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Adventures of a virtual book club

May 29, 2020
clock 4 MIN READ

Recently, we brought our book club virtual (more about our book club in our Confessions of a Book Club Skeptic post). We selected our latest book just days before the pandemic really hit and stay orders were put in place. We debated how to handle the next book club and put it out to a vote. Unanimously, the team wanted to meet virtually. 

The “location” may have been different, but our sense of community and desire to connect was alive and well. In fact, we didn’t miss a beat. Meeting virtually is easy and natural, and while it’s clearly not the same as meeting in person, it does come with some benefits. New members were able to join in who couldn’t before because they were on the road, or live in another city. Making it virtual instantly broadened our community. I plan to continue to conduct a few book club meetings virtually each year, hoping we’ll continue to extend our community to include more global teammates in the future. 

Our book was “Crazy Rich.” It is about Johnson & Johnson; not so much about the company but the family. The book covered the family’s challenges and dramas in extensive detail, and there were mixed reviews about that. In fact, not everyone read the whole book it this time around, but that never stops us. The conversation was rich, fun and inclusive. Some book clubs may feel differently, but in ours ”not reading” is not bad. We get it and accept it. Maybe we were all still adjusting to our new normal or maybe it was just this particular book, but either way, by the end of the discussion, we didn’t know or remember who had read it and who hadn’t. Everyone participated and felt a place of belonging and community, which the only real goal we have.

Powerful inflection points lead to major innovation

I found the book interesting, particularly the discussion about the company — how it was founded and how it grew. Johnson & Johnson was founded by entrepreneur brothers. Like most start-ups, a macro trend (in this case a war) helped propel their business. Their growth was also supported by innovation, which they found seemingly found everywhere. For example, readers will learn that the ubiquitous Band-Aid was an at-home idea by one of the Johnson brother’s wives, which they developed into a product that can most likely be found in all of our homes today.  

When I reflected on their growth, especially that driven by the war, I thought about how many times inflection points are horrible in the moment, but end up creating significant innovation. People are resilient. They adjust, improvise and innovate. The same will be true for this pandemic. We will continue find new and different ways to live, work and relate. Right this moment, someone is thinking about how to make life better in this new normal. Schools are thinking about what will remain digital when the pandemic is over. Companies are discussing how the office may not be a place of work but a place to connect (every now and then). Doctors and patients are looking at telemedicine as more than a mere efficiency tool; they are seeing value in being able to access medical expertise 24/7 from any location. On this journey through the pandemic, our eyes are the same, but what we see is different. Just like reading something new for the first time, our eyes are open to new ideas. 

Explore new places while staying at home

As summer approaches, we must find time to relax and get away, even if just to our backyard, driveway, or a local park. We’re learning to make space for our life and mental health, and reading a good book may help. My wife once said to me “I read to explore another place.” I always thought that was so interesting and inspiring. Let reading take you on vacation. Pick up a book and lets us know what you explored – we are always in search of a great read for our club. Stay well.

Albert Chiaradonna

Executive Vice President, SEI Global Private Banking

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