In most instances, meeting with a colleague over dinner or lunch provides a way to speak casually without the rigid feel of an office environment. There usually isn’t an agenda or bulleted list of points that need covering.
But that’s not the case for LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman. Each time the LinkedIn executive chairman meets with someone over a meal, he makes a list of the things he wants to talk about. He then asks the person joining him to come up with their own list as well.
“Hoffman tries to begin all meals with a ritual in which both parties write down a list of the topics they want to discuss,” The New Yorker’s Nicholas Lemann reports.
To illustrate this idea, Lemann recounted a dinner that Hoffman had with Mark Pincus, founder and CEO of Zynga. Hoffman and Pincus came to the dinner with their respective lists, and some of the topics on Hoffman’s list included discussing an upper level graduate course at Stanford University he’s teaching called “Technology-Enabled Bltizscaling” and the streaming platform for video gamers called Twitch, among other things.
Hoffman doesn’t explicitly explain why he chooses to conduct his dinner meetings this way. But based on Lemann’s description of Hoffman’s conversations, this practice makes it so that the conversation accelerates over the course of the meal rather then disintegrating.
Hoffman’s dinners gain altitude and velocity as they go on. It’s not about the food and drink. He is on a perpetual diet and seems barely to notice what is put before him. The conversation provides the stimulus: the grander the ideas, the more voluble he becomes.