“First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
John F. Kennedy, former US President
How might you gain a better understanding of your goals and challenges?
Kennedy made the above point in a “State of the Union” speech to the US Congress on 25 May 1961. Whilst most countries would probably dedicate a whole speech on the subject, the moon landing was one of eight strategic goals that Kennedy spoke about and was just one of the four space initiatives that included communication and weather satellites!
The reason for starting with this moon landing story is to illustrate that whatever your goal, it will form part of a taller and wider hierarchy that you can represent on a map. For example, a more operational goal would be “Enable astronauts to write in weightless environments.”
(This might remind you of the story that the USA spent millions of dollars inventing a pen to write in space whilst the USSR used a pencil. People often cite this story as a reason to find the simplest solution, however, please see my closing story for a different insight.)
If your goal is very strategic and you wish to understand the hierarchy of goals beneath it, you can use a Level Map.
This enables you to:
• Diagram that hierarchy and see the relationships before you choose one to work on.
• Chunk the goal into lower level goals, thus increasing the potential goals to achieve and reducing the difficulty of achieving each one
• Clarify the goal further for people
• Understand whether you should broaden or narrow the scope of the goal you wish to exploit depending on your ability to influence it
Rather than map goals, I prefer to convert them in to challenges by asking “How to…? E.g. How to land a man on the moon?” This focuses you on taking action and leads to a further point, that mapping enables you to scope / estimate the number of ideas / solutions you will generate when you create solutions (e.g. “How to enable astronauts to write in weightless environments?” at the operational level is likely to generate fewer and different ideas to “How to land on the moon”). Taking on too high a level challenge might just be too broad a scope.
Consider a goal in your organisation and sketch out a map of the different levels . You will find a spreadsheet is a good medium for this or a mind mapping software.
I had always accepted as true the story of the US inventing a pen to work in space whilst the USSR used a pencil.
What a great lesson in looking for the simple solution first. However, including the story in a book I am writing, led me to do some speedy research on the Internet to verify just how much the Americans had invested. It led me to discover that the story is not quite true. The space programs of both the US and the USSR used a pencil at first. However, the astronauts discovered that the pencils broke and there was a chance of getting pointy pieces of carbon in the wrong place.
NASA did not, however, rush to spend its space budget on developing a pen. In fact Fisher pens had patented a pressurised pen refill in 1965. NASA bought 400 of their AG7 Space Pens (click on the link for the innovation story) at less than $3 each and tested them for a couple of years before using them on Apollo 7. Real lesson? Always check your facts.
Have an interesting week.
John Brooker I Yes! And. Think Innovatively.
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