I was an earthbound type of kid, I guess. I never wanted to be an astronaut and I never got excited about space travel breakthroughs.
But now I’m following Commander Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut on the International Space Station, currently orbiting Earth every 93 minutes or so, and I’m a massive enthusiast. He’s been posting some amazing photos with commentary, in which I’m surprised to find food for thought on leadership, analysis, and strategy. So I thought I’d share three ideas that have struck me from his astounding images.
IDEA #1 is in many ways the most profound, maybe because it’s so simple. Any place he posts about, he talks about “us.” Never “them.”
“Karachi, Pakistan. More than 20 million of us live in this thriving delta city.“
“The Pearl River delta is home to 65-120 *million* of us, depending on seasonal work. The logistics overwhelm.“
Couldn’t we all go through our language and weed out “them” and “they” references which might be distancing or exoticizing our employees, team members, co-workers, clients, suppliers, funders, regulators, partners, collaborators? If we aren’t saying “us,” what does that say about how we perceive our relationships with them? Is that accurate? Is that what we would wish for?
IDEA #2 is about reframing. When I’m doing strategic work with clients, grappling with the future of their industry or company or organization, we often need to reframe. We have to step back and look at things from a much greater distance, to get a sense of perspective. This is usually done through research, analytics, and reflection exercises, which get at many of the same kinds of insights as I see in these photos. Commander Hadfield has shown us how:
- Things can simply look remarkably different from a greater distance (this is a place I’ve been and it certainly doesn’t appear like this on the ground!)
- The sense of scale and scope can change drastically, as we step back and grasp how big things really are. (Look at how the lake curves with the curvature of the Earth, showing just how enormous it is.)
- Distance can show you what’s adjacent; what the boundaries are. I find often strategy development and strategic planning require a redrawing of our mental map of the industry.
- From afar, we can clearly see patterns that would be imperceptible if you were closer.
- What might seem robust in our day to day perceptions often looks pretty fragile. (Have we checked the strength of whatever is protecting us from the wind lately?)
- We sometimes need to take a step back to see who we might depend on more than we realize, especially if things were to get difficult.
And IDEA #3 is simply his ability to create a sense of community and intimacy despite being one of the most-traveled (and currently most-distant) humans ever. It seems to be about keeping things on a human scale, from a human context.
- He’s done a great job creating connections and a sense of mutuality with the people on the ground.
- He’s even co-written a song with the Barenaked Ladies and recorded it from the space station (link to YouTube video).
- And he’s given us all a little goal-setting inspiration (who doesn’t want to visit this?).
If he can do it from space, why is it hard for us to do it from the office down the hall, or the next office tower over, or around a boardroom table?
You can follow him yourself on Twitter, but I find his tumblr has a better photo display for full visual impact. I hope you enjoy the new perspective on this place where, as the song says, lives “everybody anybody ever knew.”
Get in touch if you would like to talk about how we can help you get a new strategic perspective.