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  • Writer's pictureTracey Camilleri

Designing Better Beginnings

“Who, if I cried out, would hear me amongst the angels?”


This is the memorable first line of Rainier Maria Rilke’s exquisite poem sequence The Duino Elegies*. It opens a door and pulls you into the poem in just eleven words. I would like to have written with such economy.

Beginnings are so important to get right and yet in our research for The Social Brain we’ve found that they tend to get skimped and rushed at work. We dash headlong into task mode forgetting the social nature of any successful project or undertaking. We tend to assume that relationships will just happen naturally. They often don’t.

We found however that intentional time spent up front to include and understand everyone in a team or group paid huge performance dividends down the line, especially when a project encountered challenges.

We have been working with organisations to create social strategies to reimagine ‘first lines’ – whether of induction processes, project set-ups or new board effectiveness processes. In this way groups are set up from the start to work together as more than the sum of their parts.

Sometimes it just takes something simple like a gesture. We recently commissioned research to explore the experience of recent graduates in their first jobs. One spoke of going into the almost empty office on Fridays because the CFO was there and he always made a point of coming over to the desk of the new joiner to ask how the week had gone. These few minutes of recognition, he said, made him feel that he belonged.

*Trans Stephen Mitchell

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