Mars mission technology can improve team meetings for introverts

Recruiting a cognitively diverse workforce is essential for productivity, creativity and innovation.  People who think differently, however, also prefer to communicate differently in the workplace, too.  Introverts, for example, typically prefer to take time to think before contributing. Introverts think to talk whereas extroverts talk to think.  So in a normal meeting, whether virtual or face to face, the microphone will tend to be dominated by the more extroverted team members and most of the good ideas from the more introverted team members will be lost.

Our approach to this problem has been to create a workplace collaboration tool for remote meetings using technology developed for astronauts in future deep space exploration missions, successfully tested with NASA and the UK space agency.

Mars is always at least 150 times further away than the Moon and sometimes over 1,000 times further away.  The distances are so vast that the radio waves or lasers which will carry the signals will take many minutes to cross the void. The delay will vary with distance but for a crew on Mars it will always be over 3 minutes one-way delay and sometimes over 20 minutes.

The delay cannot be reduced - that is set by the laws of physics - but by splitting dialog into different threads, or braids, and presenting them in a novel way we can make it feel to spaceflight crew and mission control that they are communicating normally.

Using the novel structure and rhythm required for effective remote communication in deep space also produces the opportunity for a new way of interacting during team meetings on Earth.  Every participant has an exactly equal chance to contribute to the discussion.  Lessons learned from developing human deep space communication technology have the potential to redesign workplace practices to be more inclusive for introverts and other groups, delivering better, more effective, meetings, benefitting the whole team and broader organisation.

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