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.At the time, I tweeted it.
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.
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
- Heres How Michael And I Got Rct Going At Nesta
- Institutionalising Serendipity Via Productive Coffee Breaks
- To Happy Coincidences And Unexpected Synergies
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.