Margaret Heffernan is businesswoman, entrepreneur and author. Her five books cover a range of topics from female empowerment & leadership in the workplace through to modern observations on the nature of competitive environments and how businesses need to morph into something other than zero sum game enterprises.

In this conversation, she talks about how to build social capital in groups, the pitfalls of binary thinking, why shifting the culture of any organisation or group is so hard and why collaboration built on mutual respect is the only way to get great results.

Early on in the conversation, Margaret recounts a small change that made a big difference in an organisation that she worked for. The change was to try and ensure that everyone knew one another on a more personal level rather than a purely functional, tactical level.

She introduced a session every Friday where employees had to explain to the business ‘why they come to work’ (i.e. to provide for my family, to travel and experience new cultures etc.) this small change meant that people started to see each other as more than a job title and employees made connections as passionate individuals rather than nodes in a network.

I see real value in being both open and vulnerable with people, it is surprising how differently people treat you when they realise you are a complex individual just like them, rather than a competitor, threat or minor inconvenience. Try to share something that you wouldn’t have previously with someone you trust and see how differently the conversation tracks.