Status Report

NASA JSC Advanced Planning Office Blog: Disruptive Future

By SpaceRef Editor
January 26, 2009
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NASA JSC Advanced Planning Office Blog: Disruptive Future

To Boldly Go!!! Bold!!! I have always liked the sound of that word. I especially liked the definition of bold that was captured in a JSC Vision Statement, “Disrupting perceptions, inspiring change.” Over the past year, many have conveyed the general feeling that NASA should have a role in what would be classified as disruptive innovations. Personally I tend to agree with those observations and would like to pull a little more on the idea of being disruptive.

At JSC, Mike Coats has placed an emphasis on Innovation and has asked as a first step for each organization to Benchmark against other organizations. As a result, the directorates have gained great insight and new collaborations are in the making with the organizations that were visited during the benchmarking trips. This has been a great step towards ensuring that JSC does not get caught in a “Not Invented Here” mentality as our Center Director has shared on numerous occasions.

These benchmarking findings are an essential component of creating an environment that embraces disruptive innovations. It gives us a counter point to our current activities, technologies and perceptions. It provides us with two different perspectives in which a third previously unconsidered alternative can emerge. In the gap between what we are doing and what other organizations are executing is an opportunity to discover a bold new way process, technology or innovation. NASA should actively seek this third alternative in order to leap frog the current trends, processes and innovations that are discovered during the benchmarking visits. We are missing a “bold” opportunity when we adopt the methodology or innovations from another organization without considering what else might be possible.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had a number of years ago with a strategist from Exxon\Mobil. He was sharing some of their management practices and commented how the origins of their current strategy could be found in NASA’s matrix management paradigm. He credited NASA with introducing new, disruptive management practices during the Apollo era. The complexity of the task required new methodologies to manage such an inspiring endeavor and as a result it changed the way industry managed their projects. Finally he ended his musings, wondering what would be the next project management paradigm that would come from NASA as we expand our Human presence to Mars.

We have an inspiring mission to explore beyond Low Earth Orbit and I believe there are bold new approaches waiting to be discovered and tested. NASA has an opportunity to introduce to the world disruptive new approaches to accomplish an incredibly complex, distributed and International mission to expand our Human presence in space. Therefore, the questions I would like you to consider this week is where are there opportunities for NASA to introduce disruptive innovations to the Human Space Flight Community that may one day ripple out to industry? What disruptive innovations should be considered in either in the way we conduct business or in the technologies that we are pursuing?

Sharing the Vision,

Steven Gonzalez, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

SpaceRef staff editor.