Getting outside, taking a walk… and seeking the good coffee

Getting outside, taking a walk… and seeking the good coffee

It’s 10 o’clock on a Friday morning at a business park 60 miles south of Munich airport. I’m in a meeting with two clients I’ve never met before. The clock is ticking. In four hours a sleek Mercedes will whisk me up the autobahn back to the airport. And by that time we will need to have created some ideas. This is day one of our working relationship. But despite never having met before, this isn’t the get-to-know-each-other meeting. It’s the one and only session to come up with solutions for a big project.

I know how hard it is to create ideas on the spot, against the clock. But I also know what steps we can take to get creatively energised.

We’d been going for one hour and I sensed we needed to change the rhythm. “Is there somewhere we can go to get coffee?” I venture.

It’s their turf, and I’m not sure what the response is going to be. Are they going to head to the nearest vending machine, or have some delivered to the room? One executive replies there is some coffee along the corridor; the other suggests we walk to another building on the campus for some proper coffee.

Bingo! Here was the potential to shake things up, and I took it. We grabbed our notepads and headed out of the office.

It was a moment of change. As soon as we started walking down the road, I could sense we felt lighter, looser, liberated. We forgot the demands that lay ahead of us, and relaxed for a few moments. The small talk started. We were getting to know each other and shared a few laughs.

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 good enough for further discussion. The walk and fresh air had reinvigorated us. But to test whether our ideas were good enough, I knew we needed to get moving once more.

By starting walking again, I could almost physically feel the movement in our body triggering movement in our brain. The cogs were beginning to whir.

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 arrived, we’d nailed our ideas. If we hadn’t gone for the walk or coffee, we would never have found the answers.

As I made my return journey by car to the airport I was staggered, in part, by how productive we’d been in such a short space of time. People who’d never met before managed to come up with a testable concept in a matter of hours. But at the same time, I wasn’t surprised we’d achieved so much.

I knew it would be transformative, switching an office session constrained by four walls into an (unplanned) walking meeting.

The walking was the yeast: a raising agent that fast-tracked us to getting to know each other better; an ignition to spark ideas. It was as if we’d achieved the outcome of multiple meetings in just one go.

The takeaways from this experience are three of the rules I live my business life by. So if you're looking to generate ideas against the clock, you want to get creatively energised, or you just want to look at something from a different angle, try following these :

  1. Get out of the office;

  2. Take a walk;

  3. And always go in search of the good coffee.

And if you want me to help your team get more energised about how they approach their work, get in touch.

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Sharing stories at a historic coaching inn

Sharing stories at a historic coaching inn