What were some of the best business meetings you have ever had?
Were they in a boardroom when you won a big client or when you sat across someone in their office? Was it during a lunch meeting? Or at an off-site? I’m nearly through reading the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. If you’ve had a chance to read it, you’ll know that it’s a rich and complex biography. Jobs is a tough man to like/get along with. It’s not a personal judgment based on my opinion of how his story unfolds, but rather thematic throughout the book (from family and friends to co-workers and business partners). His decision making process in business is almost as complex to understand as where all of the technological innovations came from. The one consistent pearl you get out of the book is that Jobs held meetings while walking with people outside. This was his preferred arena for business conversation and negotiation.
That’s a pretty powerful concept to wrap your head around.
The other day, I tweeted, "Sitting will give you cancer? Wha?" It was based on an a Blog post from Gawker titled, Now Just Sitting Still Will Give You Cancer. It’s become a (sad) but running joke that nearly everything will give you cancer (remember the song by Joe Jackson, ‘Cancer‘?). Meetings on the go make a lot of sense. The motion creates emotion and the flowing of the blood, clearing of the lungs and the very action of being active must help fire different pistons in the mind. Besides, do you really think that sitting at a desk all day is good for your general health and metabolism?
It makes perfect sense.
We often take a break from our desks to clear our minds. Why not take a break from our desks to help us think different about the work we’re doing? CNN published a news item a few days back titled, Silicon Valley’s different kind of power walk, that really got me thinking about just how much our work spaces and how we work is evolving before our very eyes. Laptops and connectivity have fundamentally changed the way we work and maybe this type of untethered work environment is also manifesting itself in how we physically think about the definition of a meeting. I know, that walking isn’t exactly new technology, but hearing that more and more business leaders are conducting meetings during walks feels like a new-ish trend to me. I was reminded of an article that I read back in 2008 in The Economist titled, The New Oases:
"The fact that people are no longer tied to specific places for functions such as studying or learning, says Mr Mitchell, means that there is ‘a huge drop in demand for traditional, private, enclosed spaces’ such as offices or classrooms, and simultaneously ‘a huge rise in demand for semi-public spaces that can be informally appropriated to ad-hoc workspaces’. This shift, he thinks, amounts to the biggest change in architecture in this century. In the 20th century architecture was about specialised structures–offices for working, cafeterias for eating, and so forth. This was necessary because workers needed to be near things such as landline phones, fax machines and filing cabinets, and because the economics of building materials favoured repetitive and simple structures, such as grid patterns for cubicles… Buildings will have much more varied shapes than before. For instance, people working on laptops find it comforting to have their backs to a wall, so hybrid spaces may become curvier, with more nooks, in order to maximise the surface area of their inner walls, rather as intestines do. This is becoming affordable because computer-aided design and new materials make non-repetitive forms cheaper to build."
Too bad for Dilbert.
We have untethered connectivity (laptops, tablets and smartphones), we are moving towards more open and collaborative work spaces (death to cubicles and the corner office?) and now, more and more business leaders are conducting their meetings while take long power walks. Perhaps this will lead to another business evolution that births a different type of business ethos and – more importantly – maybe a new age for how we conduct ourselves in a business to be more human… more evolved.
Hey, a boy can dream…
In my opinion, an important aspect to meeting while walking is the side by side nature of the conversation. I believe a lot more gets communicated, agreed to and done when people are side by side rather than across from one another, or worse, when one is standing and others are sitting.
Just my opinion based on observation (not backed by science in other words).
Thanks for the post. I have made less progress with the Steve Jobs bio – it sits on by bedside table as a mountain to climb. Will get there.
I like the idea of walking meetings. I suppose I have done them premeditatedly in the past – but maybe I should be more pro-active. The request to catch up for a coffee – should be let’s take a walk?
@Karen – the “side-by-side nature of the conversation” is totally right. My wife and I (and I know many other couples) get problems solved/ideas thrashed out during long journeys in the car (as well as nice walks).
Great idea. Let’s have a ‘walking meeting’ in Montreal towards the end of January.
*A dream is a wish your blog makes…*
Hi Mitch! Found your post via @Story_Jon. Loved it as I, too, believe we must evolve our business culture to be more human.
To that end, I was overjoyed to find a new site (and ultimately work with) Maestro Market – an online marketplace for finding and engaging expertise in fun, unique ways. We’ve just opened for business!
Is there a thought leader with whome you’d like to arrange a “pedaconference?” Check out our line-up of Maestros or let us help you find someone specific! http://www.maestromarket.com/findsomeoneforme (no fee, all free)
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Here’s to meaningful walks and cool connections!
Dream Boy Dream! Boardrooms and offices have coddled and pacified us long enough. Too much sitting doing busy work being busy working at busy things. Too many meetings that have no agenda nor point. Death to the boardroom and corner office and long live the true connection we can make if we simply remember we’re human.
Walking outside is the perfect way to literally think outside the box. Staring at a computer screen inside a styrofoam cubicle does not inspire. Getting out in the world, where consumers are, where your customers are, you are more aware what they want what is beautiful and what is effective. Staying in good shape physically also impacts you mentally and it can’t hurt to boost confidence by being in better shape than your boss!
I enjoyed your blog post and it definitely reminded me that I need to get up from my desk more often. It is interesting to note that there are real physiological reasons why getting a little exercise can improve your worklife.
Walking increases the blood circulation and also the amount of oxygen that reaches your brain! Plus, exercise fights depression. So get out there and oxygenate your brain!
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