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Innovation Deterred At NASA

Friday, March 20, 2009 by Slaughter Development

A recent Youtube video depicts innovation and workflow problems at NASA. Watch the clip to see how employees trapped through compartmentalization hinder the development of bright ideas.

Although it runs for ten minutes, the video (direct link) conveys a clear message of work suppression. For further background on the premise, see the the NPR article Astronaut’s Video Satirizes NASA Bureaucracy. Watch and enjoy:

Despite impassioned attempts at explaining her ideas, the NASA engineer hears surprising responses from  upper management that discourage initiative and creativity. Some sample dialog:

Young Engineer: So, I’ve been thinking about this better way to design the spacecraft, and here are some sketches of what I’ve been looking into…

Supervisor: Wow. This is a pretty significant change from the way the project office is doing things.

Another exchange includes the following:

Supervisor: We’ve never done anything like this before. I should also remind you that as a member of this organization we are really only supposed to be working on subsystems.

Young Engineer: Yes, I know, and I’ve considered that, but I think this is really important.

Supervisor: I see. You know, you will be basically telling them that their current approach is flawed.

This video illustrates exactly the kind of organizational and workflow challenges we address at Slaughter Development. Instead of trying to reinvent a whole culture with a top-down reorganization, we focus on engaging with individual workers to find ways of improving efficiency, increasing access and embracing the contribution of stakeholders.

In the recent post A Stellar Engagement, the idea that change should occur from the bottom-up was discussed and supported. To quote ourselves: “no one is better positioned than the employee to lead and implement new ideas in their own workflow.” If your company finds this philosophy refreshing, contact us today. Our aim is to assist you and your employees to transform processes so you can be effective, inventive and successful in all your ventures.

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Like this post? Here are some related entries from The Methodology Blog you might enjoy:

The Meaning of Innovation - Technology giant IBM is on the move again. They are celebrating 100 years of history with an amazing new promotional video.
Read on »
Innovation Through Pizza - With the immense amount of emerging technology, the idea that “anything is possible” never seems too far out of reach. One such recent achievement, an Italian pizza vending machine, brings another fascinating twist to innovation. Read on »
Efficiency the Japanese Way - Thanks to some recent reforms, Maine is a great place to die. The average time required to issue death certificates is down from over three months to just five days. These dramatic improvements in local governments come from a methodology engineering approach called “kaizen”, which originated in Japan. Read on »
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