Lunchtime Roulette

Last Thursday I hosted my first faculty lunch of the semester. The idea is to bring together small groups of people from different departments who might not normally interact to get to know each other better, discuss issues of common concern, and begin to build a more cohesive sense of identity and purpose. Eighteen of the twenty people chosen for the first event accepted my invitation.

Among the topics we discussed were efforts to better coordinate curriculum, Ph.D. student recruitment, infrastructure needs and the elimination of economics from the general education requirements. In each of these discussions there was a desire to spread awareness, bring more people to the table, and generate momentum around ideas. The hour flew by and I was impressed with everyone’s willingness to engage in the conversation.

As the discussion unfolded, I mentioned an article I had read a few days ago where a company had implemented what they called lunchtime roulette. The idea was to randomly assign people to go to lunch together at the company’s expense. The goal was to drive innovation through idea generation from people who don’t normally get to talk to each other. I commented that I couldn’t afford to send pairs of faculty to restaurants for lunch, but that given our discussion I was willing to set aside some money from the Dean’s Excellence Fund to buy pizza or sandwiches for small groups of people from different departments to discuss an issue of common interest or concern. So here’s the deal:

1. If you want to hold such a working lunch, you need to get three other faculty or staff to sign on to a meeting. The four people must come from at least three different departments so that we know the issue cuts across a number of disciplines. The group cannot be a standing committee of the college or a subset of a standing committee. I want it to be an organic group of at least four.

2. The issue must pertain to students, teaching, curriculum, cross-disciplinary research, or infrastructure.

3.Email your names and a short description of the agenda to Anne Marie at least a week prior to the proposed meeting.

4. I will review the request and if it meets the guidelines, we will send out a notice to all faculty with the topic, time and place of the gathering so other interested parties can attend. People will need to RSVP by the day of the before the meeting if they want a lunch. We will buy up to ten. If the meeting draws the interest of more than ten people we will provide an alternate forum for the topic.

5. It is the responsibility of the four requesters of the meeting to provide me with an appropriate summary of the meeting including action steps. The summary will be due one week from the end of the meeting. This summary will be posted on our website.

6. Failure to comply with item 5 will bar all four of the original requesters from being part of another group to request a similar meeting.

7. If you do post the summary and justification for a subsequent meeting exists, you can request a follow-up working lunch under these same rules.

It will be that simple.

This policy will be in place for calendar year 2013. At the end of 2013 we will evaluate the program and decide whether to extend it for another year. So get talking.

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3 thoughts on “Lunchtime Roulette

  1. Dean Jarley,
    I am constantly interested when public entities endeavor to put some private industry practice into public institution play. You start out having a successful faculty lunch and then propose the non-random application of a random private industry R&D experiment. You then attach seven qualifying steps for a theoretical “working” pizza/sandwich lunch and declare it simple. I am perplexed. As someone vastly inexperienced in the ways of university bureaucracy and proffering a totally ignorant evaluation, I would stick with more frequent productive faculty lunches and skip the non-random random non-lunch lunches. But, as I have said, I know nothing about these things. Please forgive my naivete, and post how this turned out.

    • Hi Chandler:

      Lol. Yes it isn’t as simple nor as random as the first policy. Part of the reason is that accountability is always a greater issue in the public sector, so I need greater documentation about why I am doing this and what went on. Still by public sector standards these are seven simple steps. The other reason is that I am looking for a vehicle by which faculty from different departments can organically identify issues of common concern and provide a way to begin to address them. In most schools this would be left up to the dean alone. I will still do my lunches as well. The policy isn’t a substitute for that. Yeah, I will let everyone know how it turns out.

      • I think this is a great idea and will try this myself ( I might even give you credit for it if it works)!!!

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