finding:  among the college educated men (it was a survey of men only), these men actually averaged reading only one book a year (excluding the reading of Tom Clancy or John Grisham type books).

This is what makes the First Friday Book Synopsis a blue ocean event.  It is the only book club I know of where the participants do not have to read the books/are not expected to read the books in order to participate.  Karl Krayer and I read the books for you.

Is it the same as reading the book for yourself?  No, it is not.  It is not as good, and it is better.

It is not as good, because the best way to get the most out of a good book is to read it slowly.  (There is actually a book entitled How to Read Slowly:  Reading for Comprehension by James W. Sire).  For the books that most matter to you, you really should read them slowly enough to get the most out of them, to savor them, to ponder the implications and plan ways to implement its truths and suggestions.

It is better, because you probably have not looked for a book’s thesis, major points, and transferable principles since your last college assignment.  So Karl and I will extract these from the books for you, and you get the benefits from the books without having to actually spend the time reading the books.

Yes, the First Friday Book Synopsis is a new kind of book club – the only one I know of where you do not need to read the book in order to participate.

In our busy world, I think this is a pretty good, valuable, offering.  It is a Blue Ocean book club.


One of the books I presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis was Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.  You can purchase my synopsis of Blue Ocean Strategy, with audio + handout, at our companion web site,

2 thoughts on “The First Friday Book Synopsis – a Blue Ocean Strategy in a World of Competing Book Clubs

  1. Jim

    You are correct, it is a Blue Ocean Book Club. As a result of attending your events over the past years I now read more BUSINESS books every year. You select great books and after you have provided the synopsis I often want to read more, so I go out and buy them. As I am not starting out without any knowledge of the book I know what to expect and it really enhances the learning and the experience. Keep up the good work.

  2. Rick Foreman

    As the Lean Development Manager for our organization, I oversee the book club process that influences our continuous improvement focus. I agree with all your observations. I’ve developed a 5 step process that ties some accountability to amount of overhead time spent on the material. We do read the chapters and have a rotating discussion leader. Yet, I also implemented questions to be turned in for key points out of the book and others on how they might apply in one’s functional area. In addition, there is follow-up actions with feedback. In a way, I provide the synopsis and combine that with the TED process with actionable follow up. The results are quite amazing as we change our organizational culture. This is why I find your meetings helpful and fascinating. You complete the synopsis for me on some books that we might choose. Excellent job!


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