Antony Quinn is technology consultant, actor & improviser.

He had become, he told me, quite enthused by the design principle behind handles.

door handle
Door handle Grange, Kenneth, born 1929. Photograph copyright V&A Museum


Simply put – a handle signifies “pull” and a plate signifies “push”.

The logic is simple.  Why put a plate when you need to pull – there’s nothing to hold on to?  Why a handle when all you need to do is push?

 Once you have learnt this rule, it’s difficult not to see and act upon it.

 What one notices very soon is that not all doors follow this logical rule.

 There are corridors at the V&A which are push one way and pull coming back.  It’s very satisfying – though I admit to preferring the push.


And yet, there are still doors that flummox me.  I approach them with the intention of pulling only to find that they are push doors – in fact a few have a small sign saying “push” on them.  It confuses me and, I can imagine, would infuriate others.


It is as if the doors are not playing by the rules. 

And joining an organisation is like that.  Running induction events for the V&A, I remark that coming into a new job is like joining a large group of people playing a game.  You don’t know what the game is, you don’t know what the rules are.  And you only find out when you break a rule – “That’s not the way we work round here,” “That’s not how its done”.  And there are the subtleties – the strategies employed for working within the rules successfully – the “go to Finance on a Wednesday not a Monday.  They’ve the BACS payments to do so they are always busy”, the “you can get milk delivered if you want.  Saves buying endless cups in the canteen”


We come with intent, enthusiasm and a bunch of assumptions to do “the right thing”. 

Our new employers want us to be playing our part as quickly and effectively as possible.


Therefore I’d suggest that induction or on-boarding need to be more than a set of joining instructions.  

If we want our new hires to be excellent players of our particular game, we need to help them learn the rules as quickly as possible. 

And this must be a two way process.  It should tap into the willingness of the new starter to play and to play well.  

Rather than a process that is designed to get all the boxes ticked, how does one engage the new starters’ curiosity and willingness to learn a new game?  And how do you coach them to play it better.


The first day/90 days/6 months [choose your own timescale] are vital for making the most of this new relationship.

We assume that the rules are self-evident – we’ve been playing the game for a while so they are obvious.


Or are they…  The flummoxing doors are a regular reminder to me to check my assumptions