Perspective, and How Sunspots Block Business Communication

 I've worked in different parts of the arctic over the last few years and it has given me new perspective. Being situated above the Arctic Circle poses challenges that most organizations do not have to contend with when it comes to delivering services.

Electronic communication is one example. They rely on satellites. On one visit, whenever I asked someone his or her opinion on why that is so challenging, I was consistently given a concise answer. Sunspots!

Twice a year there are major interruptions due to interference sent to earth from the sun. These interruptions can be lengthy and get in the way of good communication. 

Top of the earth
Top of the earth

In addition to that, one of the peculiar things that I have noticed in my travels to top of the earth is that the sky, as we know it is not above our heads. Sure you will see a sky if you look up, but it is not the same sky that we see from most other places in North America. Satellites that orbit closer to the equator can barely “see” over the curve of the earth. The sky as we know it is not above the arctic, instead, it is “over there” just behind the mountains.

Our sky is at their feet.

Some people that you attempt to communicate with may have problems easily accepting perspectives from the field. I am surprised that we so easily fall back to thinking the earth is flat...or that beyond head office, branch offices may not actually exist and operate differently.

When I returned home, this observation about the angle of satellite dishes and the unique perspective that I had gained from my travels beyond the home base lead to what I thought with be an interesting discussion with some of my educated colleagues, but when they chimed in I lost interest pretty quickly as their egos took over.

One of the things that I have learned over the years is that I do not have to have an opinion on everything, nor do I need to be the expert on something that I know little about. My opinions are based on my experiences and observations, intended to help, not on conjecture and a need to feel important.

When I stated that I found it interesting that television satellite dishes in the north appear comical since they seem to point at the ground since the signals must follow the curve of the earth, all sorts of experts in the room piped up proclaiming that that satellite signals are line-of-sight and that what I saw was impossible.

I have so many issues with this line of reasoning.

1) The fact that a satellite communicates using electrons, photons or Jell-O is neither here nor there. The conversation was about different perspective and my colleagues lead with their own agendas.

2) My comment about “curve of the earth” was accurate in the context that I intended it (the earth gets in the way.) Rather than question my intent (which would be a valid approach) the group each applied their own meaning without questioning for understanding.

3) Their response caused me to shut down, to remove myself from the conversation. Apparently sun spots are not the only thing that can shut down communication.

In my consulting business I help organizations improve service delivery and assists their teams in identifying and moving towards work of higher value. Too many times I witness this behaviour within the halls of my client’s organizations as service providers shut down the conversations that their clients would like to have with them. Ego driven conversations become a game of one-upmanship, and no value can come of it.

What I find even more comical than the angle of the satellite dishes is the experience base that the self-proclaimed experts lead the conversation from. They each asserted that their extreme technical knowledge gained from having had a service person out to their houses to install satellite dishes made them eminently qualified to prove me wrong.

Even though my early career formal education in the early 1980s in designing microwave transmitters or telecommunications purposes would have made it easy to do so, I chose not to dispute their technical assertions. Why bother, it was not germane to the intended discussion. I'm a management consultant.

Don't let yourself be blinded by sunspots. Good communication can be difficult enough. Take what you will from the example that I have written here. What have you learned that you can apply to your own conversations, behaviour and certainty of perspective?

So that I don't get mail attempting to drag this example into yet another technical conversation, satellites communicate using microwave signals. These signals travel in a straight line unless they bounce off something that changes their direction (a wave-guide, a satellite, or I suppose even a rock, but not a lump of Jell-O. Lumps of Jell-O are penetrated, their molecules excited and the cooking process begins). Microwave signals from the south can be interrupted by the curve of the earth. The ones that do make it north are not very high off the horizon since the north pole is on top of the earth and not beside the equator.

Low angle of dishes
The sky is over there, to the south, beyond those mountains

About Wayne McKinnon

Wayne McKinnon works with organizations to change their course of evolutions from extinct to distinct
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