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TED2013

Nilofer Merchant: Got a meeting? Take a walk

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Views 2,773,592

Nilofer Merchant suggests a small idea that just might have a big impact on your life and health: Next time you have a one-on-one meeting, make it into a "walking meeting" -- and let ideas flow while you walk and talk.

- Corporate director, author
Business innovator Nilofer Merchant thinks deeply about the frameworks, strategies and cultural values of companies. Full bio

What you're doing,
00:13
right now, at this very moment,
00:15
is killing you.
00:18
More than cars or the Internet
00:20
or even that little mobile device we keep talking about,
00:22
the technology you're using the most almost every day
00:25
is this, your tush.
00:28
Nowadays people are sitting 9.3 hours a day,
00:31
which is more than we're sleeping, at 7.7 hours.
00:34
Sitting is so incredibly prevalent,
00:38
we don't even question how much we're doing it,
00:40
and because everyone else is doing it,
00:42
it doesn't even occur to us that it's not okay.
00:45
In that way, sitting has become
00:47
the smoking of our generation.
00:50
Of course there's health consequences to this,
00:54
scary ones, besides the waist.
00:56
Things like breast cancer and colon cancer
00:59
are directly tied to our lack of physical [activity],
01:03
Ten percent in fact, on both of those.
01:06
Six percent for heart disease,
01:08
seven percent for type 2 diabetes,
01:10
which is what my father died of.
01:12
Now, any of those stats should convince each of us
01:15
to get off our duff more,
01:17
but if you're anything like me, it won't.
01:18
What did get me moving was a social interaction.
01:21
Someone invited me to a meeting,
01:24
but couldn't manage to fit me in
01:26
to a regular sort of conference room meeting, and said,
01:27
"I have to walk my dogs tomorrow. Could you come then?"
01:30
It seemed kind of odd to do,
01:34
and actually, that first meeting, I remember thinking,
01:36
"I have to be the one to ask the next question,"
01:38
because I knew I was going to huff and puff
01:40
during this conversation.
01:43
And yet, I've taken that idea and made it my own.
01:45
So instead of going to coffee meetings
01:48
or fluorescent-lit conference room meetings,
01:50
I ask people to go on a walking meeting,
01:52
to the tune of 20 to 30 miles a week.
01:55
It's changed my life.
01:59
But before that, what actually happened was,
02:01
I used to think about it as,
02:05
you could take care of your health,
02:05
or you could take care of obligations,
02:07
and one always came at the cost of the other.
02:10
So now, several hundred of these walking meetings later,
02:14
I've learned a few things.
02:17
First, there's this amazing thing
02:18
about actually getting out of the box
02:20
that leads to out-of-the-box thinking.
02:23
Whether it's nature or the exercise itself, it certainly works.
02:25
And second, and probably the more reflective one,
02:29
is just about how much each of us
02:32
can hold problems in opposition
02:34
when they're really not that way.
02:37
And if we're going to solve problems
02:39
and look at the world really differently,
02:40
whether it's in governance or business
02:42
or environmental issues, job creation,
02:44
maybe we can think about how to reframe those problems
02:47
as having both things be true.
02:50
Because it was when that happened
02:52
with this walk-and-talk idea
02:54
that things became doable and sustainable and viable.
02:55
So I started this talk talking about the tush,
02:59
so I'll end with the bottom line, which is,
03:01
walk and talk.
03:05
Walk the talk.
03:07
You'll be surprised at how fresh air drives fresh thinking,
03:08
and in the way that you do,
03:12
you'll bring into your life an entirely new set of ideas.
03:13
Thank you.
03:17
(Applause)
03:19
Translated by Joseph Geni
Reviewed by Morton Bast

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About the speaker:

Nilofer Merchant - Corporate director, author
Business innovator Nilofer Merchant thinks deeply about the frameworks, strategies and cultural values of companies.

Why you should listen

Nilofer Merchant has been helping to grow businesses -- from Fortune 500s to web startups -- for 20 years. She’s worked for major companies (like Apple and Autodesk) and early web startups (remember Golive?). Logitech, Symantec, HP, Yahoo, VMWare, and many others have turned to her guidance to develop new product strategies, enter new markets, defend against competitors and optimize revenue.

Today she serves on boards for both public and private companies, and writes books about collaboration, like The New How: Creating Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy, and openness -- check out her recent ebook 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra, chosen by Fast Company as one of the Best Business Books of 2012. She also writes for HBR, including the personal and brave essay about a previous attempt on the TED stage: "What I Learned from My TED Talk."

Watch Nilofer's moving TEDxHouston talk on "onlyness" >>

More profile about the speaker
Nilofer Merchant | Speaker | TED.com