How do you get in?

I took a walk in the dunes with a colleague of mine some time ago. We talked about the difficulties he was having getting through to some people in his organisation. He relayed me the story of a friend, who’s a biologist. This guy was observing a group of giant turtles on a forlorn island in the Pacific.

Initially, he did not get far. Every time he wanted to come closer, they’d scurry off in to the water. Then, he started seeing who the leaders of the group were. So he got on his knees and hands and crouched down towards the group. Again no luck. He was getting pretty frustrated and thought about packing it up. He watched them for another day and really looked for patterns in the group that maybe he’d failed to see previously. Suddenly, he noticed something. The animals he perceived as the leaders of the group all shared a habit: every now and then, they’d use a paw to scoop a bit of sand on their backs.

He moved slowly towards the group and installed himself among them. And put a few scoops of sand on his back. And what do you know? He was in and could be among them without the group scurrying of into the water.

Our conclusion: if you want in, find out what the equivalent of that scoop of sand on your back is.

Art Kleiner has described these subliminal dynamics beautifully in Who Really Matters – The Core Group (

What are your experiences with core group dynamics?

Image: National Geographic

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