Tag Archives: Innovation

Technology Entertainment and Design (TED)

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This week is the second TEDxNASA conference at the NASA/Langley Research Center (LaRC).  They have been leading the agency in creating these outstanding and innovative conferences to bring together various perspectives.  I would definitely encourage anyone that is familiar with TED events to take a look at the videos from last year’s TedxNASA Space to Create. You will definitely enjoy the talks.  Additionally on November 20th, NASA/LaRC and NASA/Johnson Space Center will be hosting events in support of TEDxYouthDay.  Held on Universal Children’s Day – “TEDx organizers across the globe will host events for (and by) young people. These events will vary widely in size, format and theme, but they will share a common vision: inspiring curiosity, igniting new ideas, empowering young leaders.”

 

So as I thought about bringing together the worlds of technology, entertainment and design I am reminded of an experiment that we are trying at JSC.  Two months ago we asked Pat Rawlings to help bring together the world of technology and entertainment in looking at a possible future for the Johnson Space Center.   He combined his insights on technology trends with a graphic novel format to describe what the future might look like at the 100th anniversary of the lunar landing. In his depiction of the future he introduces the Butterfly Effect Environmental Software (B.E.E.S) that used massive amounts of data to better predict the weather and other events.  If you are curious about what this might look like I would recommend that you look at the external posting of the JSC 2069 story.   

 

When I reflected on the TED activities, what struck me more than our story about the possibilities was the reality that was recently announced by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).  They introduced a new facility with a “state-of-the-art supercomputer to give NOAA a powerful new tool in climate and weather modeling”.  It is reminiscent of Jules Verne and submarines or da Vinci and airplanes.   When you combine technology and the arts (left and right sides of the brain) new realities are possible.  Of course the JSC 2069 story did not result in NOAA’s announcement, but like Jules Verne it opens up the possibilities for future applications of a nascent technology/capability. 

 

Therefore, I applaud the team at Langley for pushing to bring together the different world views from technology, entertainment and design.  I can’t wait to see the possibilities that will emerge from the discussions.

 

Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

 

Innovation: Selectively forgetting the past

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Last week I was struck by a thought shared by Vijay Govindarajan, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, at the Front End of Innovation Conference in Boston.  In his talk on the “Business Model of Innovation” he shared a 3 stage model that included, 1) Managing the present; 2) Selectively forgetting the past and 3) Creating the future.   It was the “selectively forgetting the past” that resonated with me the most.  It reminded me of the quote by Alan Kay, “In some sense our ability to open the future will depend not on how well we learn anymore but on how well we are able to unlearn” and by John Maynard Keynes who stated that “The difficulty lies, not in new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.” 

 

This was the sense I had last month when I walked from booth to booth at the incredible Innovation 2010 event at the NASA/Johnson Space Center.  The event had booths and presentations that were filled with engineers, scientists, information technology specialists, human resources and other disciplines sharing their innovations.  Mixed in amongst incredible technology would be a booth that broke from the traditional practices at the Center.   An idea that challenged the status quo and “selectively forgot” what was accepted as a standard practice for JSC.  Listening to these innovators caused me to pause and reflect on the “Why” of NASA. 

 

What is it that people associate with NASA beyond the landing of the moon?  Whenever a survey is done the impression that is heard over and over again is that NASA does that stuff that can’t be found anywhere else.  It is the place where we “selectively forget” or suspend what is possible.  Or as was a popular phrase years ago, “Where Science fiction is made science fact.” 

 

NASA is truest to its “why” when it can escape from old ideas. It is when we pursue the disruptive (game changing) technologies that the NASA Chief Technologist, Robert Braun is asking the agency to invest in that we fulfill the expectations from the world.  It is so easy to stick with the vast amount of knowledge that we have gathered over the past 50 years of Human Exploration, but sometimes we need to unlearn what we have discovered in order to open new paths to the stars.

 

Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

 

Can we Talk?

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This week I had 4 different thoughts that I wanted to discuss and couldn’t decide which one to choose, but then realized that they were actually all connected.  The connection actually lies in the title of a movie that my family experienced early in the week.  The Human Experience” is the “story of a band of brothers who travel the world in search of the answers to the burning questions: “Who am I” Who is Man: Why do we search for meaning?”  In their travels they live with the homeless in New York City, visit the lost children of Peru and the lepers in Ghana, Africa.  Watching it our family couldn’t help but be amazed by the incredible human spirit that thrives even in the toughest of situations.  Over and over again the message was reiterated how the full spectrum of human experiences is what unites us and lifts us up.  Stories of strength and hope in the most adverse conditions remind us of the depth of the human spirit.

