Until a week ago I was Vice President of Marketing for VeriSign's Trust Services (SSL) business, recently acquired by Symantec. I was with the company for almost seven years and built my department from nothing to the point where there were twenty people under me. I am a big believer in investing in people to grow them and improve the value they have for the company.
To help the marketing staff continue to learn and improve, one thing I did was to create BOOK GANG. BOOK GANG stands for Business Optimization Oriented Knowledge Gatherers Acquiring Necessary Grokitude, and it was a voluntary book club consisting of VeriSign marketing employees who wanted to increase their marketing and business skill set. Each month we'd choose a book and read it, and then BOOK GANG would assemble for lunch on a scheduled day to discuss the book and how it applied to our own business. At the end of the meeting we would choose the next month's book.
I covered the books and the lunch from my budget. Everyone else's part of the deal was to read the book (I read them also). Any time prior to purchasing the books a participant could drop out for that month without penalty, but if you don't get two of the books read, you're kicked out of BOOK GANG.
I liked it a lot as a program. It was a very inexpensive way to improve our employee assets and to give us a common vocabulary and framework that we could use to think about relevent marketing programs for our own business. It showed the employees that the company wanted them to succeed. It gave them something to belong to and deepened relationships between people who otherwise wouldn't work with each other that much. It was fun. Wherever I land in my career, I'll continue to invest in programs of this sort.
BOOK GANG continues without me. I won't be a participant moving forward, but I'll try to pull some of the old BOOK GANG books off my shelf and write a bit about them.