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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hype or Smart? Walking Meetings

Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg popularized walking meetings as a way to strengthen work relationships while improving health. If you conduct a walking meeting, focus on the topic improves and the usual distractions go down. Moving increases blood flow to the brain and it stimulates creativity and integrative thinking. And of course we all know walking is better for your back and it helps manage your weight.

For those who are still reluctant, thinking this is more a transient hype than anything else, there is research to back this all up. On April 23, 2014 the Stanford News reported on a study that found that walking boosts creative inspiration. The research included four experiments with 176 college students and other adults. They had to complete tasks commonly used by researchers to gauge creative thinking. Participants were placed in different conditions: walking indoors on a treadmill or sitting indoors – both facing a blank wall – and walking outdoors or sitting outdoors while being pushed in a wheelchair – both along a pre-determined path on the Stanford campus. Researchers put seated participants in a wheelchair outside to present the same kind of visual movement as walking. Three of the experiments relied on a "divergent thinking" creativity test. The overwhelming majority of the participants in these three experiments were more creative while walking than sitting, the study found. In one of the experiments, participants were tested indoors – first while sitting, then while walking on a treadmill. The creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when the person was walking, according to the study. You find more information on: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/april/walking-vs-sitting-042414.html

Emily Peck, writing in the Huffington Post on April 9, 2015, adds: “Walking helps break down formalities, relaxes inhibitions and fosters camaraderie between colleagues - and less eye contact can fuel more personal conversation. Meeting on the go also minimizes distractions - no phones, email, texts, colleagues interrupting you.”

As reported on CNN on March 20, 2013 (http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/20/business/walking-meetings/) “Jack Groppel, vice president of consulting group Wellness & Prevention, owned by Johnson & Johnson, has advocated a program that calls for standing up and walking around in the workplace for one or two minutes about every half hour, a process that he says would increase productivity. Groppel says when workers start moving, it triggers a slight raise in heart rate for the first minute or two, meaning more oxygen is getting to the brain. "What we did find in the studies that we did, after 90 days of doing this, people felt increased amounts of energy, they felt increased focus, they felt improved engagement," he says.”

In my coaching practice I have for many years suggested walking meetings and increasingly used them myself for one-on-one conversations, especially when the topic is delicate or tensions are expected to be high. Physical activity releases tension through your body’s activity and the neutral meeting grounds are generally an easier environment to discuss matters than either person’s office or HR’s office for that matter.

One website for more tips on walking meetings: http://www.feetfirst.org/walk-and-maps/walking-meetings
And an interesting TED talk on walking meetings by Nilofer Merchant, who calls sitting the smoking or our generation: http://www.ted.com/talks/nilofer_merchant_got_a_meeting_take_a_walk?language=en

I urge you: Get up and walk. Benefit from Walk & Talk Meetings.

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