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Social Capital in the Workplace – What’s My Thing?

Last week I was within the walls of Windsor Castle, at St George’s House facilitating some fascinating discussions around Social Capital in the Workplace. St George’s House will in due course publish a report of the consultation which I will share when it is available.

One of the things we talked about was our own social capital in the group. How many people did we know in the group, how did we know them, that kind of thing. We used some very basic data to start drawing maps of our connections, and someone suggested we should also note down our interests. ‘What’s My Thing?’ is how the idea was put forward. So among other things, our conversation over dinner turned to ‘What’s My Thing?’ and we each wrote down something about our interests and talked about it. After dinner we had a tour of St George’s Chapel, parts of which date back to 1240 AD, and then retired to bed.

Although the bed in my room was very comfortable, I didn’t sleep for very long, in part because I was looking forward to getting back to work so much. I was up and about shortly after 5am, and because everywhere is unlocked, I made my way down to The Vicars’ Hall, the building we were working in. The Hall was built in 1415 and it’s rumoured that William Shakespeare visited the building with Queen Elizabeth to see the first production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. You can just about make it out on the left of this moonlit picture I took.

Vicars' Hall in the Moonlight

Once inside the Hall – I got to thinking about ‘What’s My Thing?’. I looked through all the notes people had made over dinner the previous evening and decided to put everyone’s things onto a large sheet of paper.

What's My Thing

This big picture is what greeted everyone when they came together to restart the conversation. It provoked a real buzz and all kinds of conversations about who does what. I deliberately left names off the picture, and people began to piece things together based on conversations from the previous evening.

I think that getting to know one another, beyond how we simply define ourselves at work, is an important part of what makes work better, and I think this group gained a lot of useful insight from each other as a result of this simple exercise. ‘What’s My Thing?’ wasn’t my idea, though I adapted the handwritten notes into the big picture. It was a social, simple, enjoyable way of getting a group talking and I thought I’d share it in case others would like to try it out too.