Take The Long Lunch

Quite often I’m in design with people to plan and host either a day-long or multi-day workshop.

Particularly with the day-long, the one-day workshop that doesn’t require a residential sleep over, inevitably, we need to decide how long lunch will be. With many, I notice that the default is to make the lunch as short as possible. Not an hour. Maybe 45 minutes. Sometimes as little as 30 minutes. Definitely not 75 or 90 minutes.

The short lunch is not the default I would recommend.

The obvious in this for me is that lunch is about far more than consuming food and going to the bathroom. This kind of nobility that many have associated with efficiency is misguided. Except when it is not, of course, which is sometimes. When we are in task mode rolling out solutions that are obvious, then I accept that there are times to just “git ‘er done.” However, let’s not make that our only mode, our only orientation to lunch — it’s not super sustainable.

In learning workshops, when people are learning new practices and paradigms, integration time matters. Rather than compressing more activity and more learning into a tight space, so often, the need is to let things settle. To welcome a non-linear, more oblique kind of learning to occur.

For this reason, most of the time, I lean to the longer lunch. And to be transparent, as a facilitator, I often find I need a bit of the extra time. While participants are having lunch, I’m often setting up what will happen when we all come back from lunch. Facilitators need a bit of break also.

I lean to a time frame that stretches the norm, so that, people even feel a bit of boredom. I don’t want to lose people to the ever available trip back to the office. I don’t want to lose them to isolated social media. What I really hope for is that people will group up together — “we’ve got time, we might as well talk.”

Long lunches are about connection. Sometimes social, to explore non-work stuff. Sometimes conversational, about questions that have percolated up from earlier in the day. Sometimes about the rare gift of time to think privately, or together, while taking a walk.

Integration isn’t to be forced. It needs time.

Just like blossoming trees need time. Or flowers. Or fields of wheat.

Integration, ideas that settle, requires the longer lunch. So much more than food. So much about giving the group permission, or just enough container, for what comes from the novelty (or awkwardness) of time.

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