To infinity and beyond: what astronauts can teach us about authority.
Marketing and Innovation is life and death, right?
Well, not really … but it can feel like that when you’re in a mission critical situation. Before you feel like you’re running out of oxygen, take a minute or two to do like astronauts do.
I’ve become obsessed recently with the BBC series Astronauts where Chris Hadfield puts highly qualified hopefuls through their paces before recommending them to the European Space Agency. I love it partly because, I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid, but also because of what you can learn about team work
Crew Resource Management, is a way of working as a team developed for professions like astronauts and pilots, who face life and death choices on a daily basis.
In marketing and innovation we rarely find ourselves in a situation where a loss of life is remotely possible...however what can we learn from the practice?
Three Principles to take away from CRM for Innovation Leaders
1. Situational Awareness
To put it simply this is all about context of a situation. It’s easy to lose grasp of context if, for example, you are fixated on a problem or have become complacent because you have done something a million times before. Try to keep your eyes open. It's the job of everyone on the team, no matter what level they are to highlight when they think there has been a loss of situational awareness, by clearly signalling and reminding the team.
2. Effective Communication
“The biggest enemy of effective communication is the illusion of it.”
Communication errors are one of the biggest causes of fatal accidents in the air - and it could be said that in innovation teams a lack of communication is often the biggest cause of a project derailing. Clear communication of a task as well as a clear acknowledgement that one has understood the task is key to successful project management.
Some top tips for effective communication according to CRM:
- Convey information clearly
- Use commonly understood phrases
- Advocate concerns
- Acknowledge receipt of all communications
- Provide information as required
- Repeat information only if necessary
- Ask for clarification when needed
- Resolve conflicts of opinion in a timely fashion
Raising concerns effectively
Raising concerns effectively is especially important. One famous case of a failure of CRM which led to a fatal accident was the crash of a Korean Cargo Plane at Stansted Airport. South Korea at the time was a traditionally hierarchical society. In this case the Co-Pilot had noticed that something was wrong, however failed to clearly raise it as it would go against the authority of the much older and more experienced Pilot.
Here is how to raise a concern, no matter what your position, according to CRM:
State your concern: ‘I am concerned’
Describe why you are concerned: ‘The barrier is still up’
Offer solution: ‘We should stay at stand’
Obtain agreement; ‘Do you agree’?
3. Group Dynamics
Good leadership is at the heart of CRM
Three leadership principles to follow according to CRM are as follows:
1. Authority with Participation
A leader should not interject at random or ‘seagull’, they should actively be involved in groups workflows and advise when and where needed
2. Advocacy through inquiry
A good leader should ask questions and get all the facts before offering a solution
3. Assertiveness with respect
A good leader should treat others with respect and courtesy no matter what rank. Assertiveness is not rudeness.
So remember, next time you are in the midst of a critical innovation project which you suspect is going awry - take a step back and think like an astronaut.
Are you understanding the full context?
Are you communicating effectively as a team?
Has your leader established effective group dynamics?
Image credit: NASA