Problem: Improve communication and collaboration within a company
Solution: Establish "Two-pizza" lunch group run by employees
Desired Outcome: Better communication, collaboration, sharing and increase morale
Many business leaders agree that the biggest challenge companies face today in order to compete is to get their employees to communicate and collaborate effectively. Without that they know they are at a disadvantage. Though this sounds simple, it is very difficult; it has to be cultivated over time by executives so it becomes a part of their culture.
How do you fix this?
You have to innovate in management, meaning try something and see if it works. If it does not, them fail fast and try something else. Companies have to innovate in how they manage and have to be willing to experiment. This is a hallmark of innovative companies, such as Zappos, Google and Amazon.
One of the things I noticed when I worked for companies, no matter the size, is that people ate lunch with people they knew. They rarely ate lunch with other people. It is very much like what you see in high school.
This I always felt was a lost opportunity for employees and for a company to get their people to communicate and collaborate effectively. By eating lunch together, they could exchange ideas in a casual, less stressful environment, listen to others and get their creative juices flowing. Besides communication, it would also increase collaboration and morale. Employees would see the meaning and purpose of what they were doing in a different light that they were not privy to by interacting with people they knew.
I had not given much thought of this till I read a blog post on Inc magazine's web site titled, “Tony Hseih’s Rules For Success: Maximize Serendipity.” Tony Hseih, CEO of Zappos, has become a very successful company by cnstantly innovating, not just in providing excellent customer service and experience but also management.
He also wanted people to meet with different people outside the company to get different perspectives so he moved their office to downtown Las Vegas where there would be more opportunity for Zappos' employees to interact with each other but also meet people from nearby start-ups. The main purpose for the move, according to Tony Hseh, being: “Maximizing collisions and accelerating serendipity.”
So what can companies do who can’t easily move to a downtown office?
I think a company can do something that is easy and fast to implement and that is to randomly pick several groups of people, which I will refer to as a “two pizza” lunch group (a term coined by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos as the number of people -- six or seven -- you need to enable effective communication and collaboration). This group can meet one week out of each month or a quarter (for a year) for lunch and share what they are working on and exchange ideas.
The company can implement this on a voluntary basis of getting people from different departments registered for the “two pizza” lunch group so they could be selected randomly and ensure that there is diversity to prevent groupthink or experthink. Let it be run by employees so management stays out of the way.
An important advice that Tony Hsieh provides is the following:
“Meet lots of different people without trying to extract value from them. You don't need to connect the dots right away. But if you think about each person as a new dot on your canvas, over time, you'll see the full picture.”
What do you think of this idea of "two pizza" lunch group?
Has your company tried anything like this?
If tried, did it improve communication, collaboration and sharing?
Would people in your company participate in a “two-pizza” lunch group?
Do you have any ideas you think would improve communication?
Jay Oza is a founder and principal innovation development consultant at 5ToolGroup, a company that specializes in helping startups and established firms bring innovation to market within 90 days through our unique 5Tool Methodology that integrates sales, marketing, partnerships, customer development and agile/lean methodology to enable frugal or ("Jugaad") innovation. We believe that to succeed today, you have to continuously look for ways to do lot more with lot less. This is the only way to win today!