What could be more convivial than meeting a co-worker – especially one you might never otherwise speak to – over a cup of coffee?

Simple, really. Everyone enjoys a coffee (or tea) moment when the pressure’s off, and you can engage in relaxed conversation about work-related issues. The question is: how can you encourage people to collaborate via a non-threatening, easy-to-use system that positively encourages these regular, informal dialogues?

Canadian entrepreneur Dave Wilkin believes he has come up with the perfect solution: the wonderfully named Ten Thousand Coffees, launched in the autumn of 2016. A self-styled “spokesman for the next generation”, Wilkin’s aim with Ten Thousand Coffees is to encourage every employee to proactively build relationships. “The simplest solution is always the best – just add coffee,” he says. “By connecting hundreds of thousands for coffee, we have uncovered the best practices relied upon by companies, schools, entrepreneurship centres and much more,” Wilkin adds that Ten Thousand Coffees is now being used in 10 countries worldwide and connects more than 200,000 people for conversation over coffee – mostly in person, but also via Skype.

Dave Wilkin

Behind this simple solution is a piece of technology that drives the process. Talking to Observe, Wilkin frequently stressed that Ten Thousand Coffees’ software takes only 30 minutes to install and, as a result, can “transform” a company’s mailing list into a private mentoring and networking programme. “No more manual matching,” says Wilkin. “Our customisable algorithm automatically connects your members for impactful conversations.”

In a recent piece in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, Wilkin wrote: “How many collisions have your employees had in the last two weeks? Ask employees who they have had lunch or coffee with. If it’s with someone they functionally work with or are already friends with: not a collision. If it’s a new colleague that recently got hired, someone they want to learn from, or a colleague from a different function: it’s a collision.” It is these ‘collisions’, especially among younger employees, that Wilkin wants to attract to Ten Thousand Coffees.

Once installed, the Ten Thousand Coffees software, apart from allowing employees to meet colleagues they might not otherwise encounter, also enables managers to see how employees are connecting. “It’s about building relationships across functions,” adds Wilkin, who adds that Ten Thousand Coffees works with organisations ranging in size from 150 to 80,000, and in markets as diverse as Australia, Asia, the UK, Canada, the US and South America.

Wilkin stresses that Ten Thousand Coffees is about “using networking as a vitamin and NOT as an antibiotic. In short, it’s about meeting new people over time, without a specific need, before you actually need it. People that network because they need something do not build strong relationships. For millennials, the coffee chat is a magical experience,” says Wilkin.

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