“Every great legacy should always be right at the edge of the precipice of reinvention!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
You can always enjoy all the success in the world – but you should never become complacent. Every business model changes, and you need to align yourself to that reality, reinventing your pathway forward. Don’t count on your legacy as a guarantee!
That was the key theme in my message for a keynote at NASA 8 years ago on this day. Pinch me moments! They happen at various moments throughout your lifetime, and you KNOW when they are happening.
In this case, I was invited to share my thoughts on the future, disruptive trends, and opportunities for innovation at NASA’s Goddard Space Center. Located outside of Washington, DC, it is the location for a massive amount of research, infrastructure management, and leading-edge program development. These are the folks who manage the Hubble Telescope, construct deep space probes and near-earth satellites, and conduct complex missions. Named after the pioneer of American rocketry, with over 10,000 scientists, researchers, and mission staff on staff, it’s one of NASA’s most advanced research laboratories. You’ll hear a lot more about in the year to come as the James Webb Telescope, set to replace the Hubble, is launched into far-earth orbit.
Why did they bring me in? Legacy is not a guarantee – like every organization, NASA must continually reinvent. The business of space at the time (and is) changing at a furious pace; they invited me in to challenge these deep-thinkers as to how to innovate, change and adapt within a fast-paced world. SpaceX, Blue Origin – the privatization of space that we see today was something these folks needed to wrap their head around back in 2013. The very nature of science and R&D was changing, as edge thinking, crowdsourcing and collaborative projects were coming to redefine the discovery process. The acceleration of pure science and the exponentiation of knowledge meant that even massive mind think organizations such as NASA need to reach for new collaborative, partnership opportunities.
These issues – and many more – were the ones that I put on the table in front of an audience of the team at NASA.
What a day! I took my oldest son, and as an added bonus, we got a special 4-hour behind-the-scenes tour! For two tech geeks like us, this was absolute nirvana – walking into a Level-10 clean room to see the process behind the manufacture of parts of the James Webb telescope; a tour of the massive infrastructure by which much of the worlds earth-satellite weather and imagery are collected; and even some time in the shake-and-bake room – featuring two massive 110 foot high speakers that simulate the sound of launch as well as a massive centrifuge (to subject small bits of satellite to the vibration of launch). It was heaven!
A pinch me moment1 They even had a special welcome for me at the main entrance, where 11,000 staff and contractors pass by every day!
This was the 2nd time NASA had booked me; I previously spoke to a group of astronauts, launch and mission directors, and various other manned space experts in an event down near Houston.