Outer Space and the Workplace: More in Common than You Think!

And other things we learned at the 2015 CoreNet Global Summit in LA.

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Image via CoreNetGlobal.org.

You could walk into the room and feel the energy. Already, a large group of real estate professionals had been in LA for a day or two taking classes to improve their professional skills and to hear the latest when it comes to representing the strategic value of commercial real estate.

Along with 2,700 others, I sat rapt waiting to hear what this year’s CoreNet Global Summit would be all about. The first morning was certainly entertaining. Randy Smith, the chair of the CoreNet Global Board of Directors, joined by a hologram of R2D2 and welcomed the crowd to Los Angeles (Hollywood, after all!). The theme for the event was “Disruptive Change”, and a the programming was related to how challenges, determination, and inspiration can provide the juice for innovation in the commercial real estate industry.

Speakers also emphasized that adaptability and flexibility are key in the industry, a point that was driven home by CoreNet’s own maneuvering when, due to flight issues, the scheduled keynote speaker was a no-show. They quickly teed up another speaker — Garrett Reisman, a NASA veteran who flew on three Space Shuttles — to speak about his own experiences in an environment where no one’s yet managed to broker a deal: outer space.

Reisman’s speech really set the tone for the week and I couldn’t help but draw parallels (no doubt intended) between his experience as an astronaut and our experiences with the workplace. Here are four that stood out:

  1. Give yourself some perspective

On his first mission, he kind of knew what to expect as far as what the Earth would look like from space — he’d seen all the pretty photos, and knew that humans can only survive in an extremely thin layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. But to actually see it was a different story, and do you know what the atmosphere looks like from space? Peach fuzz.

I couldn’t help but think of this:

  1. One size fits all? We know that doesn’t work — not for your employees, and not for spacewalkers, either

Reisman recounted how he was laughed at for his desire to do a space walk (he was too small for the one-size fits all suit), but, he stayed focused on what he really desired and was creative about how to do his job and was, in the end, successful.

  1. Even in the age of mobility (you might work from home — Reisman worked from the space!) structure still matters

His workplace was in a hostile, unforgiving, weightless environment, and while they had a serious mission and very busy schedule, they had a lot of fun. Training was paramount; in fact you could not perform in that environment without it.

  1. Don’t be afraid to look outside of the industry for talent and ideas

Reisman is now working with Elon Musk at SpaceX, where they shed all the baggage and the “Well, that’s the way we have always done it” kind of thinking and, ultimately, hope to colonize Mars.

Certainly, commercial real estate, plagued with old thinking and ways of doing things, could take some notes: stick with you vision and goals no matter what; prepare as best you can, but allow for creativity when problems arise; step back and look at a problem from a different perspective; and don’t be afraid to bring on smart people with no experience (but big ideas) to put a fresh spin on things in the industry.

All of this was further reinforced by Vinh Giang, a motivational speaker who uses magic as a metaphor. Giang began by talking about how our individual perspectives can be so limiting, and that we should be reaching out to others to consider how they look at the world.

He spoke about three areas: Perspective, Influence, and Beliefs. He demonstrated how these things can get in our way and warp our thinking. The influence discussion was thought provoking. He asked the audience to think about the five people that you spend the most time with and pointed out that we’re essentially a direct reflection of those five people. Any negative influences can be catastrophic to people’s lives and careers. He was emphatic about getting rid of negative people, and encourage the crowd to always reframe the word impossible and instead see it as opportunity.

Later that afternoon, Giang interviewed Brian Grazer about the ideas that he has captured in his new book, A Curious Mind: A Secret to a Bigger Life. Grazer shared some great experiences about getting past “NO” to meet with some of the most influential people on the planet — he just had to be creative about how to meet them. In most cases, it was a simple conversation started by a few questions about ideas, then letting the people in question share their stories. There was never an “ask”. He simply asked questions and listened.

CoreNet is all about connecting with people and sharing ideas. The networking is probably one of the most valuable activities there. It was great to see old friends and to meet new ones. The opportunity for business is always there, but as Grazer so aptly pointed out, you really just have to listen and the opportunities emerge from the connections that you make.

And because of that, I’m already looking forward to next year’s Summit in Philadelphia.

Did you attend the 2015 CoreNet Global Summit? Share your experience in the comments!

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