In praise of the 2-hour lunch
There’s a line that can be drawn from Calais in the North-West to Athens in the South-East which neatly divides two contrasting cultures. Excepting Switzerland, it is not unusual for a communal lunch to extend to two hours in the South.
Now I realise that some will suggest this line also demonstrates an inverse correlation between economic health and lunchtime length, but you have to look at the bigger picture. View a time line that stretches for millennia rather than decades and regard the impact the Southern cultures have had.
Lunchtime discussions need not always flow randomly. Indeed, some of the most powerful meetings-over-meals have a deliberate aim, a problem to solve, and bring together a diverse range of perspectives placed into a social setting. Social settings are important for human as it is in this context when we share our narrative in the most comfortable settings.
So why can a two-hour lunch be powerfully effective?
Because it is an efficient method for seeking solutions to complex problems obliquely.
Let me put it another way. Senior leaders you will spend proportions of your day in the following activities; Communication of business issues, Consumption of materials on business issues, or Creating solutions to business issues.
In the experience of most executives their diary is disproportionately skewed toward Consumption; the ingestion of hundreds of emails and over-cooked slide presentations leads to mental dyspepsia.
Todays managers are force fed calorie-heavy, nutritionally-light data diets. This is where the occasional two-hour Mediterranean diet can be a welcome change
Like most people I have grabbed a sandwich and eaten it over the keyboard. The emphasis in on Consumption of information. You look at a screen and can do little else. Creatively it is a dry creek bed compared to the river of ideas that can flow widely and deeply over lunch with a diverse group.
The lunch table above provides an example. Present were a noted French economist, the former head of communications for one of the world’s largest FMCG companies, an established film maker, a professional historian, a polymath—and me. (I practice what I preach; self-improvement occurs naturally when you surround yourself with successful people)
The conversation meanders widely (and deeply) across Europe and Globalisation, art, metaphor, branding, the abilities of Tallyrand, rugby (naturally) and the psychology of decision-making.
Abstract? Certainly. Practical implications? Most definitely. Strong social bonding with new acceptances, a more diverse group of business contacts, and some new material of investing the link between branding and decision-making.
Todays environment makes it difficult to carve out time to be creative. If your diary has fenced you to tightly into the Consumption corner of the triad, perhaps a 2 hour ‘meeting-over-meal’ is something you might experiment with.
The ingredients are:
1. 2 hours in the diary.
2. A loose agenda focussed on one grand theme
3. A (very) diverse group of diners.