How Do You Explain Yourself To Aliens?

Reimagining everything about work

Imagine a scene from a science fiction movie… a mysterious spaceship lands on Earth. Representatives of a species of aliens emerge with no knowledge of how we do things on this planet. They are here to research: to understand us, what we do and how we do things. As part of their research, they visit you to understand more about how you work. They’re curious about everything about you, what you do, how you work, why you do things the way you do and they want to know more. Yes, it’s a huge stretch of the imagination, but stay with me on this. Suspend reality for a moment, and imagine the scene….

As the aliens begin their research, they ask you to describe what you do, and ask you lots of questions to help them understand.

1. What Do You Do?

Is this a question you can answer easily about your business or the organisation you work for? In a nutshell, what do you do? Do you solve a problem? What is that problem? How do you explain it simply to another species so that they understand it? This is your elevator pitch; how easy is it for you to find the words to explain what you do and why clearly to an alien so they can understand you. Avoid buzzwords, slogans and acronyms, as an alien will not understand them. For this to work, you will need to find simple ways to explain your existence so that they can understand.

Tip: try this exercise with your teams and see how easily people can explain this; if they can’t, what can you do to make this simpler?

Understanding your place in the organisation and a purpose behind what you do contributes hugely to morale, productivity and staff retention, so if your team struggle here then you might have a problem that needs addressing.

2. How Do You Do It?

Now that you have explained, and they have grasped, what it is you do, the next task is to explain how you do it. How would you cover that one? Have a think about the process you use to decide how things will run, how tasks are created, how you make sure things are completed. There are so many things the aliens will want to understand: where do you do this work, for example? Does everyone work in the same place? Why? You can imagine the alien will have lots of questions about all these things to understand why you do things in the way you do.

Tip: this is a great way to explore with your teams if everyone understands the processes and structures you have in place and, most importantly, whether it all makes sense to everyone.

3. How Do You Figure Out Who Does What?

This brings us onto the next thing to explain to the friendly, curious aliens… do you do all these things on your own or do you have other people to help? How do you work out how many people you need and who is going to do what? If you do have other people working with you, how do you decide who works with you? How do you decide where people work on their tasks, and how much time they spend on it? How do you make sure everyone is happy and is doing what they should be doing?

Tip: trying this one out will give you lots of food for thought about your teams, how they work and how you decide who does what.

Back to Earth with some ideas

You get the picture? No, we haven’t really been visited by a species of aliens who want to come and talk to you about your work! We are, however, living through a fundamental change in how we do things which causes us all to question what we do, and for many people, there’s a real need to pivot and adjust. We are not going to be able to simply go back to how things were done, and who wants to anyway? What we were doing did not work well for everyone, and so many things about how we worked have not changed for years and years. A disruption like this can, and should, cause us to stop, reimagine and reinvent.

Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta invented the LuminAID solar light when they worked on a project for inventions after the earthquake hit Haiti. The crisis made them think of what people needed in that situation. If Josephine Cochrane had not invented the dishwasher, sure we would still be able to wash our dishes, but the crisis Cochrane experienced after her husband died and left her penniless drove her to develop an invention, bring it to market and change the way millions of people manage household chores. That’s certainly changed life for me!

Not all inventions are new products either; it could be that what you reimagine and invent is how you do things. In 2005, a programmer figured out that just because you’re self-employed, you don’t have to work alone and developed WeWork, a company which provides shared workplaces for freelancers. There’s one company we have seen replicated in so many workplaces over the last few years: Google transformed the idea of what office workspaces should look like and how people should work, bringing ideas around colour and playing to the workplace. Recently, we have seen Twitter announce that their employees can work from home forever. Take a look at Zapier; they have been working 100% remotely since they started the company, and they can tell you that culture is about more than ping pong tables and bean bags – it’s about how you work, how you collaborate and how you make sure everyone feels included and trusted.

So if your conversation with that alien didn’t feel as fulfilling or successful as you’d hoped, is it time to reimagine everything and get yourself ready for the new way of working of the future?

To find out more and let your imagination run wild, talk to Watch This Sp_ce