Then a friend of mine shared with me Neil deGrasse Tyson’s, “What NASA means to America’s Future” speech at the University of Buffalo.  During his speech Dr. Tyson, stated that “NASA is a force of nature like no other” and that “NASA can dream about tomorrow” and we “need someone to keep the flame going.”  I like that. A force of nature that carries dreams forward.  It is not just the dream of those that work in the agency but it carries the unfettered dreams of a nation and the world. 

 

And as President Obama stated at his speech at the Kennedy Space Center, “Now, little more than 40 years ago, astronauts descended the nine-rung ladder of the lunar module called Eagle, … It wasn’t just the greatest achievement in NASA’s history — it was one of the greatest achievements in human history. And the question for us now is whether that was the beginning of something or the end of something. I choose to believe it was only the beginning.”  It doesn’t matter which camp you are on whether NASA should provide access to Low Earth Orbit or transition that to the commercial providers because at the end of the day I believe we all agree that NASA has always been and will always be here for the benefit of all humanity.  So I believe the focus of our conversations should move from how do we get to space to how do we add to the human experience?  What can we do to benefit all of humanity?

 

Or better yet, why not tackle the challenge posed by the former Director of DARPA, Dr. Tony Tether, at the recent JSC Innovation 2010 event.  (A great event that I will share in my next blog.)  After his presentation he was asked what he thinks should be the mission or rallying cry to focus NASA’s innovation?  His answer was priceless and so to paraphrase his response, 

 

“When NASA first went to the moon, we all wanted to go.  Forty years later we still ALL want to go.  NASA has forgotten that we all want to go.  If it can remember that fact, then there is nothing that can stop it from achieving the impossible.”  It is the human experience … we all want to go.  It is the pushing forward against impossible odds that lifts the human condition.  So how do we lift the human experience beyond the boundaries of this Earth AND lift the human condition back on Earth?  That is a “noble purpose” worth talking about.

 

Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

 

Ambidextrous Organizations: The Power of AND

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I was lucky enough this week to return to my old stomping grounds in Boston to take a class with an amazing collection of  CEO’s (Chief Executive Officer’s), Presidents, VP’s, COO’s (Chief Operating Officer’s) and others from 26 different nations.  The focus of the class was on Leading Change and Organizational Renewal and one of the most amazing aspects of the class was how the 91 participants from a wide spectrum of industries shared similar challenges.  Every industry was being faced with changes that were disrupting their organizations and they were looking for ways to better position their companies. 

 

OK, so what does this have to do with space?  Well, as I sat in the class I thought about the challenge ahead of us with the President’s direction.  He is asking NASA to focus more on pushing the envelope in technical innovations AND extend the International Space Station.  This may seem to be an easy task, but as I listened to my classmates and the professors it reinforced my belief that it is actually a very difficult path to navigate.  The reason is that the culture that made an organization successful in one domain may prevent it from being successful in another domain.  Specifically for NASA the culture that ensures the safe return of our astronauts can hinder us from pushing the envelope and taking risks.  By necessity we have been a culture of “Failure is not an Option” but now we are being asked to pursue initiatives where “Failure is a REQUIREMENT.”  Can these two cultures coexist?  Can you have a strong risk adverse and equally strong risk seeking culture within an organization without one “assimilating” the other? 

 

The short answer is YES.  But it is a yes that takes a great deal of effort and the right leadership.  The model presented was one that has been used by many successful companies including IBM (a great read on what IBM did is “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance.”).  The general idea is that a company needs to maintain the systems, culture and organization that support its core business while also creating an organization, culture and systems that will allow it to pursue the new direction.  For JSC this would translate into an organization that ensures the safe operations of the International Space Station and a new organization and culture that will embrace the risks required to push the envelope of technology.  The trick is giving the new organization the time to incubate.  To allow it to grow up and establish a new way of doing business.  History has shown that many organizations have tried this and failed and that one of the keys to success is a strong leader that can provide the top cover.  A leader that won’t be over taken by the dominant culture in the company. 

