Thursday, March 02, 2006

Cool Water....Hot Ideas

I set up a water cooler. Not the kind you're thinking of -- with, um, water. But a virtual cooler, where people could get together and talk. Mostly, we don't think of loafing a way of getting things done, but the process of getting together with people -- at breaks in the action -- to talk about anything tends to get the juices flowing.

We talk over chat lines mostly, sometimes over conference calls. The gatherings are irregular, when we have a few minutes to fix a cuppa or grab a soda. They're not scripted or "agendized." Just a chance to catch up and toss out an idea -- or not.

In a recent water cooler chat, Leighton, who was at the Barnes and Noble store in DC hanging out until his next gathering offered a great new idea for new process name, while reading off the names of some interesting books he was considering (don't do it,'ll need another office for all your reading material).

Entrepreneurs (which, I guess now means anyone with a business) tend, of necessity, to be a solitary lot. Most of the people they deal with during the business day are customers, employees, vendors and suppliers. What's missing is the chance to loaf -- to talk about last night's installment of "The Sopranos" or to lament about the game (lost again). What else ends up happening at these short gatherings? Ideas get shared, intelligence gathered and introductions made.

I've heard lots of really bad (funny, but bad) things about Starbucks lately. One of the best was the bumper sticker that said "Friends don't let friends go to Starbucks." Choice. But, as much as we may cringe over the ubiquitious nature of the Mighty Bean, its a tremendous water cooler.

Try this: create your own water cooler. It can be at the gym or the salon or the After Hours networking event you attend. Try it.