Lunch Roulette

Read this first

We can get you past no … Probably.

A wonderful Daily Shout from New Yorker contributor Hallie Cantor caught my eye last week: “Everything I Am Afraid Might Happen If I Ask New Acquaintances to Get Coffee”.

Thankfully, processes like Lunch Roulette can help. Organizations that use our platform have made the act of opting into random lunch meetings super easy … so we can get you past the first two hurdles right off the bat:

  1. They will say no.
  2. They will say no and laugh at me for not having enough existing friends to get coffee with

My favourite, and probably the thing I am most afraid of when talking to any new person is #16, “They’ll want to talk about CrossFit.” That, unfortunately, Lunch Roulette cannot help with.

In other news, a Vox article that caught my eye last week reminded me of an earlier Lunch Roulette blog posting bemoaning the fact that people pooh-pooh lunch. After a decade in Switzerland the authour of

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Deep Learning and Systemic Insight

A number of months ago, I staked the following claim:

Through a combination of thoughtful physical space planning coupled with elements of rich mobile, network, and sensor data we can engineer the randomness of human interaction, in the hope of enriching for serendipitous outcomes. Such outcomes will be driven by engaged actors contextualizing previously unknown but knowable information/data/knowledge.

There’s an emerging community of thinkers/doers exploring the intersection of data collection, modeling, and people analytics - in the service of engineering randomness. In the context of ‘work’, this paragraph represented the best synthesis of my noodling at that time on the topic.

Wait, why is work in single quotation marks?

When I talk about ‘work’, I typically refer to actors engaged in activities that contribute towards something that is bigger than any one of them. Interestingly

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“But you can’t please all the people all the time”

I’m currently reading Jon Ronson‘s most recent book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. My title from today’s post made me think of Chapter Two and his description of everything that went down with an author who’d made up some song lyrics.

I’m going to come clean. The lyric above is not from Mr. Marley - I changed 'fool’ to ‘please’. There, I said it … Phew, weight loaded.

What am I going on about I hear you toot? I don’t write for weeks, and then all of a sudden I start talking about plagiarism. What’s up with that?

Let me elaborate dear reader.

I attended Day One of The Conference Board’s Digital Workplace Seminar event yesterday. It was a good time, and I enjoyed speaking about data and change (slides can be found here).

The topic of Employee Engagement came up a number of times, and was mentioned very early. As my one regular reader knows this is a favorite topic of mine.

As you

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Coordination by proxy

So, this happened earlier this week:

Seems like a good question, right? Why are organizations taking so long to figure out effective knowledge collaboration? As my reply implies I think that the fundamental issue of knowledge {management, coordination, collaboration} is ‘wicked’ at it’s core. Here’s more on what I mean by wicked.

One contributing factor to how this problem exhibits itself, and most likely a factor that ensures that this problem persists, is that of scale. Which got me to wondering if anyone has looked at the tension of exploration vs. exploitation as a function of organizational size? A guess might be that at some point an organization becomes large enough that the cost of exploring

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Culture eats strategy for breakfast and no one is having lunch …

Some people attribute the quote connecting culture and breakfast to Peter Drucker. Others do not.

What everyone seems to agree upon, irrespective of where it originated from, is that ‘the culture’ of an organization is going to determine how much ‘different’ you can ultimately drive.

Which brings me neatly to today’s post.

Lunch Roulette - the awesome-web-based-engineered-randomness-solution - is only useful if it’s used. It’s only useful if you have a culture that lunch (or a scheduled break of some kind) is an expected part of the day. Turns out, especially in the US, this isn’t always a guarantee.

This was nicely explored in a recent piece posted on ‘The Salt’ at NPR. Most folks, do not lunch away from their desks.

How bonkers is that? Surrounded by people working at the same company, on stuff that somehow connects in the service of the bigger picture, and no one wants to have

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Clowns, Jokers, Rocks, and Hard Places

If you haven’t yet, take some time to have a read of Aimee Groth’s wonderful article on the self-organizing management schema ‘The Holocracy’.

