Lunch is common at Collective Agency. It’s rarely networking and not often talking about work, but it is talking about life, whatever’s interesting to us then, which could be family, some way that work relates to us personally, hobbies, curiosities, childhoods, explorations, etc. I personally think conversations are often best when it splits into two or more subgroups. Sometimes people who aren’t members hear that we do lunch and they say, ‘Oh, you like each other!’

Here’s the simple game rules for inviting people to lunch that I like to play by:

1) Set expectations. Tell people in advance that there’ll likely be lunch within a certain time and certain parameters. Why: so people can frame expectations and make plans.

Lately 12pm is the most common time for lunch, eating on the sofas at Division and Downtown. And people who haven’t brought lunch, go out and get it before, and come back.

2) Ask the most likely person first, in advance, and so on. Ask the person most likely to say ‘yes’, between 30 minutes and 2 hours before. I ask them where other people can overhear them say ‘yes’. Then I ask the next-most likely person to say yes, and so on. Why: ‘yes’ is more likely to lead to ‘yes’, and two people are more interesting to have a group lunch with than one person, and three is more interesting than two, and so on.

3) Ask everyone; it’s not exclusive; everyone is worthy of love and belonging. I ask everyone unless they’ve told me they aren’t interested or available to go to lunch. If someone seems very focused on work, I might stand where they can see me, and do a hand gesture or head gesture or start to ask them, but not try too hard.

Modified consensus, finding overlap of what people want, is how I do it:

1) If the first or second or third person I ask says they can’t do 12 but they can do 1130, I check in with the other people who’ve said yes to see if 1130am is good for them. If there’s a request to go to a certain place for lunch, then I ask other people if they’d be down.

2) I tell each person full info as it becomes available: “A few of us are going to eat lunch on the sofas at 12pm, do you want to?”

3) Consent is part of modified consensus – I never try to persuade anyone, I ask once and that’s it, if it isn’t a ‘very much yes’ it’s a ‘no’ unless they then say they really want to come to lunch, if it’s a ‘maybe’ then it’s on the person for whom it’s a ‘maybe’ to figure out on their own and ask for what would make it a ‘very much yes’ for them, etc. If someone apologizes for not being able to come I say it’s fine and no need to apologize; ‘thanks for taking care of yourself’ is the most formal way to say it, which I rarely do.

Sometimes I ask a whole part of a room of people, if they all often go to lunch. I try to make eye contact with each person as I ask. And then usually people respond similarly to the above process, with a more synchronous planning.

And then at exactly the agreed time, I get up and say “Lunch?” to people and we gradually go out. I rarely wait too long for someone, since members tend to like things to start on time. I set a silent alarm to remind me if I might be distracted and not remember the time.

And that’s how I play the ‘lunch’ game.

P.S. Going to lunch is one of the simplest academic examples of ‘collective action’. Have a great lunch!

Written by Alex Linsker