to boldly stay…

The agency that sent humans to another world is now mired in its own red tape.
bureaucracy at nasa

You make one short, revealing video that lets managers and bureaucrats see just how closed minded to new ideas they can be and everybody makes a big deal out of it. The short video in question, Law & Order at the JSC, shows the trials of an engineer with a new spacecraft design being continuously prevented from taking her idea beyond the sketch phase because it’s “different from what the project office is doing.” What the video really shows is what’s known as the not-invented-here mentality of large corporations and its a huge problem for any organization with too many managers, too many layers and a focus on dollars and cents rather than core competencies, growth and innovation.

Another word for all this is groupthink. When a large organization exists for a long time, it has a procedure for pretty much anything set in stone or as close to it as possible. Managers rose to their positions by closely following these procedures and maintaining the status quo. Now, a young upstart who hasn’t been there for a few decades wants to change things? What, how the organization does things isn’t good enough? Is she questioning fifty years of experience? Who does she think she is? Does she assume the whole world revolves around her idea and we’ll just jump on it because it’s new and different? It’s not a requirement, we’re not obliged to do it and maybe we don’t need this troublemaker around here anymore…

It happens every day. Employees with new ideas or who want to change things get kicked out of companies and government offices because risk averse managers are incensed that someone wants them to change the way they do things. They use every means possible to crush change from the bottom-up. For all the talk about democratizing media and engaging in open dialogue with employees, changes at big companies and in government organizations can only happen from the top down and only when the boss is serious about change and doesn’t hesitate to use his powers on bureaucrats who stand in the way of anything new solely on principle. So when a NASA spokesperson says that it will take us centuries to start flying around our solar system or build lunar outposts, add another few hundred years on top of that. With this mindset, we may as well give up on being a space faring species.

This is why everyone in the space community is turning to the likes of Virgin Galactic and XCOR when it comes to the future of space travel. While NASA bosses send engineers with good ideas on wild goose chases from office to office, saying that if it worked on Apollo, it will work on any other new mission, private companies will be boldly going where NASA is too scared to go. And while they’re at it, they’ll be hiring the bright young engineers with new ideas and designs. So it seems that a one time global innovation leader is careening towards becoming a laggard. If you run a business, take heed. Groupthink and bureaucracy kill progress.

# space // bureaucracy / government / groupthink / innovation

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