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

Last week, as a guest of Mark Catchlove and the good people at Herman Miller, I was within the walls of Windsor Castle. We were working at St George’s House facilitating some fascinating discussions around Social Capital in the Workplace. St George’s House published a report of the consultation which you can download and read from here.

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, before heading off to bed.

Although the bed in my room was very comfortable, I didn’t sleep for very long, in part because I was excited to get back to work. 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 is 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 the building 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 lots 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.

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.