I’ve been accused of secretly wanting to pursue a career in stand-up comedy. I consider myself more of the “sit-down” variety. Stand-up sounds like a lot of work.
That being said, I think it’s high time someone got to the bottom of one of the most perplexing questions facing businesspeople today. It’s a dynamic that is as ubiquitous as a smartphone and as innocent as a passing glance. Nearly all of us have succumbed to its effects at one time or another. In fact, most of us don’t even know we’re doing it. So what is this mysterious force pervading businesses and board rooms around the globe?
Good question. The answer may surprise you. Are you sitting down?
“You wanted to see me, boss?”
“Yes, John. Have a seat.”
“Our numbers are really suffering this quarter.”
“You’re right. We need to sit down and brainstorm some new ideas to drive sales.”
“You might want to sit down.”
“Why? Will I somehow be unable to stand up under the sheer weight of your information?”
The list goes on and on, and we don’t even know we are doing it!
“We should sit down and compare calendars.”
“We should sit down and plan out our strategy.”
“The two of you need to sit down and work this out.”
What exactly is going on here? Apparently, anytime a discussion requires real thinking, we suddenly feel the need to collapse into a chair just in case the results of such a low-level exchange are too much to bear.
It reminds me of that scene from Back to the Future.
Marty McFly: Whoa. Wait a minute, Doc. Are you trying to tell me that my mother has got the hots for me?
Dr. Emmett Brown: Precisely.
Marty McFly: Whoa. This is heavy.
Dr. Emmett Brown: There’s that word again. “Heavy.” Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the earth’s gravitational pull?
From time to time, a glimmer of hope will emerge to combat this downward pull. Standing desks and hallway discussions periodically move in and out of vogue. Heck, we even name meetings “stand-ups” in the conscious effort to combat “sit downs.” But despite our best efforts and good intentions, it seems most of these noble efforts are short-lived, succumbing to the inevitability of a more sedentary approach.
I wonder what would happen to our productivity (not to mention our overall well-being) if this sit-down culture was replaced by a move-and-think culture? According to this New Yorker Magazine article, we actually think better when we’re walking.
“When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.”
Wow. Who knew? Keep those corpuscles puscling, I always say.
So the next time someone says, “We should sit down and _______,” perhaps you kindly suggest that they take a hike—and offer to go with them. Lighten up a little and see what develops. After all, gravity need not be the governing law of the business world. It’s really more of a guideline than a rule, anyway.