Pieter Durman is involved in various environmental and anti discrimination initiatives locally and is currently also a Cambridge student. Chamber invited him to choose a topic and contribute to this issue….

Human progress is driven by interconnectivity. From division of labour in the 19th century to modern international scientific research, networks of people working together are more efficient and drive innovation. We are fundamentally social creatures with subtle facial expressions, eye contact and tone of voice forming the backbone of human connection. Deeper connections result in trust, shared understanding and ease of communication. Going for a coffee, sitting with someone for a period of time to listen and be heard is a quick way to form these deep connections. The power of the coffee comes from the connections it creates.

There is great purpose in a purposeless coffee. Nesta, a UK based innovation foundation, held Randomised Coffee Trials [1] where staff were randomly matched to go for coffee. With no set agenda these conversations could be personal or professional in nature, in busy work environments such serendipity is often the first thing to be lost. Yet this serendipity had great benefit to the organisation with participants finding previously unknown links and potential for collaboration in their work.  The increased interconnectivity facilitated better skill and knowledge sharing therefore increasing the propensity for innovation.

The coffee is contagious. Almost every coffee I have leads to an introduction that results in another coffee. This is how networks become highly interconnected and increases the chance of an introduction that will dramatically accelerate whatever projects or ambition you have. In the modern world everyone is busy, introductions are far more impactful and more likely to result in working relationships than cold contacting. All it can take is one serendipitous introduction to launch an idea beyond all expectations, by going for coffee you increase the likelihood of this happening.

My coffee connection journey started back in 2018 where through a series of coffees I was part of the team that organised Future Generations: Environment and Sustainability. This was a one-day conference focusing on the health and economic arguments for “sustainable” practices. As a young person, to sit down with an industry leader to discuss these issues as equals was empowering. More recently I was part of Guerns Against Discrimination where again, a series of coffees acted as the backbone for a youth led campaign that successfully lobbied discrimination legislation proposals through the States. Over coffee, connections were formed, common values and interests were found which facilitated collaborative work that achieved shared objectives.

The interconnected networks this coffee culture cultivates can react quickly to problems. Mid-March was a volatile period in our economy with panic buying and stock market crashes. Hand sanitiser, which was vital to curb the spread of COVID-19, was in short supply but high demand. It was noted that certain seaweed could be used to make the gel required for sanitiser and the alcohol component for disinfection could also be made on island. This was discussed over coffee and the network spun into action. Within 3 days the technology had been proved and it took just 10 days to get through the necessary red tape to produce the lifesaving product. Over 5000L of seaweed sanitiser were produced, this protected key workers and slowed the spread. This undoubtedly contributed to Guernsey’s remarkable success, demonstrating how interconnected networks can respond quickly and efficiently to crises.  

If you are working on a project, go for coffee. If you have an ambition, go for coffee.  If you don’t know what you want, go for coffee. The coffee is powerful, it makes you a part of highly interconnected agile networks. Find the purpose in purposelessness, embrace the contagion of the coffee and use it to increase your propensity for the chance introduction that will change your life.

[1] https://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/institutionalising-serendipity-via-productive-coffee-breaks