3 Lessons From the Apollo 11 First Moon Landing

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Fifty-three years ago, NASA achieved what many thought impossible: landing humans on the moon and returning them to Earth safely. While most of us weren’t alive during that amazing time, the world is now reviewing Apollo’s achievements on his birthday.

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The Apollo program was the largest start-up and entrepreneurial effort in the history of our country in peacetime. What NASA was able to achieve through the efforts of more than 400,000 people and 20,000 organizations was nothing short of miraculous. Below are several Apollo lessons that apply directly to entrepreneurs who are preparing to launch their own “moonshots”:

Related: 25 unforgettable moments in space exploration to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11

1. Think “inside” the box

When President John F. Kennedy set himself the goal of landing a man on the moon in 1961, he committed the country to doing something that no one, including a three-year-old NASA, knew how to achieve. The American industry did not have the tools, the equipment, the space suits, the computer technology, the rockets, the facilities or the experience to achieve this feat. And the challenge was not just what they did knew they didn’t have it, it was also about not knowing what they would eventually need to succeed.

Despite the common metaphor of thinking outside the box when it comes to creativity, NASA realized the box itself it was the key to success. Inside this box were deeply rooted and time-tested values ​​related to what engineers already understood: the design and development of high-performance aircraft. NASA knew that these fundamentals were the key to reaching the Moon, not leaving the box and starting from scratch, but expanding it through additional learning, intense creativity, and boundless innovation; while remaining true to its basic engineering principles.

2. Success is sticky

Creativity is the ability to visualize new connections between things that have not yet connected. Advances are seldom based on discovering something new; more often they are the result of the “sticky thinking” that occurs when people put together things they already know in new ways to achieve amazing results.

NASA engineers, astronauts, administrators, and other “thinkers” relied heavily on sticky thinking during the Apollo program. By connecting things that were already inside their box and adding new ideas, they were able to extend the principles of existing aircraft engineering to the creation of spacecraft. As with any good business plan, minds working on Apollo were also able to visualize possible “and if” scenarios and possible connections that may or may not occur during a mission, and through that, they developed contingency plans. to overcome them in case they occur. .

Whether it’s Steve Jobs connecting the sense of fashion with the boring, colorless world of computer design or Elon Musk investing in the inevitability of tomorrow, imagination and the ability to visualize new connections has always been a key attribute. for effective entrepreneurship.

Related: Buzz Aldrin wants you to know: the sky is not the limit

3. Work HARD, not smart

Business schools often teach the use of SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based) to achieve success. However, two of these elements, “realistic” and “achievable,” can limit entrepreneurial vision. Innovative achievements rarely result from SMART thinking and security. The landing of the humans on the Moon was extraordinary and required something different. It required DIFFICULT goals, goals that were Honest, Actuable, Radicali Detailed.

After a 15-minute space flight of Alan Shepard, for example, Kennedy announced the goal of landing on the moon within eight and a half years. He was running to beat a competitor (the Russians!) In the market, and his goal was clear, compelling, and easy to understand. He was also brave and radical, especially in light of the social and economic problems the U.S. was facing at the time.

Despite the enormous scale of the program, NASA allowed its people to take calculated risks, do unexpected things, show initiative, and use creative thinking in the box. After all, how else will you do something that is designed to be radical? Despite the stress and pressure of creating something completely new and radical, NASA’s leadership and workforce remained focused and positive despite the serious setbacks, one of them fatal. (No one said “radical” would be easy, and no one expected it to be.) They maintained a culture where everyone and everyone would be heard, and one where decisions were made and executed quickly.

Landing a man on the moon was an impressive feat, but the process to get there was even greater. By allowing young NASA “entrepreneurs” and their partners to take big steps, thus forcing the innovation needed to achieve Kennedy’s goal, NASA ushered in the digital age and the rapid growth of high-end industries. technology. Ultimately, thousands of new technologies and products were extracted from Apollo, establishing new markets and companies thanks to a group of entrepreneurs who were inspired by the greatest entrepreneurial achievement in the United States.

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