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How to use Mystery Coffee to enable knowledge exchange in your organization

Blog / January 2, 2024 / with Christoph Drebes
An Asian man in a white shirt joins a video call on a laptop. He waves with one hand and holds a coffee cup in the other.


How are you facilitating knowledge exchange in your company?

If you’re reading this, you probably already know what Mystery Coffee is. But maybe you don’t just want to offer your employees a generic experience.  

In this series of articles, we’ll examine some ideas for initiatives that you can support with Mystery Coffee, and how the matching algorithm can be adapted to make them unique. From superior onboarding to DEI initiatives to encouraging information exchange, your Mystery Coffee platform can be as unique as your organization. 

So, how can you use Mystery Coffee to supercharge your skill-sharing programs?  

What’s Mystery Coffee?

If you’re new to Mystery Coffee, there’s no need to worry. Mystery Coffee is a platform that randomly matches your employees for short, virtual coffee breaks. 

It’s easy to use and offers a wide range of options for customization. For example, you can change several of the design elements to match your brand guidelines. You can rename the platform, and edit the content works so that it works perfectly for your initiatives. 

However, the real power is in the matchmaking algorithm. The algorithm can be adapted to include several different parameters, which means that the solution can be used for all kinds of initiatives and events. For example, you can choose between matching people in pairs or groups and select the frequency of their meetings. 

For more product features, check out our summary. And if you want a demonstration of the platform to see how it works, you can get in touch with us here.  

If virtual coffee break isn’t right for your organization, you might prefer Mystery Lunch, which randomly pairs employees for shared lunch breaks. 

So, now everyone knows what Mystery Coffee is, let’s look at some ideas that you can use to support knowledge exchange! 

Why invest in skill-sharing and knowledge exchange? 

Whether you’re concerned about information silos in your organization or you need different team members to collaborate more, Mystery Coffee can unlock all kinds of unexpected opportunities. You probably already have the skills and knowledge you need within your company, it’s just a matter of putting the right people together in a productive way. 

A Mystery Coffee session isn’t as time-consuming as a meeting, and it can be much more fun, making it far more appealing to employees than an online training course. That doesn’t make the outcomes flimsy - a virtual coffee date can be exactly the kind of relaxed setting in which breakthroughs happen.  

You can make your programs mandatory or voluntary – it all depends on how essential you feel the exchange to be. You could have defined goals for each session or not, it’s up to you how you design your initiative. 

So, let’s look at the different knowledge exchanges you can support with Mystery Coffee. 

5 ways to use Mystery Coffee for learning and development

1. Interdepartmental exchange

You’ll find plenty of articles on our blog about the dangers of silo thinkingwe’ve even written a whitepaper about it. Most executives recognize it as a problem, and most organizations encounter it, especially as they grow.

A silo mentality occurs when employees only think in terms of their own departments and roles, and it means that they often overlook opportunities that could benefit the business. Whether that’s eliminating an inefficient process or identifying an opportunity for collaboration, it can’t happen unless different teams are talking to each other.  

A solution like Mystery Coffee can help you to break down these barriers. You can choose to set up a program where all random matches take place between employees from different departments, locations, or projects. You can also provide icebreaker questions to help get the conversations started. 

2. Project-focused exchanges

Sometimes individuals might be working together on the same project but have relatively little contact outside meetings. This is particularly true when a project involves external participants or teams from multiple locations. If a project is expected to take place over several years, for example in the construction or software development sector, then it might be worthwhile to set up a project-specific networking platform. 

A diverse team of employees chats happily on a video call.

This will help project members to feel part of a unified group, while also helping to counteract information silos. If these individuals are going to be working together intensely for a long time, then encouraging personal connections can be helpful in creating a positive atmosphere from day one. 

Alternatively, if you find that your employees are only speaking to those working on their own projects, it might be helpful to set up a knowledge exchange between different projects. That way, one group might be able to avoid pitfalls the other has already encountered, or they can help each other problem solve.

3. Connecting across hierarchy levels

It’s not just distance or department that separates colleagues. Hierarchy can also play a big role in how well we communicate with each other. Someone at the top of an organization’s ladder can easily lose track of what day-to-day life feels like for employees. Meanwhile, those on the lower rungs of a hierarchy might not understand the big picture for the organization. 

A young man takes notes while on a video call with an older male colleague.

If your annual employee survey shows that employees want more communication from the top, you might need to consider taking targeted action. A Mystery Coffee program that matches senior managers with a diverse range of people in the lower ranks can help to create personal connections. It’s an opportunity for individuals to be heard without a filter, and it’s a way for senior managers to truly understand what the biggest concerns are for those outside the boardroom. 

Connecting hierarchy levels is sometimes easier said than done. Depending on the scale of your business, it can be intimidating for a new hire to speak directly to the CEO. Providing ice breaker questions or suggested topics can make these conversations feel less daunting. 

4. Tech exchange

It’s a constant refrain – organizations and employees need to keep up to date with the latest technology. But it’s an easy thing to say, and more difficult to implement.

Training on new software tools can be patchy, and often attendees won’t know which features they’ll be using (or which bugs they’ll encounter) until it rolls out to their team. From then on, it’s the IT department that has to field regular requests for help. 

Even for developers and IT experts, it can be difficult to stay on top of all the new ideas and tools. Tech-savvy employees often have their own areas of expertise, and they can lack the opportunity to share what they know with others. 

A tech exchange using Mystery Coffee can help employees who want to take the next step. Users can sign up as experts or learners and can list the specific tools that they want to learn more about. Their short sessions can then be used to resolve problems they’re encountering and learn about new software features or hacks and shortcuts that they can use in their day-to-day work. Expert-to-expert matching can also be useful, pairing up employees with similar interests to discuss their latest discoveries and ideas. 

Tech companies can also use Mystery Coffee sessions to connect product managers and developers with others in the company who could benefit from better understanding how their products are built, upgraded, and maintained. 

5. Pitching practice

Sharing expertise is one way to use Mystery Coffee. But for Sales, Customer Success, and Customer Support teams, Mystery Coffee can be a simple tool that supports practice and rehearsal for dealing with customers. Pitching practice is something that many Sales departments already do, but it’s also a task that can easily fall to the bottom of a list of priorities – particularly if you’re always practicing with the same partner. 

In this set-up, one participant can be assigned as the presenter, while the other plays the role of the customer. At the end of the session, the “customer” can give their feedback to the pitcher, helping them to improve their storytelling and presentation skills. There’s nothing like practicing to enhance skills, and adding a random element makes it a different challenge every time. 

Mystery Coffee for skill exchanges: get started today! 

It’s easy for learning and development to fall to the bottom of an employee’s priority list. It’s also easy for important information to become siloed away so that only one department knows it deeply. More and more organizations are therefore recognizing the importance of strategic and targeted learning initiatives.  

If you’re interested in using Mystery Coffee or Lunch to support your knowledge management or learning and development programs, the easiest way to get started is to book a demonstration with one of our experienced consultants. They’ll assess the scale of your business, take down your unique challenges, and help you design a solution that works for you. 

Build networks via virtual coffee breaks. Mystery Coffee helps you to connect colleagues, foster collaboration, and improve cooperation. Learn more now.

About the author:

Christoph Drebes

Christoph is an entrepreneur from Munich and co-founded Mystery Minds in 2016. Mystery Minds' mission is to make the world of work more human by creating meaningful, personal connections between colleagues. The remote-only team already works with over 250 international companies, helping them to strengthen internal networks and overcome silo mentalities.

Originally published on January 2, 2024 at 11:00 AM, amended on January 10, 2024 at 4:30 PM


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