Walking and Talking Meetings: Fresh Air, Fresh Thinking
Friday, July 10, 2015on
I recently came across a TED Talk called “Got a meeting? Take a walk.” In this short video, Nilofer Merchant spoke about her revelation of “walking meetings.” She discovered this revolutionary idea when trying to schedule a meeting with someone, who, extremely busy that week, suggested she accompany them as they walked their dog. Merchant soon found that once she stepped out of the box, she was suddenly inspired to think out of the box. “You’ll be surprised at how fresh air drives fresh thinking.” Though you won’t soon find me scheduling meetings during walks with my non-existent dog, this video made me reflect on the idea that walking promotes inspiration and creativity, allowing ideas that would lie dormant in a standard “fluorescent-lit conference room” to suddenly proliferate. I also thought about the ways in which I've inadvertently incorporated this theory into my life. Stumbling upon this video is timely as I've recently begun walking to work. I really think this change has been helpful for both my health (as Merchant notes, “the sitting has become the smoking of our generation”) and my work. My morning commute has become a time of mentally planning and organizing my day, helping me prepare for the tasks and challenges ahead. My evening walk has become a time where I can review the day – its highs and lows – and decompress. I can make a mental list of priority items for the following day, helping me to feel more prepared. I also started thinking about the times I go running with Katie, our Business Advocacy Manager. Though these aren’t “meetings,” we do take the time to talk about our day, share ideas, and offer feedback on each other’s challenges and hurdles. When the conversation is free-flowing and uninhibited, we often find that we have similar questions and share similar experiences. This also reminded me of something Natalie Madeira Cofield shared at this year’s ACE Leadership Symposium. During a Q&A session with Cofield, President and CEO of the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce, a member of the audience asked for advice on building meaningful relationships with people who have offended you in the past or with whom you share differences. Cofield offered up this advice, “If someone said something offensive, reaffirm the value of the relationship and have a private conversation. Go out of the office because it’s easier to realize that you are two human beings.” I think this is another excellent benefit to walking meetings. Once you step outside of the office walls, it’s easier to view others as equals, liberating you to have those difficult conversations. I don’t think Cofield had in mind walking meetings, exactly, but I can see how this would be the perfect opportunity to give it a try. When thinking about these scenarios, I can truly see the value in Merchant’s “walking and talking” theory. While at first it seemed bizarre, I realized I was already incorporating it into my life and reaping the benefits of walking meetings. How are you incorporating variations of “walking and talking” into your professional life? If you aren’t already, can you? Are you conscientious about the ways in which the settings of your meetings are restrictive? Could you find an environment more conducive to free-flowing, honest conversation? Give it a try – you may be surprised at what you find! This small, and perhaps a little weird, idea just might have a big impact on your life and health!