I'm having lunch tomorrow with one of the most passionately creative people I know, Abu Noaman, CEO of Elliance. He's coming in to guest lecture my Innovation + Technology class on how to integrate innovative ideas, processes, and thinking into the fabric of the organization, and afterwards, we'll grab a quick bite, since I'm then guest lecturing somewhere else at 1:00.
I always love having lunch with Abu because he has great stories, great observations, and a great and wide-ranging passion for creativity in everything from architecture to web design and all the letters in the middle. Like me, he's promiscuous (no, the second, third and fourth definitions) about art, design, writing, business, organizations, processes...and that fuels a great lunch, even when it's a short one.
Now, I haven't read the book, Never Eat Alone, and the reviews at Amazon are not especially complimentary, but I (and everyone, these days) get the point that building relationships is critically important to your career. The thing is, don't just think about your career. Think about, well, your soul, and feeding it. Its food pyramid suggests that you have many servings of creativity throughout the day, and a good time to get some is lunchtime.
So don't think about just who you can connect with at lunch. Think about who you can create with. Have lunch with interesting, passionate, wild-eyed, thoughtful, wacky, challenging creative people, at least once in while.
Innovation rarely comes from solitary people brooding behind (mentally and physically) closed doors. Nor does it come from making relationships for the sole purpose of making relationships. It comes, mostly, from people who push you, pull you, jostle you, whip you into a creative frenzy and then allow and encourage you to do the same for them. Ideas beget ideas.
So by all means have lunch with someone. Just make it someone interesting.
(Disclaimer: I'm on Elliance's Advisory Board. I don't know why that should make any difference vis-a-vis the above, but I thought I should tell you.)