Lunch Roulette

Dateline: January 11, 2013

Welcome to the Friday WRAP – one thought-provoking idea to think about over the weekend.

January is always a time of renewing promises and setting goals for the coming year, and many write about resolutions.  One common resolution is to broaden our personal and professional networks.  This week’s WRAP is about one company’s solution to facilitate this.

Harvard Business Review blogger Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of 11 books, including Winning the War on Talent, recently blogged about A New Way to Network Inside your Company.  In it she describes a clever social IT application that the US arm of pharma company Boehringer Ingelheim created to increase networking and foster innovation:  Lunch Roulette.  One day, a senior member of the staff went to the company cafeteria for lunch only to find himself isolated because he didn’t know anyone.  Driving home, he was thinking about his experience and came up with a way to randomly pair people for lunch.  Lunch Roulette was born.

Participants select a date — or dates — when they are free for lunch and choose one of the company cafeterias they’re willing to travel to. They then click a “Match Me” button, and a lunch date and calendar reminder are emailed to their mailbox. After that, all they need to do is show up with an open mind and a willingness to network.

Like all good ideas, the response was immediate and large.  Within 7 weeks, more than 350 people were matched, including the CEO (who was matched with a younger member of the marketing team).  They are now experimenting with other uses for this app, including interviewing new candidates, and internal networking.

Hewlett writes,

While it’s too soon to tell if Lunch Roulette has spawned specific innovations or measurable operational improvements, these are almost certain to occur as the network expands and its nodes become richer and stronger. A recent New York Times article described the benefits when researchers, designers, and assembly line workers commingle in person. Extrapolating further, experts propose that “clusters of manufacturers, where workers and ideas can naturally flow between companies, might prove more productive and innovative than the same businesses if they were spread across the country.”

How do you network inside your company?

That’s a WRAP!  Have a wonderful weekend.

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