Bushcraft for communicators: Travelling fast and light in the new world of work

How do leaders, managers and teams work quickly and effectively in an uncertain world confronted by fierce competition and rapidly evolving technology? How do communicators equip their colleagues with the tools they need in this new world of work? Some lessons from history tell a powerful story of what is needed now.

In the center of London stands a monument to folly. A monument to Sir John Franklin, leader one of the most heroic failures in the history of Victorian arctic exploration. A monument that resonates today for communicators.

Cast your mind back to 1845 and the height of the British Empire. Everywhere you look on maps, the world is colored pink—the color of British possessions all around the world. Except for an embarrassingly grey, terra incognita bit at the top of the North American continent, in what is now arctic Canada. Franklin’s goal: to chart these territories and find the famed Northwest Passage.

The entire expedition, 129 men, including Sir John, died.

They died because of a mix of hubris, folly, and bad decision-making. They died because they failed to adapt. They died because they had the wrong equipment to survive. They died because they tried to use old tools in a new environment.

Now, cast your mind back another 150 years, to 1660 or so, and the height of the French Empire, to a French explorer called Pierre-Esprit Radisson. Maybe one of the greatest explorers you have never heard of. He was what was known as a coureur-des-bois—runner of the woods. He helped discover most of what is now Ontario, Canada, and the formation of one of the oldest companies in the world, the Hudson’s Bay Company, which at one point had a territory twice as big as modern-day Mexico.

In contrast to Franklin, Radisson and his ilk succeeded because he adapted to the local environment, learned from the local population, researched his stakeholders and travelled fast and light. Yes, he had setbacks, but his secret to survival was adaptability and metamorphosis as circumstances changed.

And the monument to Radisson? Roughly 1,440 hotels around the world. You’ve probably stayed in one.

So, why the history lesson?

In developing our session “Bushcraft for communicators,” our contention is that, in today’s changing world, communicators need to be more like Radisson and less like Franklin. We see too many communicators trying to use outdated, complex tools. Or methodologies that are great, but time-consuming. Or tools which work in one situation but not another. Or tools that come with a lot of baggage.

Bushcraft is about using local resources, borrowing from other disciplines, and doing what is “good enough.” It’s about travelling fast and light, learning new approaches, and being prepared for the unexpected.

We developed the bushcraft for communicators kitbag to help communicators take quick, decisive action. We’ve simplified some traditional communication tools, borrowed some lessons from fields like consulting and change management, and invented some new tools to improve your survival odds.

In the toolkit you’ll find:

  •       New approaches to unlock change. We’ve invented a new tool called the I<ABC model of change.
  •       A new methodology to unpack your stakeholder relationships—and improve them.
  •       A different perspective on stakeholder mapping.
  •       The PATHS methodology to increase influence and build motivation.
  •       Ways to use visual thinking to build insight and reduce resistance.

And many other approaches which can help you in your journey of change and adaptation.

When Radisson was exploring, he knew that the environment would be different. The people he would meet would have different perspective, and that what had worked for him growing up in France would not work in Canada. He was ready to adapt and change, and to combine his know-how with local ideas and perspective to make a difference.

As communicators, we work regularly people in business who might not share our intellectual or cultural background. Adapting our approach is key to survival.

Bushcraft for communicators will help you do just that.

Learn more from Mike Pounsford and Stephen Welch in their session “Bushcraft for communicators: Prospering in the new world of work” at the IABC World Conference, happening 3–6 June 2018. Register today

About the authors

Mike Pounsford is the founder of Couravel, which works with clients to clarify and communicate purpose, vision and strategy, to design and deliver engagement programs, and to develop the communication capabilities of leaders and managers. He is the president of the U.K. chapter of IABC and an IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator. Pounsford works with international clients using collaborative approaches to gain insight, create ownership and deliver organisation change.


Stephen Welch is a communication, human resource, and change professional who with strong skills in consulting, leadership development and research. Welch is also experienced in marketing, mentoring and developing business simulations. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, and the Market Research Society.