Lessons from NASA: How to keep up with the Innovation Economy

December 21, 2017

Strategic clarity is the boss

These are the big decisions that drive everything else — all your investments, hiring, development, timelines, etc. These are the big decisions that allow everyone to make cohesive plans and truly work toward the same objectives.


Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend a thought leadership talk by the esteemed, Stephen Jurczyk, Associate Director of NASA at their facility in Houston, Texas. Steven manages and executes the Space Technology programs, proving the capabilities needed by the greater aerospace community and developing the nation’s innovation economy.

With the way in which the world is advancing, learning first-hand the vision and challenges for NASA’s future from the man at the forefront of science and technology was inspiring to say the least. From leadership, to creativity to the future of work – one thing is for certain. NASA is at the top of their game.

When you work in a company undergoing massive technological disruptions – from putting a man on the moon to advancing technological communications – the rate and state of innovation is vast and increasingly complex. From a leadership perspective, learning to maintain a steady hand over all your operations – and people – is essential for business success. Below are some talking points from Steven himself, that provide leaders with a checklist to balance all the demands and opportunities that exist within an organization, between humans, science and technology.

  • Develop a robust strategic plan that defines the outcomes you want to achieve for each objective. Look at your 5-year, 10-year and 15-year plan. Think long-term as you need something to drive early stage technology investments.
  • Develop these outcomes with customers and commercial partners and relevant stakeholders that can offer opinions and suggestions.
  • Prioritization is key. Ensure you are developing the relevant technology to satisfy the needs of your customers, based on the impact of the outcomes.
  • Define when these objectives are needed (time).
  • Determine what partnerships you can engage in to leverage what’s going on externally to your company.
  • Develop a portfolio that balances achieving these outcomes. Work closely with your CTO or CIO to ensure there is no repetition of the optimization of your technology. There are always more ideas than there is funding, so work hard at aligning the functionality of technology across segments to cut costs – this will enable more efficiency.

Innovation has altered the way we live our lives; from the way in which we do business, to the way we consume and connect with others – this type of economy has made our day-to-day lives easier and more convenient, but it has also prompted us to look at how we lead and manage our organizations to keep up the pace. This all starts with a robust strategic plan. With the end goal in mind and the agility to adapt to changes in your environment, you become one step closer to securing your future.

 Are you equipped at balancing the demands and opportunities that exist within your organization?

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