Lunch Roulette

Breaking down functional silos is key to everything from encouraging communication to building valuable connections to sparking innovation. But, as we all know, bridging interdepartmental chasms is far easier said than done. Fortunately, some companies are starting to come up with creative solutions. Take, for example, Lunch Roulette, a new concept being used at the U.S. arm of pharmaceuticals manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim (BIPI).

Like many good ideas, this one was born of frustration — in this case, when David Thompson, scientist turned social media strategist, went looking for someone to have lunch with only to realize that his usual group of colleagues wasn’t available and he didn’t know anyone in the company cafeteria. “The sense of exclusion was palpable and galling,” he recalls. Driving home that evening, he came up with the idea of a web application that would randomly pair people throughout the organization for lunch. He emailed Christopher Tan, a marketer with an interest in mobile technologies and experience building applications, and within 36 hours, they had come up with a prototype. They then sent it out to a select group of colleagues and invited them to participate.

Lunch Roulette works in four simple steps. Participants select a date — or dates — when they are free for lunch and choose one of the company cafeterias they’re willing to travel to. They then click a “Match Me” button, and a lunch date and calendar reminder are emailed to their mailbox. After that, all they need to do is show up with an open mind and a willingness to network.

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