Business Innovation Lessons From NASA

By Dennis McCafferty
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    Lesson: Go Lean, but Don't Give Up

    Lesson: Go Lean, but Don't Give Up

    The Apollo Lunar Module needed to lose weight to work. So engineers removed or reduced everything that wasn't essential: windows, seats and even side panels.

The Saturn V moon rocket, designed to fly Apollo astronauts to the moon, was 363 feet tall and was one of the most powerful rockets ever built. Yet, just eight years before the launch, NASA's leadership and engineers were intimidated by President Kennedy's 1961 declaration that we would land Americans on the moon by the end of the decade. Later, they'd confess that in those early days, they "did not even know what they did not know." In the book Innovation the NASA Way: Harnessing the Power of Your Organization for Breakthrough Success (McGraw-Hill Professional/available now), author Rod Pyle describes Saturn V as NASA's greatest achievement, especially because engineers and technicians had to overcome prospects of an "impossible" task to deliver—and exceed—expectations. But there were many other amazing accomplishments from NASA, arguably the most innovative organization in the world, Pyle reveals, and they readily translate into lessons learned that can benefit any professional involved in business innovation. So, whenever you're feeling overwhelmed by strapped budgets, competitive pressures and other challenges, consider the path NASA has blazed in reaching the historic milestones depicted in the slides below. Pyle led leadership training for C-suite executives at NASA's Johnson Space Center, and has written extensively about space exploration for outlets such as Space.com. His documentaries on NASA have appeared on the History Channel and other television outlets.

This article was originally published on 2014-05-14
Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.
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