You should watch this YouTube video.
It was made by astronaut Andy Thomas, for a a special "no barriers" cross-generational team at NASA's Johnson Space Center. The idea is to build a more open environment for innovation. The effort, still underway, was started by Center Director Mike Coats, a former astronaut himself.
The idea is to meld experienced workers schooled in the old command-and-control style and youthful workers raised in more open, collaborative environments.
Thomas shot and then produced the video to show what happens when workers with ideas run up against systemic resistance.
Many organizations would be devastated to see themselves parodied this way on an in-house video.
But NASA had already been through a far more devastating experience. NASA manager Wayne Hale wrote about Thomas' video on his blog and then posted it on YouTube. He explained why.
Like many at NASA, he was profoundly affected by revelations that the 1986 explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger might have been avoided if managers had listened to dissenters who had tried to warn them. The system was so good at protecting itself and keeping everyone on task that it deflected or hid the warnings.
More recently, despite NASA's efforts to reform, Hale had seen signs that some of the old ways were intact.
So, he posted a critical, in-house video. He urged readers of his blog to watch the video more than once.
Here it is:
He concluded by writing:
"Since these behaviors are still being practiced at NASA, here is what I believe managers need to do
"1. Break out of the sandbox. Even if it is not your area, the agency needs the best ideas to succeed in our goals. If you have subordinates who have ideas for improving other areas, it is important to get those ideas into the open where they can compete in the marketplace of ideas, or at least get a technical review.
"2. If subordinate has an idea that has been tried before and didn't work, consider that times may have changed and it might work now or with improvements that you know of. In the final extremity, your subordinate needs more than the curt dismissal that its been tried before and didn't work -- you need to explain it to them.
"3. Managers at all levels need to provide safe places and times for interaction that skips levels in the chain of command."
Watch the video and ask yourself: What would go into a video about the way things get done inside your organization?
This video did not get much coverage in the mainstream press. One wonders why.