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*Filtering posts tagged walking meetings

  • How walking meetings can be a raising agent for relationships and getting things done.

    It was 10am and I was one hour into a mini-workshop with an organisation. A brand new client.

    Sitting in an office in another country with two guys I’d never met until 60 minutes previously.

    This was day one on our working relationship. But this wasn’t the get-to-know-each-other meeting, it was the session to come up with ideas for a big project. The clock was ticking and we had five hours to co-create the ideas before I left for the airport and my flight home.

    It was going well. But by 10am I thought we could benefit from a change in scenery. “Can we go somewhere to get coffee?” I asked.

    “Yes, let’s head out for coffee,” came the reply and a few moments later we were leaving the building and heading outside.

    And that’s when everything changed. As soon as we walked down the road, I could sense we were feeling lighter, looser, liberated. We forgot the demands that lay ahead of us, and relaxed for a few moments. The small talk that happens when you’re walking alongside someone started. We were getting to know each other and shared a few laughs.

    What’s more, once we had been served our coffees and were sitting outside, the ideas started to flow. As we sat and sipped our drinks, we came up with some concepts that felt fit enough for further discussion. The walk and fresh air had reinvigorated us. But to test whether our ideas were good enough, we needed to get moving again.

    When we got walking again, the movement in our body triggered movement in our brain.

    We never did go back to the office. We spent the rest of our time together walking around, grabbing lunch in the office canteen, sitting outside.

    And by the time 2pm came about, we had our ideas nailed.

    As I made my return journey by car to the airport, I realised how productive we’d been in a short space of time. People who’d never met before managed to come up with the goods in such a short space of time.

    Switching what would have been an office session, constrained by four walls, into an (unplanned) walking meeting had been transformative.

    The walking meeting had acted like a raising agent, a fast-track to getting to know each other better, a fast-track to ideas. It was like we’d achieved multiple meetings in a single shot.

    But really it wasn’t a surprise to me. Walking meetings have become my trademark, that’s why I designed my Fuel Safaris out on the street. Just as my workshop had to come up with answers in five hours, my Fuel Safaris provide clarity and answers within three hours. Walking helps achieve so much during a relatively small amount of time.

    I always find constraints can be helpful. Via the walk, my clients and I got to know each other in a way we could have never done inside the office. The walk fuelled us. Our surroundings affect how we think and feel. Office environments can constrain our thinking, getting outside liberates us.

    Go on, get outside, take your ideas for a walk! You might be surprised what you come up with.

    I’m a creative consultant, storyteller and coach who gets organisations, teams and individuals fired-up about their work. If you want to move faster towards your career or business goals, come on a Fuel Safari with me. Get in touch by email hello@iansanders.com

  • Change your working scenery

    Twelve months ago I co-founded a meetup group in my local neighbourhood; yesterday, when I stepped into my co-founder’s shoes to facilitate the latest meeting, I decided to shake things up a bit.

    Rather than meet in our regular coffee shop, we headed for the beach where I led an alfresco workshop on the benefits of changing your working scenery.

    Most of us know that if we stay in the same working environment too long, we’ll become stale. Our productivity will suffer and our creativity will plummet. But still, so many organisations continue to build cultures around board rooms and offices. I think we need to challenge the automatic belief that offices are always the best places to work. I explained to the group how in my fourteen years as an independent, I’d never had a single fixed office, preferring to work from a mix of spaces instead. As a collaborator of mine once put it: “You *are* your office”.

    Earlier this week on another hot summer’s day, I was pleased to see some workers had taken their meetings outside; in the glorious surroundings of London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Gardens, a group of executives in summer dresses and rolled up shirtsleeves huddled around a table amongst the plants and flowers. Perhaps we should stop seeing alfresco meetings as a nice treat, and instead see them as a potentially better way of conducting business, where attendees are fired up by their surroundings, rather than sit yawning in an identikit bland meeting room?

    At yesterday’s meetup I explained how Nilofer Merchant had championed the ‘walking meeting’, getting exercise at the same time as a fresh perspective from the constant change in scenery. I introduced the group to Street Wisdom, the brainchild of David Pearl and Chris Baréz-Brown that shows us how we can use our surroundings to help guide decision-making; how the environment around us is full of wisdom that we tend to be too busy to notice. Having experienced my first Street Wisdom earlier in the year (read my post on that here), I tried a couple of exercises with the meetup group.

    Having warmed everyone up with an exercise to get them noticing their surroundings I then got them asking the street (or in yesterday’s case, the beach and promenade) to help them navigate a career or work decision.

    As the twenty members of the group came back from their ten minute walk, it was fascinating to hear how tuning into their surroundings had brought them clarity or a new direction. One guy explained how that seeing channels of water in the mud reminded him how he could pursue multiple options in his career, and how if it failed ‘the tide would come in again’. Another member of the group said how a ‘Keep off this structure’ sign on a jetty had reminded him how much he struggled being told what to do, and how we was more productive without having any rules.

    As the morning progressed, the beach filled with groups of school children on a day out to the beach. Whilst the noisy, excited kids were at first a distraction to our meetup, we soon noticed how the kids were having fun on the sand without a care in the world. This was a reminder to many of us to reframe our working lives, to make sure we make time for childlike curiosity and having fun.

    What we all learned in two hours is that taking meetings outside is more than just having a pretty-picture backdrop to conversations, it’s using our surroundings to inspire us to be more creative than we could possibly be inside meeting rooms and offices. Most of the group (hopefully) came away inspired and invigorated.

    So let’s stop looking at meetings-out-of-the-office as indulgences that are counter to our business culture; and instead recognise the business, human and cultural benefits that come from working and meeting in weird and wonderful spaces.


    [I’ll be hosting a free Street Wisdom in Southend-on-Sea in September; in the meantime if you’re interested in having me host an al fresco workshop to get your business inspired about the benefits of changing your scenery, get in touch hello(at) iansanders(dot) com].