What communicators can learn from the International Space Station

Tim PeakeWhen Major Tim Peake boarded the International Space Station a few months back I decided to track him through the night skies with my telescope – and with the help of some useful tracking info from NASA.

I later learned that the space station is as wide as a football field, weighs the equivalent of 320 cars and is controlled by 52 computers. But despite its enormity, it turns out that just a small piece of space debris the size of a marble, orbiting the earth at up to 17,500 mph, is enough to ruin it.

I marvelled at how something so small and seemingly insignificant could have such a large impact; especially upon such a grand project. Knowing a good communications metaphor when I see one, I reflected on how the same principle is true for communication during large change programmes.

Whether you’re working on a new company vision or an organisational restructuring, it’s the little things that must be addressed first when it comes to communicating with, and engaging staff.

The ‘little’ things I’m talking about here are the individual concerns relating to the people working within your organisation. Of course, for the people involved, their concerns are not small at all, but are important issues that directly and personally affect them.

People naturally want to know how and when they may be affected by impending changes. So communicating through change involves paying attention to these important fine details. People’s personal issues must be addressed, or at the very least acknowledged, before you can start to discuss the big organisational change story.

Even if absolute clarity cannot be given on what the future may hold for individuals, by addressing their concerns, they are enabled to move on to the next stage of listening, and become ready to hear about, and engage with, the ‘big’ change messages.

It’s these little things which help to put people at psychological ease and build rapport, and are the prerequisite for developing a meaningful conversation. Failing to address the personal implications of change makes it difficult for anyone to listen to anything else you have to say.

And like the International Space Station, if you want to keep your big change programme in orbit, you be better be thinking about those ‘little things’ or prepare to abort mission.

Photo: ESA/NASA

One thought on “What communicators can learn from the International Space Station

  1. As a communicator and a godparent/aunt to many I was inspired by his connection to children . The Royal Holticultural Society ‘rocket science’ growing of rocket seeds in space was fantastic – I hope they enter it for some PR awards. It was a brilliant and engaging PR activity.

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