Leadership

The meeting hack loved by CEOs at Google, Facebook and LinkedIn

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook in July 2017
Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook in July 2017

If you hate the typical meeting, you're not alone. The dreaded sit-down meeting is so hated, so boring, surveys prove some people really would prefer to watch paint dry.

That's why execs from some of the most innovative companies in the world — including Google, Facebook and LinkedIn — hold meetings on the go to stay productive, focused and creative.

Apple founder Steve Jobs was often seen strolling with his chief designer as they brainstormed new concepts. And in the biography "Steve Jobs," author Walter Isaacson recalls Jobs insisting that their meetings take place on foot.

At Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg reportedly takes potential employees on a walk through the woods before delivering his hiring pitch. Google's Sundar Pichai uses walks to jumpstart his thinking process. "I love to pace," the CEO told Recode in 2016, "and actually to think I have to start walking."

Moving meetings aren't just an oddball quirk among tech's elite, but a science-backed way to generate new ideas. According to a Stanford University study, walking boosts creative thinking by an average of 60 percent.

To gauge the effects of walking on creativity, researchers asked 176 college students to complete certain tasks while sitting, and then again while walking. In one experiment, participants were given several sets of three objects and told to come up with alternative uses for them.

The researchers found that participants were "overwhelmingly" more creative when walking than sitting. They also found that creative thinking from walking remained high shortly after sitting back down.

If your job keeps you chained to a desk most of the day, walking is an easy way to get your creative juices flowing. Walking improves cognitive function by increasing blood flow to the parts of the brain that deal with learning and memory. In fact, just 12 minutes of walking can increase attentiveness and boost your mood, according a 2016 study.

Taking meetings on the road also helps you remain focused, says LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. "In addition to the obvious fitness benefits," he wrote in a LinkedIn post, "this meeting format essentially eliminates distractions, so I find it to be a much more productive way to spend time."

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson agrees. When walking, he sometimes challenges himself to come up with a "plan of attack" within the time it takes to complete one block.

"I find it to be a much quicker way of getting down to business, making a decision and sealing the deal," he wrote on his blog. "Plus it's a great way to fit in a bit of exercise and stay focused on a busy day."

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