Apollo 13: Fluid Thinking in Action

Apollo 13: Real-life Event and Cognitive Ability 

In business today, a leader is expected to bring to the table their education, experience, and business acumen. However, CEOs are now demanding the additional attributes of being Adaptable, Agile, Flexible, and to Pivot quickly

with the relentless global challenges of Covid-19, Digital Disruption, and AI transformations.

The Apollo 13 explosion highlights six of the ten Fluid Thinking abilities.

“Houston, we have a problem.”

The Apollo 13 astronauts were asked to stir the oxygen tanks, and when doing so, a small explosion occurred crippling the spacecraft.

NASA engineer Jerry Woodfill and the mission control leaders had never encountered this challenge before, so there was no manual on what to do when

an explosion occurred aboard a spacecraft.

Initially, all the ground crew started to panic with everyone talking at once giving their ideas about what to do and how to manage this life-threating situation.

However, Flight Director Gene Kranz intervened using six of the Fluid Thinking skills.

Stop: What just happened?

Gene Kranz who was in command took control and said:

Focus: “Stop everyone, I can only process one piece of information at a time.”

Analysis:“I need to know exactly what just happened.”

Plans/Alternatives: “I need you to come up with options in terms of how we solve this.”

Risk Mitigation: “Then you need to test those options using only what they have on board the mothership.”

Strategy: “I want a strategy of how we’re going to execute the solution.”

Action: “Then we’re going to execute the strategy because it is not an option to not get them back.”

How Cognitive Ability and Learning Agility saved the day

Thankfully the mission was successfully landed safely. But not because specific steps were checked off a manual as there was no manual, or no-one had expertise is this unknown, chaotic and unpredictable problem.

 

The Apollo 13 mission control team solved the problem using their Cognitive Abilities and  Learning Agility or their Fluid Thinking Tools which are the domain of right-brain thinking.

Businesses today are heavily investing in technology and traditional training and developing programs. Which are completely necessary but no sooner have you learnt something new than it is old information as the half-life of knowledge is declining rapidly.

The real future of learning is to develop the ability to continuously ‘learn how to learn’ and ‘apply the new learning’ to all challenges facing business today. However, the ability to continuously keep learning and apply the learning is only achieved by developing the right-brain thinking abilities called Fluid Thinking.

Organizations and their leaders need to Rethink Reskilling and

People investment Strategies to include Fluid Thinking development.

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