A couple of weeks ago I was running an event for the technology leadership team of a pharmaceutical company. The team is geographically dispersed across the planet, and one of the things that become clear from our conversations was that they were missing informal contact and conversation.

As is often the way when teams are dislocated geographically and temporally, meetings become formal and very task oriented when you are limited to those few hours of the day that are just about tenable for a team spanning Asia, Europe and American to meet. There’s little shooting the breeze, especially between members who aren’t in the same physical location. Team cohesion can suffer, and even more importantly the opportunity for serendipitous connections from chat disappear.

The question arose – “Why don’t you go for virtual coffee?”. That’s not to say that people should start consuming virtual beverages – more that the ritual of going for tea or coffee as a social activity (“Fancy a cuppa?” as we say in the UK) could be replicated. Your beverage is real, the conversation shifts to digital places.

Whilst the inevitable machinations of establishing such a concept within a group of people working at a senior level within a big serious organisation get underway, I thought I ought to test the concept a bit. And so the #globalcanteen* was born.

The idea is very simple. Putting a bit of time in the diary to have an open-to-all online video call. Grab a tea or coffee, see who joins. Have a chat. Try not to spend the whole of the rest of the day chatting.

I’ve run four so far. I’ve met mostly with people who I already knew from the physical world, although have now met at least one person who I only really knew from Twitter beforehand.

The conversations have mostly been tech-related, and so far have included the issues with Chatbots, the way banks are a bit crap at customer services, the challenges with VR and why current “AI” will have a limited shelf-life.

The #globalcanteen is now a fixture in my working from home schedule. You can join me at my next one – you can find details here:

stamplondon.co.uk/globalcanteen

Or, of course, you could just start your own!

*a big shout out to Paul Squires for the nomenclature.

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