Famous collaborations - feature one How the US won the space race

Posted by Janice Scheckter on 29 September 2015 3:35 PM CAT

In April 1961 teams at NASA were reeling. The Soviets had put the first man in space. Yuri Gargarin became the first cosmonaut to go into space on April 12. During the years of the cold war, supremacy in every area was critical for both the US and the USSR.



President JF Kennedy was constantly on the lookout for areas where the US could dominate. In a memo to Vice President Lyndon B Johnson, Kennedy questioned, “do we have a chance of beating the Soviets by putting a laboratory in space, or a trip around the moon, or by rocket to land on the moon or by rocket to go to the moon and back with a man?”

Johnson’s investigation showed that the Soviets were ahead in many areas but Kennedy undeterred – set the goal, which resulted in one of the great collaboration stories of our time.  The goal was one, which Jim Collins would have called A BHAG – a big hairy audacious goal.

Just seven weeks after Gargarin had orbited earth to become one of the most famous men on the planet, Kennedy boldly announced that the nation should commit to a man on the moon before the decade was out.

The single minded, focused goal has gone down in history as one of the greatest leadership and unifying strategies of all time. The mission involved over 400 000 people with 500 of those responsible to create space suits that could withstand the moon’s searing heat in the sun and freezing chill in the shadows. If we look back today with the understanding that there is more computing power in a USB than the computers of the day, the collaborative achievement becomes even more laudable.

Collaboration author, Morton T Hansen, viewed the combination of Kennedy’s leadership along with the shared purpose that drove this exceptional collaboration. With issues around global warming, water and more, imagine what could really be achieved today.

Janice Scheckter, is a collaboration strategist and MD of Indigo New Media. 






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