Walking meetings are a great way to be creative, productive, and healthy. Summer is right around the corner, so you should definitely think about conducting more of your meetings outdoors.
There are many reasons why this is good for you, but just simply the change of atmosphere will spark creativity.
Walking meetings are also a good excuse to focus on employee wellness, because instead of slouching in the conference room chair, you’ll be outdoors walking around.
If you can keep your meeting timeboxed, to 15 minutes, that will be a good amount of sun exposure to get the needed vitamin D.
Have you ever noticed that you seem to get your most amazing ideas in the most random places, like in the shower?
Maybe just switching up the context from a conference room to an outdoor setting can make all the difference.
Depending on the number of people involved in the meeting, it could also make the meeting feel more personal, like you’re just going for a walk with some friends.
That informal feeling will loosen you up, and make the meeting more effective.
Walking Meetings Make You More Creative
A University of Michigan study found that people who spent time outside were better able to solve creative problems.
Researchers split the group in two, and asked them both to solve a series of problems. The group that had spent time outside, were able to respond much more accurately.
Recently, researchers at Stanford University tested creativity in people that were walking vs sitting.
What they found was that the majority of people were more creative when they were walking.
They found that creativity improved by an average of 60% when the person was walking.
What was interesting, was that they found that it was simply the act of moving, not necessarily the beauty of nature that spurred creativity.
This means that even if it’s ugly outside, you should still try and go for a walk, even if it’s indoors. Even the participants that were indoors on a treadmill were more creative.
There is one caveat to the whole walking vs sitting study.
The researchers found that walking helped the creative process, but it had little to no effect on focused thinking.
What that means, is that in the later stages of a project, when you actually need to execute and implement the ideas, walking meetings might not make a huge difference in terms of creativity.
Personally, I think walking meetings are good all the time, simply for the health benefits, but from a purely creative standpoint, maybe only use walking meetings at the beginning phase, during the idea generation.
Another study out of Germany found that your working memory (short term memory) improves when you are walking.
Ideally, you would hold these meetings outside though, since it’s been shown that all you need is 5 minutes outdoors to start feeling happier.
Finally, take 3 minutes and watch this TED talk about walking meetings:
The Best Leaders Use Walking Meetings
The greatest leaders use walking meetings because they understand the power that it has.
My favorite story was when I read an article in Wired magazine about Lars Rasmussen, the lead engineer at Facebook that worked on Graph search.
In the article, he talks about how Mark Zuckerberg took him on a long walk over a mountain in Silicon Valley, and almost as if the trail and speech were planned perfectly, so that Mark would reach the top of the mountain with a beautiful view just as he was finishing his speech.
It’s also been reported that Mark Zuckerberg closed the acquisition of WhatsApp over several walks.
Steve Jobs was famous for taking walks, and actually when Apple was trying to launch “Ping”, a music social network, he was seen walking with Mark Zuckerberg to talk about it.
Barack Obama often ends his workday with a walk around the white house with his chief of staff. At the end of the walk, he usually takes a quick jog around the south lawn before joining his family for dinner.
Hikmet Ersek, who’s the CEO of Western Union, uses walking meetings to have discussions with his employees. “People become much more relaxed, and they talk from their hearts if you go for a walk with them,” he said. “And they get to the point they want to make much more quickly.” he says about walking meetings.
Do You Use Walking Meetings?
Walking meetings are a great for employee engagement and wellness, because they get your creative juices flowing, and take you out of your usual context, which helps you innovate.