When we think of what it takes to put a rocket into space, we think of the gigantic room of NASA's Apollo-era mission control -- rows of men with high & tight haircuts and thin ties, smoking unfiltered cigarettes behind gigantic banks of computers as they all work together to put a massive rocket into orbit. Lots of checking and rechecking. Lots of synchronized watches and "go on my count" commands. While technology has improved over the decades, NASA still maintained a mission control room and the man counts to rival the '60s Apollo days up until the last shuttle launch last year.

It's probably a bit of a shock, then, to learn that Japan just put a satellite into orbit using eight guys, a couple of laptops, and $37 million. That's just about the same amount of resources it takes to write an episode of "How I Met Your Mother". For comparison's sake, NASA requires the aforementioned mission control room and about $450 million to get a rocket into space. So how was Japan able to do it? A series of process revisions!

First of all, the size of the rocket was reduced to compensate for the reduced payload size, making for a cheaper projectile to produce. The smaller size also meant less fuel was required to lift it.

Secondly, the Japanese space agency also designed a specialized AI that was mounted inside the rocket. This AI not only handled getting the projectile into space and the satellite deployed, it also was able to conduct its own series of safety checks while on the launching pad. The inclusion of this specialized AI reduced the necessary headcount for launch from 150 to eight.

When you enter into a project, be it a rocket launch or a sourcing initiative, with preconceived ideas as to what's needed, you lose the ability to innovate. When you conduct a project based on those preconceived ideas, and fail to consider new solutions or needs, you stagnate your thinking and willfully put your organization a step behind.

Process revision and innovation isn't rocket science, unless it is.
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Nicholas Hamner

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