Lunch Roulette

Read this first

Lunch or Cigarettes?

Er.

I’ll have lunch please.

It’s not often you get to start a blog post paying homage to the comedy genius that is Eddie Izzard, but, when you do, you take that opportunity and run with it …

So, turns out, loneliness is a nasty business. Loneliness and weak social connections can see a reduction in lifespan that is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Goodness … I’ll have Lunch please.

Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General from 2014-2017, opens a recent HBR Big Idea series exploring the loneliness epidemic, with a contribution titled ‘Connecting at Work’. Dr. Murthy rightly orients our attempts to address loneliness in the places we spend most of our time: with family, in school, and the workplace.

Reducing isolation at work is good for business - Vivek Murthy

As I am sure you can guess, we certainly think of Lunch Roulette as a way organizations can take concrete steps to

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Bringing a gun to a knife fight

We’ve been away two years, and that’s the headline we decide to rock up with?

Oh dear.

So much has happened in the last two years that it’s just not practical to go into any of it in any detail, needless to say Lunch Roulette continues to grow, and we continue to be fascinated by the conditions that can help people come together in the service of something bigger than themselves.

What prompted us to break out of our blogging stupor I hear you grunt? Follow along Dear Reader, follow along …

“Dear Lunch Roulette! Amazing service, just heard about you at a conference, excited to try you out, …”

We receive a lot of these notes on any given week and let me say right off the bat, we love them. It’s super nice receiving a little unbidden missive from someone who is excited you might be able to help them. Let’s read on.

“… we’re a team of 25 people … ”

Oh no.

There it is.

It’s just not

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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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