Curiosity has landed on Mars!
I must admit that I love the fact that NASA called the Mars rover “Curiosity.” To me curiosity is more than a danger to cats, it’s the driving force for innovation.
NASA has made available some wonderful video of the landing. I watched several times the brief clip below of the mission team in the control room observing the landing. The tension is palpable, as is the relief and exhilaration when it is clear the rover has landed safely.
Since a reasonably creative person can almost always find a “knowledge management angle” to most things, I offer the following KM observations:
- In watching the video, I was struck by the fact that in their moment of elation the members of the team sought physical contact with each other. Whether it was a “high five” or a bear hug, in every case it was real and tangible — not remote or virtual. From a KM perspective, it’s a useful reminder that despite the huge efficiencies brought about by computerization and automation, we should not forget that face to face interaction can be the most valuable medium for knowledge sharing. Virtual or remote service can achieve a great deal (especially for the do-it-yourselfer or the person working outside regular business hours). However, sometimes nothing beats the ability to sit elbow to elbow with someone as you work through a problem together. It’s one of the oldest and most reliable ways of transmitting tacit knowledge.
- Our poetry and prose are filled with lots of inspiring images of peak experiences. However, when it came to landing the rover, the scientific team chose the low elevation Gale Crater rather than higher terrain. Why this crater? According to the NASA website: “The ideal landing site will have clear evidence of a past or present habitable environment. The site will have a favorable geologic record, such as layers of rock that are preserved and exposed at the surface, making them accessible to exploration, as well as evidence of past water.” Clearly you don’t have to be on a mountaintop to succeed. Sometimes low terrain contains more than enough valuable information. This is worth remembering when you are trudging through a plateau in the development of your KM system. If you keep your eyes open and your curiosity primed, you can learn something useful.
- The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory is impressive, but in this day and age not even this organization can do everything by itself. As a result, the mission to Mars includes the contributions of international partners such as the Canadian Space Agency and Russia’s Federal Space Agency. As you plan your KM effort, consider whether a strategic alliance with another department within your organization might help reduce your costs or increase your access to creative solutions. For example, there are natural alliances between KM and professional development or KM and Marketing. There may even be groups within your organization that were historically hostile towards KM, but are now ripe for a change of view. Seek them out and find ways to cooperate. After all if the Russians and Americans can cooperate in space, why can’t KM establish and build productive relationships with other departments?
- Mars is not a pleasant place. It’s cold and dusty. Its thin atmosphere cannot support liquid water over large regions. The planet currently does not appear to be habitable. Clearly, it is not a congenial place. But even here Curiosity is already proving valuable and productive. I’m willing to bet that even your organization is not nearly as uncongenial as Mars. What might you uncover if you allowed curiosity to land there? Conducting controlled experiments in a safe-fail environment can be the best way to learn and to establish the path to innovation. What experiments is your KM group tackling? Where is your curiosity leading you?
Curiosity has landed on Mars. Has it landed in your organization?