 

So, I would like to continue exploring this idea of maintaining an ambidextrous organization.  How do you create a structure that maintains both a culture of risk taking without impacting the continued success of the current business?  Do you have a successful model that you would like to share?  Or do you have lessons learned where your company tried and failed to create a dual culture?  Or what attributes do you believe are required in the leader that has to create a new way of conducting business alongside a strong dominant culture?

 

Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

 

Out there. Thataway

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Ok, my turn.  Everyone and their sister have given their spin on the new NASA budget and the views have covered the full spectrum of the death of Human Spaceflight to the birth of a new era and the rebirth of robotic exploration.   But before I weigh in on the discussion I first would like to take my hat off to all of my friends and colleagues that have given so much of their lives, energy and passion to support the congressional and presidential direction of the previous administration.  As a government agency we know that we are subject to the winds of change with each election but it does not stop us from committing our hearts and minds to fulfilling the visions and expectations of the American public and the officials that they place in office.  There is a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on regarding the Constellation program, but not enough is being said about the dedicated individuals that gave up time with family to help America retain its ability to reach to the stars.  Again, my hat goes off to them.

 

Now, back to the direction given by the President.  For me there are three main thrusts that I would like to offer my perspectives.  The first is the move to shift access to Low Earth Orbit to the commercial community.  Many are surprised by this move, but for me it was only a matter of time.  Back in 2008 I had shared how there was a growth in the commercial space community and we would eventually need to answer what affect this growth will have in our role in the Human Exploration of Space.  As I shared in It’s Getting Crowded out there, we would have to make a choice whether to compete in this era of growing capability or lead the way beyond earth’s orbit.  Well, the decision has been made for NASA and now we have to make it work.  It is akin to the explorers that would burn the ships in order to keep them from turning back.  NASA is being pushed to the stars and out of the access to space business.  That being said, NASA has a responsibility to work with the commercial community to share their 40 years of Human Spaceflight experience and expertise.  It is incumbent upon us to help them to learn from our successes and mistakes in the hope that they will not repeat the lessons we learned.  How this is to be done is yet to be defined but I for one am looking forward to the release of the strategy of how we make this transition. 

 

Secondly there is a return to “transformational technologies”.  I am amused by all of the eye rolling that is associated with that phrase.  Weren’t the technologies that enabled the Saturn V, transformational?  Weren’t the technologies that enabled the computers on the Lunar Lander transformational?  Isn’t the technology that allows us to look back to the birth of the universe transformational?  I think this agency has been and should always be about transformational technologies.  It has always been about pushing the envelope of what is possible or as some like to say “making science fiction a reality.”  Yes, I agree you cannot schedule when a miracle will occur.  We cannot say that “On July 29th, we will discover how to tap into the limitless supply of ‘zero point energy’ in the vacuum of space and it will enable us to power our voyage to Mars.”  No, but just because it can’t be scheduled doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work hard to discover the next leap in technology.  Let commercial space focus on technologies that we know and let NASA focus on technologies yet to be discovered.

 

Finally there is the anxiety related to a lack of destination.  The recurring sentiment is that we need a bold direction like, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Similarly the question is raised, “How can we focus on transformational technologies if we don’t know where we are going?”  Although valid perspectives I believe that NASA has an opportunity to rethink how it explores.  We always think of exploring as starting from the Earth’s surface.  It focuses on a certain set of solutions that require breaking the gravitational pull of the Earth.  But what if we started thinking of exploration starting from space?  What would be required to start our journey from space?  What vehicle would be required if it never encountered the Earth’s atmosphere?  What would you need to create a vehicle in space?  NASA has learned quite a bit from its 10 years of constructing the International Space Station.  How can we use this knowledge to create an interplanetary vehicle?  What would it take to fuel a new vehicle in space?  With a space port would you have to limit your destinations?

 

Yes a destination would be nice, but I kind of like the perspective from Kirk in the first Star Trek movie when asked where they should go, “Out there, Thataway.”  NASA shouldn’t think point to point but create the ability for us to go “out there.”

 

Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

Made in NASA?

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Last weekend my family and I ran in the Houston ½ Marathon and 5k.  It was a perfect weekend for a great race and Houston has a great Expo where you can find a bunch of neat gadgets.  My daughter, who loves jewelry of any kind, was fascinated by this one booth that was selling a bracelet that was suppose to help increase your balance, strength and agility.  I was for the most part ignoring the sales pitch until they said that the secret to their bracelet was the holographic technology developed by NASA and my daughter shot me a questioning, but knowing glance, “Really?”  Then she saw the look in my eyes that told her, “Of course not.”  But it got me thinking about how much is associated with NASA and how much is not known about the true technology that comes from NASA.

