Today I am at VC Fintech Collective's annual event in NYC. It has been amazing to listen to Kevin Fong OBE tell his story about making his fantastic BBC podcast 13 minutes to the moon. In this podcast series Kevin goes deep into the story of - and the individuals involved in - the mission to land a man on the moon 50 years ago.
Just a few takeaways:
The average age of mission control for lunar landings was 27 years old.
This was an almost impossible goal and resulted in massive failure in Feb 1967 when 3 astronauts were killed by fire when running simulations. This could easily have led to the whole program being cancelled but incredible leadership meant it was not and ultimately the success of the mission. Kevin praised Gene Kranz in particular for his amazing leadership skill and brought up this quote explaining they as a team had to own the mistakes and then as a team carry on:
Success was built on the efforts of 400,000 people and the use of and reliance upon incredible technology. This was the moment in history when it was not enough to be just a plucky human. They had to build a complex computer and engineer crazy complicated systems to achieve this goal. But, and it is a big but - humans interaction with that tech was the key.
Distributed leadership and niche expertise were central to man landing on the moon. Senior managers had to rely upon and trust their juniors however young. Decisions had to be made quickly and you could not second guess those you had in your team to know There is no doubt this trust built over many many years of stress testing meant the mission was a success and that the astronauts returned to Earth alive.
There are lessons for all of us in their story - if you have not listened to the podcast download it now!