Harvesting the Library

In the process of designing a training workshop on making effective decisions, I retrieved powerful principles and procedure from excellent books on the topic. Impressed by how much I learned from this activity, I designed a speeded-up literature review as a training technique to enable the learners to benefit from evidence-based books. Here’s the description of this activity to help you adapt it for your own use.


Each participant randomly selects a book, independently skims through it, and notes down some useful ideas. The participants pair up with each other and share the ideas they picked up from the book. The pairs of participants team up with another pair, share their ideas, and select the best idea. Each team presents its selected idea to the entire group. Finally, each participant selects one idea for immediate implementation.


Scan different books and select, share, and discuss useful ideas for effective decision making.


  • Minimum: 4
  • Maximum: Any number
  • Best: 8 to 20


30 to 60 minutes


The key requirement for this activity is a library of books on decision making. Ask your friends for suitable recommendations. Purchase a set of books, making sure that you have one or more books for the anticipated number of participants. Click here to review the list of books in the library I created.


Paper and pencil for the participants to note down useful ideas from the books.

Room Set-Up

Arrange the furniture to permit the participants to walk around, pair up, and form teams.


Scan a book. Display the books on the front table. Invite each participant to take one of the books. Tell the participants to work independently, scan the book, and note down one or more useful ideas for making effective decisions. Announce a 10-minute time limit and start the timer.

Share ideas with a partner. After 10 minutes, ask the participants to pair up with each other. Tell the participants to take turns to share the ideas they picked up from the book. Encourage the participants to take notes about the ideas from the other person. Announce a suitable time limit and keep time.

Share ideas with a team. At the end of the allotted time, ask each pair of participants to team up with another pair. Ask each of the four members of the team to take turns to share an idea from his or her partner. Encourage the participants to take notes on the new ideas they heard. After a suitable period of time, conclude this sharing activity.

Share a selected idea with the entire group. Ask the members of each team to identify the best idea among the different ideas they discussed. After a suitable pause, ask a spokesperson from each team to come to the front of the room and present the selected idea to the entire group. Encourage the participants to note down new ideas from different teams.

Make a personal choice. After all teams have presented their selected ideas, ask the participants to take a minute to reflect independently and choose an idea for personal implementation in the near future. Pause for a suitable period time and conclude the session.


If you have an odd number of participants that is not conveniently divisible by four, tell the participants they may have a group of three during the first round and approximately equal numbers of people in different teams in the next round.

If you don’t have enough books for the anticipated number of participants, buy duplicate copies of the some of the books.

If you want to assign articles instead of books, select different articles and make enough copies.