A good way to get strangers together? Photo: Shutterstock

Monday 12th October 2015

Stirring it up

Random Coffee Trials: it's all about hot tips over hot drinks

We love the smell of innovation in the morning. Especially if that innovation happens to be coffee related.

We’re profiling Randomised Coffee Trials, which isn’t the process your local barista goes through every time to ensure your coffee is slightly wrong, but rather a little scalable piece of disruptive social engineering.

Over the last two years or so it’s been tested out by everyone from SMEs, to the NHS, the UK government and even the entirety of the 189-country spanning Red Cross Red Crescent.

shutterstock_118132579The premise is almost stupidly simple. Employees sign up to the scheme, and once per week (or however often you want) you are matched to have coffee with another member of the scheme, for coffee or your particular poison of choice.

(Our majority shareholder Chai Latte Inc. obligates us to mention the delicious alternative that is Chai Latte — superior to coffee in every way.)

The aim is to break up some silos and shake up some routines. You might end up Skyping your counter-part in your Djibouti office, or you might be catching up in person with that guy down the hall who only wears neon ties and you’ve never said a word to.

You never know, he might like normal human things too! Long odds perhaps, but still.

For thirty minutes, or however long is natural (or acceptable) people can talk about whatever they want. Over time, participants gain a large network of contacts across the entire organisation and can gain new perspectives on areas of the business they never even considered.

For example: ‘Why when IT come up to fix my stuff it always breaks again soon after?’

All you have to do is talk to an IT support worker to know that that is exactly as planned, because obviously they would be out of a job otherwise #ITconspiracy.

As you’re aware, people tend to ‘silo’ themselves off and exist within their own little bubbles at work. RCTs hope to break through that status quo. It also legitimises a social break as work approved, which is a healthy thing when the first things that get cut with higher workloads are social calls (or toilet breaks, if you work at Amazon).

What’s the worst that could happen? (We’re also sponsored by Dr. Pepper.) Most people are pretty alright, and even if they are terrible, you get a organisation sponsored coffee break: bonus.

About the author

Jerome Langford

Jerome is a graduate in Philosophy from St Andrews, who alternately spends time writing about HR and staring wistfully out of windows, thinking about life’s bigger questions: Why are we here? How much lunch is too much lunch? What do you mean exactly by ‘final warning’?