Blog Post

Serendipity and Randomised Coffee Trials

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 25 November 2013



Serendipity and Randomised Coffee Trials
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 161
Posted DateMonday 25 November 2013 08:33 GMT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen

Back in the summer at KM UK I was talking with someone at a KM Clinic who asked me about the Knowledge Cafe and whether it could be run online. I am often asked this question and my simple answer is No. Yes, you can do things online but to my mind they fall so far short of a face-to-face conversation that they are two very different ways of coming together.

The woman I was talking with was looking for ways in which she could connect people across a far flung global organisation and to help them build working relationships. To my mind trying to run an online version of the Knowledge Cafe would not be very effective but as we talked an idea emerged in my mind and that was to connect people at the individual level using Skype. The idea was to match people at random across sites and get them to have a Skype based conversation. It would be one to one, face-to-face and should work quite well. That was it. As far as I know she did not follow up on this.

But then more recently I was talking with Susan Chan and she told me about Randomised Coffee Trials (RCTs) that were being run in the UK's Cabinet Office. I was excited, as the concept was so similar to my Skype idea but face to face - why oh why had I not thought of that :-) In Googling around, I found that the idea had originated at Nesta (an innovation charity with a mission to help people and organisations bring great ideas to life).

This how Nesta describes the RCTs:
Nesta staff that have opted-in are sent a weekly randomized match with another Nesta staff member and the two are invited to grab a coffee together.

There are no requirements or obligations regarding the topics discussed, some [randomized coffee trials] are spent entirely on work-related matters, others are entirely personal in nature.

It is just a coffee, but at the same time it is much more.

At the time, I tweeted it.

Told my daughter @TheCafeCat about Randomised Coffee Trials & within 2hrs her company had agreed to run them! http://bit.ly/1emtbnj

Seems the Scottish Government have been running them too.

Here are some resources Someone has had a similar idea called Lunch Roulette and have made a business out of it.
Breaking down functional silos is key to everything from encouraging communication to building valuable connections to sparking innovation.

But, as we all know, bridging interdepartmental chasms is far easier said than done.

Fortunately, some companies are starting to come up with creative solutions. Take, for example, Lunch Roulette...

The power of this idea is strong and it is so easy to implement. Take a good look and see what you think. Could you do this in your organisation?

Footnote: Where did that seemingly crazy name Randomised Coffee Trails come from - well its a play on the concept of Randomised Control Trials. Ben Goldacre of Nesta talks a little about it here in this post on his launch of Randomise Me - a free online trials generator.

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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