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The Walking Meeting Edition
On exploration, shared experiences, and breaking up monotony
Reilly Brennan (RPB) is a transportation investor at Trucks Venture Capital and author of the widely-followed Future of Transportation newsletter. Past contributions to WITI include the Autopilot Edition, the Designing Clean Edition, the Masked Road Trip Edition, and the Postal Truck Edition.
Reilly here. Late 2021 might be the late COVID-19 era, or the middle COVID-19 era, or just the beginning. For work meetings, it is at least an in-between time, with some in-person and some on Zoom. But to take advantage of the last few great months of weather in the northern hemisphere, outdoor meetings on foot are my favorite.
Last week in Detroit I combined my love for walking meetings with the map of a defunct Formula 1 race track -- the street circuit of the old Detroit Grand Prix, run from 1982-1988. Of the 78 tracks in Formula 1's history, only 17 were run entirely on city streets, with the 2-mile Monaco GP being the most famous of all.
Detroit is a lot of things but Monaco it is not. However, it is a better walking city than Monaco because comfortable shoes are acceptable and the track is 2.5 miles, the exact perfect length for a 1-hour walk. My meeting partner was Andy Didorosi, founder of Detroit Bus Company and also curious about F1's history in the city. Together we walked from start to finish and made race car sounds, pretending we were Ayrton Senna and Michele Alboreto blasting up the Goodyear Tunnel.
Why is This Interesting
Outdoor meetings are devoid of presentation decks, whiteboards, and Keurig coffee. They are shared experiences, with only occasional direct eye contact if you need that sort of thing. Save your meeting partner from stepping on dog poop and win a friend for life. There's just the world, you two, and whatever you're talking about. In that order.
A handful of studies have shown that walking makes your meetings more divergent and creative than a conference table, both during and immediately after your meeting. Opprezzo and Schwartz also found that 'walking outside produced the most novel and highest quality analogies' and we all know that analogies are the riboflavin of business-speak.
There are also some interesting social dynamics when you go for a walk, most notably that supervisor and subordinate are on a more level playing field. These short walks act as a 'micro version of the bonding that can be experienced when coworkers travel together on business trips.'
HBR's tips for walking meetings include the following:
Consider including an 'extracurricular' destination on your route. An old 2.5-mile F1 track is a great excuse.
Avoid making the destination a source of unneeded calories.
Do not surprise colleagues or clients with walking meetings.
Stick to small groups. Three or fewer.
For your next walking meeting, select an old race track or plot your own adventure using tools like Plotaroute. Three miles is great for a quick one-hour walk by yourself, but shave it back to 2.5 miles for a comfortable talking and walking pace with a partner.
Ayrton Senna wins the 1987 Detroit Grand Prix, waving at the crowd well in advance of victory (RPB)
TV’s most confusing episodes (CJN)
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Reilly (RPB)
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