The Johnson Space Centre in Texas is trying to answer a question straight out of science fiction: what kind of team would work best on Mars? The mission might take several years. The participants would be stuck with each other: there’s no ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ for them. They have to stick it out.
So they’ve set up the Human Exploration Research Analogue, a windowless environment where small groups of people are crammed together for up to 45 days at a time. Here’s what they’ve learned:
A good group needs a leader, a social secretary, a storyteller and a clown. Of all of those people, the clown, it turns out, is the most important. Clowns defuse situations. Clowns understand what make the different personalities tick, and help them to see the wider perspective. Clowns also bridge the gap between different worlds that might otherwise grow apart and resent each other: in the Antarctic survey, clowns link the scientists with the tradespeople who keep the show on the road.
This is strikingly close to our FUBI analysis of organisations: we need clowns (funny) leaders (inspiring) storytellers (beautiful) and the people who make it all work (useful). Successful groups tend to have individuals who over-index in one of those qualities.
How would your team cope on Mars? We can help you find out.