When Shifting Desks Doesn’t Work: Pair-Ups

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I wrote recently about Tony’s Chocolonely’s cultural practice of shifting desks every few months, in order to spark the conditions for new human connections and new opportunities for team collaboration. It resonated with me as a beneficial cultural practice for encouraging the growth of a collaboration mindset. For organisations where everyone works in the same location, re-shuffling the desk layout can be an effective method for creating new pair-wise connections. But for organisations where employee proximity is measured in kilometres rather than feet, something more will be required. Several years ago, Fog Creek Software developed an app called CoffeeTime, for randomly pairing people across the firm, with a particular focus on creating connections between people who would not normally interact. At the time, Fog Creek said the intent was to “encourage the cross-team communication and serendipitous learning which otherwise happens naturally when co-workers share an office” (hat tip, Stuart McIntyre). The result of a CoffeeTime pair-up was a scheduled 30-minute chat between the two individuals.

Microsoft Teams Icebreaker Bot 

The Microsoft Teams team at Microsoft sees the value in such pair-ups too. After developing an app for internal use to do the same thing as Fog Creek CoffeeTime, the app has been released to the wider world under the moniker of the Icebreaker Bot.


The core idea seeks to create the same conditions for growing a collaboration mindset: pair-up team members for a weekly meet up, to increase the velocity of meeting new team members, fostering camaraderie, and driving stronger connections across a worldwide community. The Icebreaker Bot is available as an App Template for Microsoft Teams. This enables customisation and tailoring for each organisation. It is available immediately.

To know more about collaboration practices with Office 365, download our eBook Collaboration Framework.