The Stars

Apollo 13

“Houston, we have a problem.”
“Fluid Intelligence is what you use when you don't know what to do.”
- Jean Piaget
Adaptive Expertise in Action

“The explosion on board Apollo 13 marked the start of one of the greatest rescue missions in human exploration...

But... all the other fatal factors would remain, too little electric power, no fuel cell-produced oxygen to breathe, no power for the guidance system, or the thrusters,” says Woodfill.”

Excerpt: William Park is BBC Future’s Social Media Producer.

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The Apollo 13 ground team and flight crew needed to use their ‘Adaptive Expertise’ (which is underpinned by Fluid Intelligence) to solve a totally new problem in ‘uncharted waters’. Relying on just their ‘Routine Expertise’ based on their past history and Crystallized Intelligence would have made it extremely unlikely to come up with a solution to save the crew.

How Leadership Agility saved the day

What happened –

Leadership Agility, Adaptability and Flexibility:

  • Apollo 13 was asked to stir the oxygen tanks upon doing this it blew out the side of the mothership so they were losing oxygen fast and wouldn’t make it home. 

  • The Team on the ground went into an Oh No! moment and everyone started to talk and panic and make suggestions about what to do to resolve the situation.

  • Gene Kranz who was in command took control and said “Stop everyone, I can only process one piece of information at a time”- Focus:

  • Then he said “I need to know what just happened”. Analyze the situation and work out exactly what happened.

  • And then he said “I then need you to come up with some options in terms of how we solve this” Plans/Alternatives

  • And “I want you to test those options using only what they've got onboard the mothership” Risk Mitigation

  • And “I want a strategy of how we're going to execute.” Strategy

  • And “Then we're going to execute the strategy, because it's not an option not to get them back.” Action.

Leadership Agility and Adaptability on the surface seems simple, yet there are many steps involve to minimize risk, re-work and achieve success.  

Our Learning Agility / Adaptive Expertise Program objectively measures an executive’s Fluid Intelligence (Adaptability and Learning Agility). Then based on the Agility (Fluid Intelligence) Report and results a tailored individual or Group Development Program is created addressing the 'root cause' behind  why so many leaders find changing behavior challenging.