My mates Gaby and Jo and I went for a hike in the Shropshire hills in the summer last year—those around Carding Mill Valley to be precise. We’d had enough of the stuffy old city and the Easter break gave us just the excuse we were looking for. It was as we were trailing round the hills that I thought about the lessons that could be learnt from the walk for business. Puzzled? Let me explain. A walk can show you how to understand people, organisations and how to make work better!
Firstly the walk was planned with a few goals: reaching the top of hills, stopping for lunch and so on. These were great but it was the the little things sometimes commanded urgent attention: a case in point being finding a bush to use as a cover for going to the loo amid miles of open heather. Great goals are important but you need to make sure the basics are covered (literally!). It was the simple and sometimes unexpected things that were deliciously enjoyable, take vintage cars that trundled past or the sudden patch of blue sky that appeared out of nowhere and continued to grow.
Then there were the people, including us. When you’ve walked fifteen miles over hills and along dodgy looking rocks in streams, you can get a bit testy with the best of friends. This is where we had to use a few rules of behaviour and give each other space. Yes, it was a bit of a challenge when we were quite obviously lost and someone quite obviously was just being pig-headed but, after all that we kind of got on a bit better. Empathy, respect, curiosity, assertiveness: this is what good organisations need more of.
The people we met made the day: from the bearded older gentleman with ‘good skin’ (according to Jo) who took our photo to the idiots on bikes who shouted ‘f….. dumb blonde’ at Gaby when she didn’t get out of their way as quickly as their dumb asses expected. They all added to the adventure of the day. It is the people, whether up a hill or at work that are both the hardest and the most rewarding aspects.
It was an adventure. Okay, the walk turned out to be much longer than expected, much busier than expected and much more death-defying than expected. This, of course, made it much better than expected. Routine and predictability are killers—even more so when you are stuck in an office for eight hours a day.
The best of it though was two-fold: the sheer joy of moving and being outdoors and the enjoyment of witty, intelligent banter and good times. This is what we need at more of at work.