To undertake a whole scale transformation of how an organization works - how decisions are made, and how power is distributed - is a complex and audacious task. But, it also struck me as somewhat simplistic at the same time.

What do I mean by this, I hear you toot?

What if we view the self-organizing model as the complement, the diametric opposite, of a completely designed model? Either we let the system decide, or we decide for the system. We manage to the extremes. Because, at the extremes we, have more clarity and that’s really all we want ever - is clarity, and as much as you can give us thanks very much.

My initial reaction to Ms. Groth’s piece I tweeted about:

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The other half of Working out Loud: Eyes Wide Open, Brain Switched On

In the Epilogue of Noreena Hertz’s wonderful book ‘Eyes Wide Open’, she exhorts us to keep our ‘eyes wide open and our brains switched on’.

Prof. Hertz’s book is all about navigating complexity and making decisions with incomplete information. Her advice, admittedly obvious, is quickly ignored - so her reminder (any reminder really) is a good one. I also think it’s an important piece of ‘the puzzle’ we’re exploring here, so is the focus of my post this week.

But first, let me introduce the concept of ‘Working Out Loud’ (WOL). Coined by Bryce Williams in 2010, WOL is the narration of observable work using social channels (typically digital in nature). The concept has been driven by John Stepper, with John leading the way in showing folks how to do this.

The Working Out Loud concept made it onto a list yesterday, authored by Dion Hinchcliffe, wherein Mr. Hinchcliffe described ‘The

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Tell him about the twinkie

There’s always room on a Friday for Ghostbusters quotes. Am I right?

Never mind. Don’t answer that.

For those of you that remember, ‘the twinkie’ referred to above, was being used to describe the magnitude of the paranormal problem the Ghostbusters were about to find themselves in. It was a sugary prop for a discussion about measurement.

Which is exactly this week’s topic.

As you, my frequent reader knows, we’re all about curating conditions to enrich for the the likelihood of serendipitous outcomes. That’s really what Lunch Roulette-like services are all about.

While fingers-crossed and hoping is a good start, we should strive for measurement in this which, as I’ve previously mentioned, is hard.

Earlier this week I revisited this topic and began to noodle the following. I’m offering this more of a hypothesis at the moment, but I think we’re onto something.

What if emergent

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Sex and Serendipity

Earlier this week, on January 28th to be precise, a friend sent me a note excitedly letting me know that on that day, in 1754, Horace Walpole used the word ‘serendipity’ for, apparently, the first time in the history of the English language.

Accompanying this article was the following little nugget attributed to Julius Comroe:

“Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer’s daughter.”


Maybe my mind’s in the gutter, but that seemed like a saucy outcome that Dr. Comroe was alluding to: Our needle searcher much to their surprise, instead of the needle they’d been lusting after, had found the farmer’s daughter instead. Sexual hilarity ensues …

Or, maybe, Dr. Comroe actually meant something like this:

“Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and finding a sewing kit”

I know boooring … perhaps a little more accurately connected to the

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Why the Org. Chart May Not Cut it Anymore

Editors Note: This is our first guest post, and I’m thrilled to welcome Megha Pandit Rao and Alexandra Hughes. As so much of what we’ve spoken about in some of our earlier posts here relates to Employee Engagement, we put our heads together and had a think about some of the failings of the org. chart.

Why the Org Chart May Not Cut it Anymore
January 14, 2015

Structure has a profound effect on employee behaviors, attitudes, and engagement, all of which are inextricably linked to customer satisfaction. So with more than 70 percent of American workers not engaged or actively disengaged in their work, it’s a wonder more companies aren’t examining their structure and asking, “Is this really working”?

For many, the answer is, it isn’t.

The traditional organizational structure of most for-profit companies – the one that involves a litany of org charts – is increasingly outdated. Companies

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