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Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been a member of The Next Big Idea Club, the nonfiction book subscription club curated by Susan Cain, Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, and Daniel Pink. Each quarter, a nice blue box arrives with two pristine hardcovers, plus other trinkets (e.g., book summaries, bookmarks, tote bag).
Keep reading to find out more about the club and my reflections on reading the selections so far. First, more details on The Next Big Idea Club.
How The Next Big Idea Club Works
There are three membership levels that you can choose from: Hardbacks, E-books, or Express Membership (you supply your own books). The club reads two books each quarter. Here’s the breakdown of the pricing:
|Membership Option||Billing Frequency||Cost/year*||Cost/quarter*||Equivalent Cost/month|
|*Bold face = actual amount billed|
The Hardbacks subscription—the one I have—comes with a free tote bag and a bonus book. And if you pay the annual fee, you get 10% off.
All of the subscriptions include:
- Access to video shorts by authors, reading guides, and author interviews for current and past seasons.
- Access to a Facebook community forum to interact with authors, curators, and attend live Q&A sessions.
- A donation to kids in under-resourced communities, in partnership with The Future Project.
- For a limited time, you also get one year of Business Insider PRIME ($99 value) included with your subscription.
If you want to check out the club before paying for a membership, you can get a 2-week trial with the Express Membership.
I’ve read 6 books with the club so far and these are the ways that The Next Big Idea Club (NBIC) has added value to my life.
Exposure to New Books and Ideas
As with any good book clubs, NBIC exposes me to book selections I wouldn’t necessarily read otherwise. I would submit that this is the highest value a book club could offer, as it expands the horizon of our reading diet (as opposed to just reading books that are already aligned with our pre-existing worldview).
I’ve appreciated the way NBIC has expanded my exposure to certain issues and ideas, the most impactful being the principles behind building modern-day movements in New Power and the issue on free speech on college campuses in Uncensored . I was always interested in social movements and campus life, but these books introduce new questions to probe, new challenges to push through, and new paths to consider, like the ones in the next two points.
Big Ideas Take Time
Here’s the thing about big ideas: They’re big.
They’re not easy life hacks that you can implement and get results in two days. They need to diffuse into our minds. Their essence and principles need to be extracted. And finally, they need to be tested in our real life applications.
All of this takes time.
Sure, there are actionable steps proposed in each of the book, but the full truth and power of the ideas are not going to manifest fully unless you apply them in a sustained manner over an extended amount of time.
Changing culture isn’t easy, building endurance definitely isn’t instant, creating movements and paving a career may take years, engaging in difficult conversations and learning are lifelong pursuits.
The span of big ideas is measured in lifetime.
Why the long timescale? Because the true work of implementing big ideas is difficult, which brings me to the next point.
From Analysis to Design
One thing emerges for me as I read through the books: With big ideas, there are the easy part and the hard part of the work.
The easy part: Reading the books, critiquing the ideas, and talking about them.
The hard part: Asking how the ideas would inform my life and work decisions, and putting them into practice.
The easy part: Thinking about other people who should read the books and implement the ideas.
The hard part: Reflecting on how I contribute to or hinder the progress to a better world, as proposed by the books.
The easy work is done at an analytical distance. The hard work is internal and will step on our toes.
For me, the question is, how do I move from being a recipient of these ideas to a contributor. From consumer to creator. From analyst to artist.
While discussing the Culture Code , I posed a question to someone who is in a position of power, “What are the ways you intentionally shape the culture of your company?” The person paused to reflect and said that the answer is not fully obvious right now.
I think often there’s disconnect between engaging intellectually with the ideas vs. bringing them to real life. And it’s always easier to apply them to other people.
This question of artistry and design is where NBIC is pushing me to go.
(By the way, NBIC is not without criticism—see this blog post by Diana Senechal, which relates to this and the last point. As a NBIC member, I think it’s incumbent on each person to assess the truth of the principles in their own life and work, and not get too wrapped up in the “bigness” or trendiness of the ideas.)
Community: Where Ideas Brew
Ideas need communities. Communities are where ideas incubate and evolve. For me, the most valuable aspect of NBIC is the community—both the existence and the quality—it fosters.
I have found the Facebook community to be an enlightening space where thoughts get exchanged in respectful and considerate ways (much needed these days).
But of course, nothing replaces the meeting of minds in flesh and blood. I’ve truly enjoyed the NBIC Meetup groups (shout out to Carrie Sheaffer for organizing the Denver Meetup) and spending time with people whose common preoccupation is learning.
Beyond the NBIC-labeled communities, though, I have been in many conversations with others who ask about the club, the books, and by extension, the subject matter of the books. In a way, being a member of NBIC helps me find my tribe in and out of the club. And for this, I am really grateful.
Does The Next Big Idea Club sound like something you’d like? Join or check out the free trial here:
Photos by Johnny Loi.