Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lunches with Rules

I have a couple of friends at work that I go to lunch with a few times each month. (First rule: everyone pays for their own meal.) But each time, the predictable conversation would ensue: “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t care. Where do you want to go?” Then we’d drive around and end up at one of the usual 2 or 3 sit-down restaurants near our office. One of us came up with a suggestion – nothing very original or earth-shattering actually, but it put an end to our indecision. We each wrote 5 restaurant suggestions on slips of paper and put them in a jar. Now when we are planning to go out, we just pull a slip from the jar and the choice has been made – we have to go to that restaurant (that’s rule #2 and there are no re-draws). This added a little element of chance, and made our lunches less stressful and more fun.

After doing this a couple of times, we decided to add yet another rule. Rule #3: wherever we go, you have to choose something that you’ve never had at that restaurant before. No more ordering the same old thing you always get, try something new. You don’t have to order something crazy, just explore the menu, see what other choices you might like. We each have discovered new likes (and dislikes) that we wouldn’t have tried without rule 3.

We were having fun with our lunches, and we even told some others at the office about our excursions and our rules. Now to take it the next step: Why not share the fun with others? But, who should we ask to join us? The jar idea worked to make our restaurant decisions, why not a jar for this too? There are 40-50 people in our office, so we put everyone’s name on a slip of paper (okay, so we actually cut apart our staff roster) and put them all in a cup. Now we choose our restaurant slip and see where we’re going, then (rule #4) draw a name and see who we’ll invite to come along. Okay, this could be a scary prospect – some invitees would see this as an opportunity to gossip or talk shop. So we instituted rule #5 – absolutely no talking about work or things related to our office. When we invite the “chosen” individual (who very likely is someone we don’t regularly interact with), the initial puzzlement becomes eager anticipation as we explain our lunches and the rules.

Our lunches with rules may seem a bit structured – but in actuality, they have become more enjoyable, it has become a game, and something we really look forward to each month. And since our game has us branching out talking to people we wouldn’t otherwise, we are finding out more about them on a personal level. As a bonus, it seems to also be creating more of a cohesive workplace.

If you ever find yourself struggling to decide where to go for lunch at work or for dinner with your spouse, try playing your own game. You don’t have to come up with rules. But, why not try out #3 – order something new? Or maybe #4 - invite someone along, someone you normally wouldn’t ask. You’ll break up the monotony and expand your horizons.


Lisa said...

Great idea!!! Sounds like a lot of fun.

kathy oh said...

fabulous idea! i totally love this! we do that all the time with my can be monotonous and sometimes annoying - where to go, etc. a little structure can go a long way to making things enjoyable!
what a terrific way to make a more cohesive unit. brilliant!

Marci said...

I love this idea! My favorite part is the mystery guest

Cat said...

When you described this for me last week, I loved it, and I still love it! This is a great way to get to know others in your office a little better, too, and break out of any cliquishness you might have! You're so smart!