I’m now halfway into my #100Coffees experiment. Here are some half-time observations in no particular order as I suck on an orange segment and rub linament into my calves…
After each of my meetings, I’ve been spending a few minutes (usually an hour or more later) jotting down some bulleted notes about what topics we talked.
This is very different to contemporaneous note-taking, and a practice I will try to make a habit (although I won’t be publishing every set of post-meeting notes on the internet). Recalling what seemed important an hour or more after speaking with someone is a very different lens to notes made at the time. It also means that I can completely focus on the conversation, rather than distracting myself with writing or typing.
Don’t get me wrong – in many meetings, the need for taking notes for things like actions is something that needs to be done there and then. But when it comes to agenda-less conversations I think I prefer this way around. Sure some things will be lost along the way, but 100% accurate capture is not the aim here. (As an aside, this is where emerging AI technologies for notetaking in meetings may well get things wrong…)
#100Coffees is easier than “a coffee”
Something I’ve learned from trying to write a book and from running a podcast is that having a reason for a conversation is much more likely to get you to have that conversation than without. In fact, this is a well-known psychological trait in people – “Can you do x because y?” is much more persuasive than “Can you do x?”
So asking for some unstructured time with people because I’m doing a project where I’m going to talk to 100 people is, it seems, more persuasive than if I’d just dropped “Does anyone want to meet for a coffee?” on social channels.
100 coffees are a lot of coffees
A quarter of the way into the year, and halfway into the 100 seems like it’s ahead of schedule. But if you take into account the two lost months (August and December), a week out for company conference stuff at the end of the Spring (although with good colleague coffee opportunities there), and that the start of the year was quite quiet for me, I reckon it’s on track. I’ll hit the target, I’m sure, but it’s a big exercise.
It also requires quite a lot of admin. Whilst Calendly can handle some of the logistics, it’s not great at juggling appointments when a customer thing comes up that needs to take priority.
In-person is hard to organise
When I started the project back at the end of 2022, I imagined that the coffees would be primarily in-person, and this was a way of being able to get myself back into the swing of being in town.
But diaries in the post-pandemic world are largely optimised for online meetings. As a result, the majority of the coffees so far have been online rather than in-person.
I haven’t spent any of those Zoom or Meet sessions worrying about whether it was as good an experience as if we had met in person. And opening up opportunities through online coffee has meant that I’ve had conversations with people across five continents. If you know anyone in South America or Antarctica who would be amenable to coffee, please let me know and I can complete the set.
Nobody tried to sell
I was chatting to someone last week who expressed cynicism that many of the coffee meetings would end up with people simply trying to sell me things. That hasn’t happened.
I wonder if I was in more of a buying role (for example, as a CIO) if this would be more of an issue? And I also wonder if the fear that I would be trying to sell to people would in turn mean a whole group of people wouldn’t consider coffee?
Moving from customer to supplier side in the tech industry (as I have done a few times in my career) carries with it the slamming of various doors in your face. Invitations to events where my presence was once apparently prized now are withdrawn.
Agenda less doesn’t suit everybody
Which also brings me to the other question – who is self-selecting out of this kind of activity simply because it doesn’t appeal to how they work? And is that then a matter of adapting the approach to better meet their needs, or to find entirely different approaches?