When faced with a problem, what are the steps that you or your organization takes to solve them? Do you cower at the problem, ignore the issue, overcome the challenge, or simply hope it will go away? In his 2014 book, Innovation the NASA Way, Rod Pyle studies the great challenges and issues that NASA has faced in its 56 years of existence and the way that they as a team overcame and creatively solved the issues at hand. This book was a fascinating behind the scenes look at the men who lead America to the forefront of the Space Race and then have kept us there ever since.
Each chapter discusses a different success story in the history of the organization. Every accomplishment is framed in a challenge-solution format. For example, how does one perform an EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) in a weightless environment without dying of a heart attack and being able to actually accomplish something? Alexye Leonev, a Russian Cosmonaut, nearly died performing the first EVA. Outside the capsule, his pressurized suit blew up so large and became so stiff that he was unable to re-enter the capsule. It was fortunate that he was able to depressurize his suit by opening up a valve and releasing some of the oxygen in order to shrink his suit down. He re-entered the capsule moments before he would have become unconscious and probably died. Ed White, the first American space walker, wasn’t in as perilous of a situation, but he was unable to do any work outside of the capsule because of the lack of training in a weightless environment. His co-pilot on the mission, in a secret meeting just before liftoff, was given a pair of scissors and told to cut the tetther to Ed White’s suit and return to earth alone should the unthinkable happen…NASA covering its bases. Every other American Space walk had the same issue, until Buzz Aldrine (of future Moon landing fame) undertook the problem. He devised a scheme to train for his Gemini EVA mission by submerging himself in a swimming pool and practicing the mission objectives. His unorthodox training methods caught major flack from the NASA brass as well as the astronauts, but Aldrins EVA would prove that man could work outside the space craft. It was his innovation that changed the way NASA would train forever.
Pyle walked through the history of NASA from its inception in 1958 all the way to the present day by explaining the challenges that they faced and how they overcame them. From figuring out how to communicate with space probe passing by Neptune, to bouncing a rover on the Mars surface, the funding crisis of the Space Shuttle, or recovering from the Apollo 1 diasaster, Pyle gives an in depth look at how NASA solved the issues at hand by clearly definning them and then challenging its people for solutions.
This book was advertised as a leadership book for companies and businesses…it isn’t. In reality it was a fascinating book for anyone who is interested in the NASA Space Program. His advice for companies was light and left alot to be desired. His advice was simply: Be Bold, Be Daring, Be Passionate. One chapter covered the application of this book. But it contained great stories about the men that made Mercury, Gemeni, Apollo, and all the other missions of NASA work. It was this behind the scense look that made this book worth reading. This is a must read for anyone wanting to know more about NASA.
What I learned from the book. 1) He needs to fix three typos! 2) Be clear with the challenges that you face. And be specific with your solutions. Most churches (and I speak of churches here because that is really all I know) don’t have a clue as to what challenges they need to overcome. For example, I used to work at a church in a low-economic community. People in poverty have different needs that need to be met. We were a congregation of middle class families that had no clue how to interact with those in poverty. And to top it all off, no one in the leadership wanted to read about it either. So we tried to overcome challenges that were specific to middle class families and ignored many of the issues of poverty. Churches need to be specific to the challenges that need to be met and be even clearer with their solutions. This book taught me the importance of clearly defining the challenge you are facing, then coming up with a specific solution to counter it.