Food for Thought

Uncharted Thinking


If you’re out to make change then you need to walk the walk, as well as talk the talk.

And a good place to start may simply be to walk and talk.

Based on our own experience and research into connecting Hot Breakfast members while strolling the city's stirring streets, here are 7 situations when taking your meetings into the byways and highways can positively shake things up.

1. When your mind feels stagnant

It’s long been noted that one of the most effective ways to get your mind moving is to get your body moving.

Diogenes, a philosopher striding around 4th century BC Greece, coined the phrase solvitur ambulando (“it is solved by walking”).

If that’s a little retro for you, rest assured that Stanford have (inevitably) conducted a study on the subject, and found that even walking on a treadmill can improve your creative thinking.

2. When you TRULY want to get to know someone

There’s a curious intimacy that arise from falling into step with another human being.

Whether it's because you're moving side-by-side, because there's none of the invasive eye-balling, or because you're no longer squared up across a table, we seem to be better able to focus on thoughts and ideas rather than be distracted by body language and appearance.

It’s an excellent way to understand the content of a person's mind and how they think.

3. When you’ve not yet IPO-ed

Kahneman says that it was during his long daily walks with Amos Tversky that the pair developed the Nobel Prize-winning theory of behavioral economics.

Nietzsche stated – fairly boldly – that “only thoughts conceived by walking have any value”.

Arianna H, Steve J, Mark Z – all walkers.

Bluntly, if you’ve not yet featured on some Forbes list then you need to put the mileage in.

4. When you’ve already drunk your fair share of a plantation.

Regrettably, there is only so much coffee that one Londoner can drink.

The moment that your ribcage is gripping your heart like a febrile vice is not the moment to accept another Americano.

What we sometimes forget is that we don’t need to “measure out [our] life with coffee spoons”; we can communicate with others without having to consume with them. Indeed, it might be more effective to do so (viz #2 above).

5. When you want to derail predictable behaviour

If you have a dreadful prescience of how the dynamic in a meeting is going to play out, consider shaking things up by taking to the streets.

By extracting people from their standard, professional modus operandi, you create the space for them to behave quite differently.  This technique is particularly effective when you want to defuse tension in a relationship, or you're seeking some form of reconciliation.

‘I like long walks, especially when they’re taken by people I dislike.’ – Noel Coward

Moving shoulder to shoulder encourages a sense of progressing as peers; you are quite literally facing in the same direction while exploring whatever issue it is that is holding you apart.  

6. When it’s raining. When it’s not raining

Small talk is sorted. 

It's virtually impossible to have an awkward silence in the outdoors.

7. When you want to salvage purpose from the pointless

Facing yet another conference call that is largely going to be spent with Jack trying to find a better phone signal and Jill droning on about the minutiae of her Gantt chart?

Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to plug your headphones in and clock up some steps.

Fact #1: we sit for an average of 9.3 hours per day. Fact #2: this isn’t good for us.

8. When you’re feeling patriotic

… and anywhere near St James Park. Or Regent’s Park. Or any park. Or the canal. Or the Inns of Court. Or the Thames. Or a random bit of sacred medieval architecture.

(Potentially not if you’re hanging out in Croydon.)

9. When you’re feeling defiant

There’s something delightfully contrarian about walking.

Choosing to walk is like turning your back on the demands of 2018 urbanism, with its Ubers and HIIT classes and 15 minute Google calendar appointments and treadmill of linear, incessant progression. Turn around, go back on yourself, relish the space and the pace. Enjoying time spent being rather than doing is a joyfully maverick pursuit.