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Creative Problem Solving: Eating Out (the business lunch)

Or is each one an apple?

The ‘Techniques Library’ is a collection of some 150 activities or games that elicit from a person, or group (as small or as large as you like) answers to business problems, or at least ideas (potentially innovative or off-the-wall). Forty or so of these hold some appeal so I am picking my way through them; missing is the the meal, two or more people gathered for what I might describe as a ‘continental’ dining experience i.e. where you indulge for a couple of hours, mixing socializing with work, finding the middle ground.

Two observations:

1) As soon as you do one of the ‘techniques’ your starting point shifts

2) Whatever you do next comes a) with the outcomes of that activity and b) with the experience of the strengths and weaknesses of what you did.

I am reminded of the concept of ‘Hilbert Space’ that I became familiar with in 2000 when working for one of the most creative web agencies of the era (BAFTA, Cannes, IVCA top awards). Hilbert Space imagines a vortex full of holes; you exist in this space wearing a blindfold and holding a bag of marbles; to progress you roll a marble forward, when it rolls down a hole you listen out for the shin king noise, shuffle off in that direction, pause, then role another marble: this is how you find your direction, it is progression that is iterative and not in a straight line.

What about dinner?

Why has this been left out? The Business lunch is not about feeding your face at the office’s expense, it is in part the experience of the meal, its pleasures and challenges, but also about the conversation and how the longer meal is conducive to so many of the things these exercises set out to achieve: shared points of view, listening, sharing, disagreeing in a non-combatitive manner and potentially leaving the table with some ideas sketched-out on a napkin (or the table-cloth). Other bonds are created, insights too on a person’s tastes (literally).

Our problem in the UK (I have lived and worked in France) is that ‘we eat to live, whereas the French live to eat’. We had luncheon vouchers to use and went out every day for a proper meal, we might take a work problem with us, we might not (I know setting where no business talk was permitted before the coffee). The dining room table became a meeting room.

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