Perhaps you do this already with your team: you take the first few minutes of a meeting to check in, sometimes as a group and sometimes in random pairs or trios in breakout rooms. Just a few minutes to chitchat – about anything but work, like what would happen randomly at the office.
Well, Zapier, a company that helps its clients create automation workflows, is doing something similar but company-wide. They
try to make serendipitous, face-to-face interaction happen on a routine basis. We use a Slack app called Donut, which pairs everyone who signs up with a random coworker and helps schedule a video call. There are no rules to these conversations—people talk about where they live, their hobbies, or (if they want) work. These interactions don’t replace the serendipity of an office, but they can go a long way.
The topic of work is going to come up when you’re talking with random coworkers, because it’s the one thing you for sure have in common.
And there are benefits: these random conversations can lead to solutions, they connect people who might otherwise never talk, and it allows for what Mark Granovetter calls “the strength of weak ties”.
The content of this post was originally posted in the September 2020 issue of my newsletter. “On management and strategy” is a free, monthly newsletter in which I share my own writing as well as links to articles and research on management, leadership, and strategy. It’s easy to subscribe… and unsubscribe.
In one of the People and Business Management workshops that I facilitate we ask participants to outline how they would approach their first meeting as the manager of a multicultural team. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the imagination and inclusiveness of the responses.