Take a hike: Why I’m swapping working for walking and we should all go free range

(incl. hip hop video from an accelerator in the French Alps)

This last year of personal change has led me more and more into nature. It started as a way to hide, get some peace and quiet, turnoff my phone and get some headspace from busy London.

With each adventure though, the outdoors has gone from being a place I like to visit, to a place I like to live. Each trip has brought new ideas and perspectives which have had an enormous impact on my life, work and helped me to start developing a new perspective on how both can dance beautifully together.

Walking El Camino, Spanish Basque Country

Nature provided the environment, but it was the age old activity of walking which transformed my life. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other. I learned how powerful this could be whilst walking part of El Camino in Spain with dear friend Jim this year (he makes things with people).

Jim & Jon, El Camino, Spain

Walking long distances in beautiful places quite literally moves people and El Camino is the epitome of this. Each pilgrim is there for a reason and on their own unique path. Curious to hear other experiences, we asked each person the same question:

‘Why are you here?’

I realise now, the 72 year old man we met on Day 1 is the inspiration behind this post. His answer was so natural and yet seemed almost scripted. Initially taken aback, he stopped and said:

‘Well I’ve not really shared this but since you ask. I’m here because I recently recovered from cancer. I’m now realising that walking is the closest thing to doing nothing in this world; and doing nothing is the nearest thing to being present; so that makes walking the nearest thing to being present.’

We watched with a stunned smile and tried to remember these wise words for the next 9 days. Walking allows for silence, thought, sharing, ideas to form and companionship. It builds friendships and stimulates the body, mind and soul. (I’ve since found out that this is based on a Henry David Thoreau text, I assume so anyway)

During a recent work trip to the French Alps for Alpselerator, I realised this experience has transformed the way I work. There’s no going back. Walking is the new working.

Why is walking the new working?

- Because who is really most creative at their desk?!
- Because new environments allow for new ideas
- Because conversations seem to flow better
- Because it keeps us balanced so we can be great
- Because walks are great to build friendships

Because who is really most creative at their desk?

During our week long accelerator, we had a beautiful chalet to work from our laptops, but when faced with beautiful mountain vistas, it became very obvious that we would feel far more creative simply walking outdoors. We call it free range working. In the words of people joining our movement:

“Hate having it dictated that I should spend a huge portion of my waking hours stuck in an office, sat at a desk.”
“The office depletes my enthusiasm”
“Office = 0 creativity”
Chalet Le Badney, Morillon, French Allps

Because new environments allow for new ideas

I am teaching myself to drop that age old belief that we need to be in the office to work. Meetings can happen anywhere, even on mountain tops. In fact, there better on mountain tops! After a long tough walk people seem to be at their most natural. This is why we did our pitch presentations at 1,800m altitude. I’ve since learned that the feedback given on the top of the mountain has led one team to partly restructure their business!

Pitching near Morillon, Grand Massif, French Alps — 1,800m

Because conversations seem to flow better

Have you been in meetings or brainstorms which sap your creativity? I find these environments often seem to rely on a few characters to fuel dialogue but one of my biggest insights from ‘walkshops’ (I didn’t invent this word, but it’s great) during Alpselerator is that I just had some many great conversations! Catching a coffee in Shoreditch is one thing, but walking for 30mins and hearing another person’s perspective in new surroundings is far more effective.

Because it keeps us balanced so we can be great

Burnout, fatigue and other office related syndromes seem so alien after having done most my best work whilst also getting healthier. The mind gets to wander, the air is fresh, and it’s obviously great for the body too. Walking in natural surroundings has a way of reminding me of the unimportance of most of my problems which in turn helps me have the clarity to solve them.

Evening stroll by the river in Morillon

Because walks are great to build friendships

I have been lucky to work with such a lovely group of 15 people in the Alps for the past week and I feel like I’ve made some great friends. Would that really happen doing workshops, meetings and the odd cup of coffee? Going for walks with different people has helped me build new relationships and in an organisational context, this has to be an amazingly impactful way of building a culture. It’s called ‘netwalking’ (yes, I’ve heard that used as a word too by these amazing people!).

Alpselerator was an experiment for a new movement and a new way of working: the free range working movement. We brought together 7 different teams all there to accelerate their ideas and projects, make big decisions and prototype their next steps. We facilitated workshops in a beautiful chalets, had team meetings, but most importantly of all, we went on a lot of walks.

Oh, and one last thing. We made rap video!

In case this still feels like ‘work’ to you. Walking this week has led our team to decide to open our movement up and really try to create momentum around a new way of working which is allows us to be whole people, be more effective and be happier. What more natural way to do that than in a rap video, shot on an iPhone, on a forest walk? Enjoy ;)

Join the Free Range Business movement here.

The Alpselerator teams were, in no particular order: