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To-Do Today: Eat Lunch With a Colleague

Ban mid-day meetings. Encourage employees to use lunch time to build relationships, and let their minds wander instead.

Lunch is served


At Ocean Spray, the cranberry company headquartered in Massachusetts, you aren't allowed to call meetings at lunch time. This is a brilliant idea.

I'm sure a great number of executives use the time to eat a sandwich in front of their computer screens, but the rule does at least give Ocean Spray staffers a real opportunity to get together to talk. What a radical idea.

The truth is that, for all the email newsletters, blogs, and intranets, the way most people know what's going on at work is by talking to each another. The less time we spend together, the less we know what's going on in other departments, at other levels. This lack of cross-fertilization means that we miss opportunities to improve, create, and innovate. It isn't just in childhood that all work and no play makes us dull.

Companies are slow to recognize (and some are downright resistant to) the idea that much creativity occurs informally: not in meetings, on time, according to agendas, but at those moments when our brains relax and are free to wander. Day dreaming is strongly associated with creativity but, in order for our minds to dream, we need less structured, narrow environments.

We also need to know and to trust our colleagues. Building those relationships takes time and it never happens in meetings. The first time I ran a software company, I was struck by the degree to which everyone was so focused that they never got to know one another.

At the heart of all great businesses lies great collaboration. This doesn't begin with meetings; it starts with trust. And that takes time, letting minds wander together without an agenda. So it isn't a waste of any time. It could just be the difference between a job and a joy.

Last updated: Sep 25, 2012


Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur and author. She has been chief executive of InfoMation Corporation, ZineZone Corporation, and iCAST Corporation. In 2014, she published her fourth book, A Bigger Prize: How We Can Do Better Than the Competition.

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