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FCW : June 30, 2014
June 30, 2014 FCW.COM 17 that are engaged in planning future activities are given something akin to a "blue-sky" mandate. Think big, and don t just think outside the box --- start beyond the box. Lessons from yesteryear During the space race, NASA s gold- en age to many observers, innovation was encouraged in a number of ways. First came need-based innovation: The task set before the agency in 1961 was so vast and so demanding that the new and original became com- monplace. Outside-the-box thinking was the norm; those ideas then had to be wrestled into some kind of box to make them reality. The second was innovation at the end of a sharp stick. An example would be when George Low, then managing the Apollo Spacecraft Pro- gram Of ce, insisted that Wernher von Braun approve the "all-up" testing of the Saturn V; there simply was neither the time nor the resources to do the more traditional incremental testing. Finally, there was innovation of the more blue-sky variety. Programs like the Apollo Applications Of ce, which thought up missions like a yby of Venus with Apollo hardware and var- ious other schemes, intended to use the designs of the space race for other missions. These were innovative mis- sions that were own only on paper for years, with one notable exception being Skylab. Travel across the United States and visit the NASA eld centers distribut- ed across the country --- you will nd people conceptualizing grand new pro- grams with exciting and unique goals. It is an inspiring experience just to spend time in the same room with these folks; they de ne outside-the-box thinking. And lessons from today Despite the challenges of low budgets and risk aversion, thoughtful innova- tion does ascend through the system. There is always time later to rein in E-learning has become almost ubiquitous, and virtual social learn- ing is now spreading rapidly. Yet NASA s knowledge services team is not paying much attention to either training approach. Ed Hoffman, NASA s chief knowl- edge of cer, said training is merely one aspect of what is otherwise an eclectic pursuit of a knowledgeable workforce. "We de-emphasize training a little bit because I see organizations --- NASA s been there --- where the notion is that training is the only thing, " Hoffman said during a discussion at the FOSE government technology conference in May. Although training is indeed important, "if that s the only thing being done in this current environ- ment, I don t think it s going to be able to be successful at creating knowledgeable people, " he added. Instead, developing a better workforce is also about master- ing team-building, organizational politics, negotiation techniques and management skills. Hoffman said that during his three-decade tenure at NASA, he has seen rst- hand what a void in management skills can do. He has witnessed the best and brightest fail because they could not get along with one another while less talented people have gotten the job done. "From a competency capabil- ity standpoint, they were the most talented people, but they blew themselves up because they didn t like each other, they didn t com- municate, " he said. "We have very talented people, incredibly talented people, but we ve got to do things to create an environment where they can be successful. " Social skills and political savvy come from negotiation programs, mentoring and experience. Never- theless, there is a place for training at NASA --- if you de ne it the way Deputy Chief Knowledge Of cer Jon Boyle does. "Training is developing people in order to be able to do things more effectively and ef ciently, "he said. "If I nd the information and I can give them what they need to be able to search for and nd [it], I m making them more effective and ef cient and all I have to do is teach them the interface. " Once that content is available, managers can use "return on engagement" metrics to gauge knowledge transfer. "An engage- ment metric implies that you did something when you came to our site, and there was active search and ndability that you were applying to it, " Boyle said. --- Reid Davenport NASA's take on training NASA astronaut Don Pettit (right) and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers, both flight engineers for the International Space Station's Expedition 30, conduct the first of three sessions on a robotic simulator in preparation for the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.
May 30, 2014
June 15, 2014