 

We are lucky enough to have within our Advanced Planning Office the responsibility for transferring technology from the Johnson Space Center to the external community.  So I get to see examples of the real technology that benefits the public as a direct result from our efforts to explore space.  Oh, and for the record Tang, Velcro and Teflon did not come from NASA. Each year NASA’s Innovative Partnership program publishes the Spinoff magazine which captures those innovations that have found their way into the public domain.  One of my favorites is the Shuttle Fuel Pump Technology that Helps Children’s Hearts.  “Not much larger than a penlight battery, the pump is the result of two decades of NASA collaboration with famed heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey.”  I for one would rather be associated with technology that is saving children than Velcro.

 

Of course being a strategist I am looking forward to the future innovations that result from NASA reaching beyond Low Earth Orbit.  Also the medical advances that will come from the International Space Station like the new methods for delivering medicine to cancer cells.  Or personally, to help with my commute to work, I’m looking forward to the Jetson’s flying car.

 

So take a look at the history of NASA’s spinoff’s and let me know which is your favorite or let me know what spinoff you would like to see in the future.

  

Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

Sustainability in Space = Sustainability on Earth

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Earlier this month the next generation of explorers weighed in on the recommendations made by the Augustine Committee. The Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) in Support of the United Nations Programme on Outer Space Applications offered the following observation when it came to the purpose of Human Spaceflight, “However, it also evidences that the concept of human spaceflight no longer fits the Kennedy paradigm in the minds of the incoming space generation. We, as humans, should not only go because it is hard and because “that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” In the view of many of our members, we go for clear, concrete benefits and programmes – for specifics, not purely for inspiration.”  Yes, I am one of those that believe that “To boldly go where no one has gone before” is sufficient reason to invest in the human exploration of space and yet I also believe that the exploration of space should be tied to a noble purpose.  It should not only inspire humanity but benefit “all mankind” (to paraphrase the plaque on the Lunar Lander, Eagle).  I believe that our efforts to extend sustainable human presence in space should lead to the sustainable human presence on Earth.  And there is precedence for this.  For example the same technology developed by NASA to provide for refrigeration for the remote habitats in space has been used to provide refrigeration to remote areas on Earth where there they don’t have access to electrical power.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

 

Last month at the AAS Imagine 2009 conference, Evan Thomas, shared how NASA engineers are volunteering and applying the experience that they gained in solving space exploration challenges to help provide solutions for communities that have limited natural resources available to them.  Along with highlighting the valuable contribution made by this team of Engineers without Borders, Evan’s other goal in his presentation was to show how closely tied are the solutions for the challenges of the sustainability of life on Earth and in space.  This was most clearly captured on slide 20 that he, along with a number of his colleagues, created to show the linkage between the United Nations Millenium goals and NASA’s technical needs. 

 

For me to be able to simultaneously contribute to the ensuring our future both in space and on Earth is a noble purpose.  So maybe we don’t do this because “it is hard.”  Maybe we do this “for the benefit of all mankind.”

 

Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

How about NASA's Grand Challenge?

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Last September the President laid out his Strategy for American Innovation. The strategy is broken into three parts:    

1.      Invest in the Building Blocks of American Innovation.

2.      Promote Competitive Markets that Spur Productive Entrepreneurship.

3.      Catalyze Breakthroughs for National Priorities.

In the final section the President outlines eight “Grand Challenges” of the 21st Century.

The challenges are great.  I have a personal interest in the success of the first challenge to battle cancer and also like the idea of solar cells as cheap as paint or the “highly accurate and real-time translation between the major languages of the world” (can you say Babel fish).  Yet, as I read the Strategy for American Innovation I was struck with what missing from the strategy, NASA.  Other government agencies including the National Institute of Health, Department of Energy, and DARPA are mentioned but NASA is not found anywhere in the strategy.  Now I’m not going to try to comment on why NASA is not in the strategy but instead would like to propose an additional “Grand Challenge” that is worthy of American innovation and NASA expertise.

