What can we learn about inclusion from Planet of the Apes?

Last week we held our Autumn Escape - a company ‘away day’ held every quarter. These Escapes form an integral part of our culture at Moorhouse: providing a great opportunity to share the exciting work we’ve been doing and reconnect with colleagues.

With National Inclusion Week in our sights, the Diversity and Inclusion Team decided to try something different, holding an hour long session for the whole company. The activity we set our colleagues was inspired by a story we heard about the making of the1967 movie, Planet of the Apes. During filming, the actor Charlston Heston noticed an ‘instinctive segregation’ between actors on set. During breaks between shoots, the actors playing the different animals tended to sit and socialise with one another, excluding actors who played different roles in the film. In other words, the gorillas ate together, the chimpanzees ate together, and so on.

The actor James Franciscus noticed the same thing when filming ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ in 1970. These examples are a stark reminder of how easily we put ourselves into social groups. This is not always a bad thing, but it can be a subtle form of exclusion when it happens in the workplace.

We showed our colleagues a short video clip of Planet of the Apes and told them the story above. We then challenged them to explore what inclusion meant to them with someone who they may not normally engage with. We hoped that they would learn something new about one another and leave feeling a little bit more inclusive. We split the firm into randomly generated pairs and provided a list of curated questions to help prompt discussion when needed. Then, we gave them time and space to delve in!

So what did we learn by reflecting on inclusion? We asked members of the firm what inclusion means to them and here’s what people shared:

‘Inclusion is everyone having representation and a voice... Making sure the make-up of the world around us is reflected at all levels of the organisation.’

‘From an organisational perspective, inclusion is the fostering of culture that seeks to develop cohesive communities that understand one another within the organisation. From a personal perspective, inclusion is being excited to see colleagues everyday and feeling like you know your place with the wider business.’

‘Inclusion means creating an environment that fosters uniqueness and encourages everyone to be comfortable being themselves.’

‘Inclusion is feeling a sense of belonging to a collective purpose, even if you as individuals are different.’ ‘Inclusion is taking time to understand more about people's interests and backgrounds... you never know what you might learn! Its also about seeing situations from different perspectives, being switched on and aware of how people may feel.’

As easy and natural as it is to form social in-groups, simply taking the time to connect with somebody outside of your social circle can have a big impact on inclusion in the workplace. National Inclusion Week will soon come to an end, but here at Moorhouse, we are committed to creating a safe and inclusive place to work all year round.

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Author

Yemi Kuteyi Consultant