The Final Puzzle: Seeing the Deal and Dealing With the Unforeseeable
You have to fail in order to succeed
There are many reasons why NASA should never have succeeded in landing twelve men on the moon in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Indeed, during that same time frame, a group of equally brilliant scientists and engineers in the former Soviet Union saw their own attempted moon missions fail miserably and their program collapse in despair while NASA took its own failures in stride and pressed onwards to prevail in what is arguably the greatest engineering achievement of the 20th century.
Why did NASA succeed while the Soviet space agency failed? Personally, I don’t believe it was because of superior intellect, larger budgets, or some kind of political or ideological advantage. I think it was simply because everyone in the U.S. space program from the President down to the lowest technician absolutely demanded success, and believed that to be successful you had to experience and learn from failures.
Have you watched the movie “Apollo 13?” If not, then you can forget about all of the other movie references I have made if you will go out and buy a personal copy of that movie and watch it right now. There is one particularly pivotal moment in the movie when mission control manager Gene Krantz47 (portrayed brilliantly by Ed Harris), frustrated by the steady stream of bad news, asks his colleagues to identify “what is working on the crippled spaceship?” It was at that critical moment, and driven by the solutions-oriented approach that defined Krantz’s leadership style, that the process of rescue for the mission began and the path towards successful return of the crew was established. It was at this moment, that NASA turned a tragic failure into an unbelievable success.
A hidden paradox in the business world is that the most successful businesses have failed miserably at one or more points in their history. Indeed, the secret to their ultimate success is in their ability to work through their own failures and press on with the advantage of very valuable lessons they learned.
In the 1960’s NASA was dominated by a corps of leaders who, in the spirit of Gene Krantz, did not fear failure – they anticipated it, planned
The Inventor’s Puzzle, Copyright © 2009 by Mark Lake