Mark Zuckerberg famously courts high-profile hires by taking them on scenic hikes near Facebook (now Meta) headquarters. Steve Jobs and Jony Ive apparently hashed out the design for the iMac G4 while wandering around a flower garden. "Taking a long walk was his (Jobs's) preferred way to have a serious conversation," Jobs's biographer, Walter Isaacson, has written.
There are multiple reasons these tech legends might be on to something with their love of walking meetings. As I've explained here on Inc.com before, research shows walking is great for your creativity (and, of course, your health). Nature is all around great for your mental well-being. And putting the two together by walking in nature even helps keep your brain young.
But according to research there is yet another reason you might want to add a few more hikes to your schedule. Walking outdoors with others, multiple recent studies have found, is a particularly effective way of connecting with people. Jobs and Zuckerberg clearly knew what they were doing when they laced up their hiking boots for some of their trickiest, most high-stakes conversations.
Hike your way to closer relationships
In a recent roundup of all the mental and physical benefits of hiking, UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center highlights recent science showing the bonding power of hitting the hiking trail with others.
"In one study, mothers and daughters who spent 20 minutes walking in an arboretum (versus a shopping mall) not only showed better attention during a cognitive task, but also had improved interactions with each other, according to independent raters. Specifically, they demonstrated more connection and positive emotions and fewer negative emotions after walking in the natural setting," writes the Center's Jill Suttie.
That suggests you might want to take your mom for a hike this Mother's Day. But the interpersonal benefits of hiking aren't limited to talking through family conflicts. "Other research suggests that exposure to nature can help our relationships by making us more empathic, helpful, and generous," Suttie continues, suggesting the bonding power of hikes can help you close business deals as well as childhood wounds.
This jives with other recent research showing that when you're faced with a conflict, it's often far more effective to get up and move together than to lock yourselves in a room and try to talk your way past the impasse. Studies have found that moving around helps jar us out of mental ruts so we can see problems in a new light.
All of which suggests that entrepreneurs might want to consider following the example of Jobs and Zuckerberg and investing in a pair of sturdy walking shoes. Next time you're facing a tricky interpersonal issue -- whether it's closing a deal, recruiting top talent, or hammering out strategy or a new design -- consider having that crucial conversation on a hike. You might find you're both more open, creative, and empathetic when you're walking out in nature.