The NY Times reported on Thu that when Mark Zuckerberg is ready to make an offer (or seduce someone, meant in the most positive way) to join Facebook, he takes them for a walk in the woods. Some actually find it strange – although given some of Mark’s reported early antics, nothing should be strange at Facebook, again, meant in a positive way. I believe that there are only two kinds of people in the world: those that think they are crazy and those that don’t know it yet; it is the latter who attack post offices or Wal-Marts (or airports).
I find Mark’s ideas correct and appealing. An office, even one as informal as Facebook’s, is still an office, and an interview, even one in Silicon Valley or Israel dress code jeans and T-shirt, is still an artificial environment for both parties. The best way to get to really know someone is either to work with them for a few months, something impossible to do beforehand unless you have a long past, or to get into a comfortable situation. Mark’s “walk in the woods” is exactly that. Each party gets to see the other as a little bit more of the human they will be when working together.
A long number of years ago, a wealthy individual wanted me to join him as CIO of his company. After a day of interviews with just about everyone, we were done, and I left his office. As I waited at the corner for the light to change, he showed up “by chance” and we took a walk together. How do we walk down the street? How do we handle slower walking people, mother with strollers, panhandlers, street corners, etc.? You can learn a lot from walking with someone three blocks down the big city.
More recently, as a consultant, I often find myself in the position of needing information from or about someone that they are reluctant or uncomfortable to divulge. Obviously, if they really do not want to share, I will find an alternative source, but more often than not, drinks in the evening at a hotel bar or the nearest Starbucks during the day, talking with a consultant who is not part of the formal organization, in casual clothing, really gets people to open up.