Think Like An Astronaut…Oops, Like a Facilitator (Part 1)


Think like an astronaut – what are we talking about? I read a cool book of that name by Chris Hadfield who was the first Canadian man to walk in space. It seems like he has a lot of great lessons for us in general as earthlings but also for us as meeting facilitators.

I adapt and summarize three of his tips from being an astronaut that can apply to our work with groups. In a second video blog in two weeks time, you’ll see and hear three more tips that are more specific to when you’re actually doing a facilitated event. Below I just summarize the first three points but you might also enjoy watching the video on them for more detail.

1. If you think you are a facilitator – sorry to say this – but you are not!  Sometimes when the job goes really really well, we think, “That’s it – I have everything it takes to be a facilitator.” Or, we get a great qualification like Certified Professional Facilitator from the IAF.  Yes, that is good!  But if we are thinking like an astronaut, it is only one of many mountain peaks we need to climb. In other words we need to just keep learning, practicing, and taking on new ways of thinking.  All of this helps us prepare for some of the more difficult things we will be called to do.  It makes our journey very interesting and exciting.

2. What you need to know is complex, but also very simple. If you think about what an astronaut has to know, you imagine it’s very scientific and technical. But sometimes an astronaut just needs to be able to fix the toilet when in outer space. It is the same for a facilitator. Do not under estimate the power of knowing how to set up a room, for example.  Sounds simple.  Yet if you do not set up the room to engage people and help them see and hear each other, your event will not go well.  Remember you need to know both simple and complex things and keep practicing both.

3. Every “mission” counts. Perhaps we are getting what we think are very uninteresting or unmeaningful facilitation jobs. Yet they are all preparing us for that big important event that might come along.  An astronaut is always preparing to walk in space – that is his or her ultimate dream. Some never get to walk in space.  But they never give up practicing what they would potentially need to walk in space.  It is the same for facilitators.  We need to keep practicing with the smaller events to make sure that we are ready for when the biggest event of our life comes along.  Again, it’s all about practicing and learning and being prepared.

Oh by the way…I made a mistake in the video because at one point Chris Hadfield sings a David Bowie song called, Space Oddity (it has 25 million hits!) but the “Rocket Man” song I refer to in this video was sung by Elton John, not David Bowie.


Here is Hadfield’s book.

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.


  1. Elaine Phillips on July 14, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Nice job Barbara! I liked that I could watch this instead of read it–after a long day at work, it’s much easier. Also-it’s fun! (Now how do I change this thumbnail photo???)

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