 

“Ensuring the sustainability of Life on Earth and in Space.”    For me these two are closely linked and can enable tremendous American innovation for the “benefit of all humanity.”  First of all space offers us a unique view of the Earth and allows us to understand how we are impacting the Earth’s environment.  The unique perspective from space has been focused on understanding but maybe part of ensuring sustainability of life on Earth should consider how we might help the Earth’s ecosystem from space.  I know this will sound farfetched but to help stretch your imagination, what if we used the vantage point of space to control the weather (hey, they did it in Back to the Future  J).  What if we could direct rain to drought stricken areas of the world or focus showers during the yearly fires that threaten the California coast?  Or as a friend shared recently, what if we could use position in space to decrease the eye of a hurricane?  We still have much to learn about the Earth from space, but maybe it is time to move from learning to proactive measures that are only possible from Space.

 

Secondly much is being written about the depletion of resources on the Earth, including fresh water and energy.  This same challenge is found in ensuring sustainability of life in Space.  There is no water authority in space where the astronauts can tap into for their “tang” (ok, bad pun).  Plus there is not a power grid that they plug into for their electricity.  In space we have to tap into the renewable energy from the sun and recycle the water in the International Space Station.  A grand challenge on the sustainability of life as it relates to renewable resources (beyond cheap solar cells) will have far reaching impacts to sustained human presence in space and benefit nations across the world.  For an interesting discussion on this grand challenge on the Earth side of the equation, I would recommend Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat and Crowded”.  

 

Finally sustainability of life on Earth and Space requires advances in the delivery of medicine to remote locations.  In space there is not an emergency room or a 24 hour clinic that you can drive to on the weekend (I don’t know about your family but it seems that when our kids were young, they would always get sick on the weekends when the doctor’s office was closed).  We need to be able to ensure access to medical treatment as we get further and further away from the Earth.  While back on Earth there are millions who need access to medical treatment since to them the nearest hospital may seem to them like it is in Low Earth Orbit. 

 

Anyone up for a new “Grand Challenge”?

 

Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

 

Challenge Everything

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There is an interesting experiment happening at the Johnson Space Center.  The basic question being addressed by this experiment is “what would happen if we could tap into the expertise of the 15,000 employees at JSC to solve any one of the difficult challenges that we are wrestling with?”   Actually the experiment is also tapping the expertise at the other NASA Centers.  The idea was a brainchild of the JSC Vision 2028 team and the Center Director’s, Inclusion and Innovation council engagement teams.  Called Project Blue Moon, it is a six month pilot to create an open collaboration environment across the NASA Community.

I know been there, done that.  I know the outside has been making use of open collaboration environments for years.  Yes I know all about open source and the strides it made in operating systems development.  And yes, open collaboration is normally wide open and engages expertise outside of a company.  Yet given all of that the interesting part of the experiment is the focus on the potentially untapped talent within OUR OWN community.  The potential to find a solution in the most unlikely of places within NASA or tapping into the limitless passion of our community to contribute to the NASA mission.  Two stories come to mind when I think of the possibilities of this experiment.  The first is the legendary tale of the janitor at KSC who was asked what was he doing and his response was “I am helping to put a man on the moon.”  He was passionate about what he was doing and understood the linkage between what he was doing and the mission of the agency.  But what if he had other expertise?  What if he loved to tinker on his time off and was given the opportunity to play around with one of the challenges of that time?  Imagine if his passion could be directed to leverage some of his hidden talents and experiences?  The second story was one that was shared with me about a couple of guys that wanted to take pictures of space. They solved their challenge with the most unlikely set of equipment.  What is great is that I would never have thought of their solution.  They came at the problem from a completely different angle.

 

As with any organization we are great at tapping into our “community of practice.”  We know the experts and we are able to obtain innovative solutions from these experts.  The JSC experiment though challenges everyone to also look for creative solutions outside of your discipline.  Maybe there are outstanding ideas that are only apparent from another discipline across the center or across the Agency.  Maybe there is a robotic solution from JPL that would support a problem that we are grappling with in human exploration.  Our community is filled with individuals who have moved from their original area of expertise and yet they would welcome the opportunity to offer up ideas for challenges in their old disciplines.  We have employees that have hobbies, workshops at home and interests that keep them abreast of the latest innovations that are not being taped.  The Blue Moon project is trying to tap into this wealth of ideas.

