Over two years ago Nesta introduced their “Randomised Coffee Trials (RCT)” initiative, that was aiming to provide an institutionalized space for serendipity. Nesta staff that have opted-in are sent a weekly randomised match with another Nesta staff member and the two are invited to grab a coffee together.
It is just a coffee, but at the same time it is much more.
Nesta’s RCT initiative has resulted in staff from different departments learning about unexpected synergies between their work, as well as created an increased level of comfort for subsequently approaching others regarding potential collaborations.
The feedback has been incredibly positive and staff responses thus far have indicated that they like RCTs because they:
- provide legitimacy to chat to people about things that aren’t directly work related. Although every time there have been direct beneficial impacts on various projects and programmes.
- create totally random conversations, as well as some very useful work related conversations. Breaks silos at Nesta in a really effective way.
- offer the chance to make time to talk to people they should be talking to anyway, and to meet people who they won’t be directly working with but it’s nice to know who they are!
- are a really good way of revealing links within the organisation and encouraging collaboration. It’s interesting that being part of the wider ‘RCT’ banners gives permission to spend and honour the time. Less likely to cancel a catch up if it’s an RCT coffee than a social catch up on a busy day.
- like the prompt to talk to someone new (or someone they already know), and the permission to take 30 minutes just to see what’s going on, without any particular agenda or goal.
The ILF has learned that Her Majesty’s Treasury introduced a similar approach with the launch of their location based networking tool, nicknamed “Treasury Tinder”. The scheme, which randomly matches civil servants for coffee dates, is known officially as “randomised coffee trials”. Employees sign up for the voluntary plan and are paired with a randomly-selected colleague from the department’s 1,131-strong workforce.
What other forms of insitutionalised serendipity have you come across?
(please comment below)
Original articles posted on the 21st of January 2013 at Nesta and on the 15th of July 2014 at The Capitalist.