 

The flip side of the Blue Moon challenge is to get people to offer up solutions.  Our community is not shy and will voice their ideas in the areas that they are currently responsible for.  Yet it is human nature not to offer up ideas in what may be seen as outside of your expertise.   What if I’m wrong?  What if I offer up a “stupid” idea?  This experiment is trying to create an environment where there are not any stupid ideas.  We are challenging anyone with any ideas for a solution to post their concepts. 

 

So are you up for the challenge in your own organization?

 

Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

 

Innovator's Dilemma in Space

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Before I expand on this dilemma, let me first acknowledge the artist’s work that I have been sharing over the past few weeks. Pat Rawlings’ images have inspired me for many years and have been the source of many of my creative views about the future. Most recently I used his images in a conversation with a TV network about space travel 50 years from now.

Of the many definitions of creativity that I have heard over the years my favorite comes from author Dale Dauten. It is best captured in a quote from his book, Better than Perfect, “He brought together two ways of thinking that usually don’t go together, so his own brain got stretched. That’s one way to be creative – to force together ideas that normally don’t go together.” So creativity results from holding simultaneously in your mind two thoughts that normally don’t go together. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to bring together individuals with different view points and to hold the differing perspectives simultaneously in the room and discover the creativity that is beyond just the sum or compromise of the different ideas. A few years ago Dale Dauten introduced the Innovator’s Lab to bring together leaders from different industries to find creative solutions that resulted from the different perspectives within the Innovator’s lab community. It is a great concept that we we were fortunate enough to introduce to JSC a few years ago.

Personally I like the distinction that John Kao makes in Innovation Nation between creativity and innovation. Creativity is the rich source of ideas. Innovation is the ability to take an idea and turn it into something useful. The trick is not to throw out the creative ideas because they don’t fit into predefined criteria of usefulness. It is easy to allow for the possibilities while brainstorming but it is more difficult to allow for new solutions to what at first glance may appear to be a familiar problem.

Which leads me to the Innovator’s Dilemma captured by Clayton Christensen. At the heart of the dilemma is the concept that the success achieved by organizations from their original innovations makes it difficult for it to be innovative and creative in the future. If we applied the dilemma to Human Space Exploration it would state that what made us successful over the fifty years has focused the realm of possibilities within the context of our experience. Therefore, how do we allow for alternative ideas in support of human exploration while simultaneously holding our 50 years of success?  Or stated another way, how do we bring together the multi generations for creative new solutions. Can we hold both perspectives at the same time and find a creative path that is beyond the multiple generational perspectives? How will the multiple creative perspectives come together when we move from creativity to innovation?

Yet, there is another more subtle challenge that results from the Innovator’s Dilemma that is captured so well from Steve Boehlke from SFB Associates. In his recent publication, The Politics of Creativity™: Four Domains for Inquiry and Action by Leaders in R&D, he discusses the cost of creativity to the leader, which applies to anyone in the organization. The successful organization defines creativity and innovation within the context of what has enabled its success in the past. What happens to the individual that offers creative and innovative ideas that don’t fit within the organization’s definition? What happens to the individual that truly believes in his “out of the box” idea and continues to push it forward when it doesn’t fit within the historical norms of the organization? I highly recommend reading Steve’s examination of this cost for the creative leader. Is the tag “out of the box” thinker a badge of honor in your organization? Is a “trail blazer” encouraged to come to the creativity and innovation table? How is the creative individual rewarded and acknowledged? Going back to Dale’s Innovator’s lab where different perspectives are brought together for creative new solutions, how do we bring together the “out of the box” thinkers with those with the tried and true perspectives?

Finally, all of the above authors agree that innovation requires failure. If you don’t fail in the process then are you really being creative and innovative? The dilemma occurs after success is achieved and the organization no longer has a stomach for failure. Do the systems in place in the organization allow for discovery through failure? Is failure encouraged or discouraged? What would you or your organization do in the classical management example of a senior leader making a million dollar mistake? As the story goes, the leader was called into the CEO’s office and was expecting to be fired by the CEO. As he handed his resignation to the CEO, she asked “What is this?” He said “I know you are going to fire me for my mistake and so I figured I’d save you the trouble by turning in my resignation.” Amazed, she responded, “Why would I do that, I just spent a million dollars training you. I know that you will never make that mistake again.” Mission failures aside, what is your appetite for failure?

Sharing the Vision,
Steven Gonzalez, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

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