Sun, 11 August 2019
How to encourage innovative thinking inside of your organization: Chief Innovation Officer, Engineering at NASA Shares Techniques
My guest this week is Omar Hatamleh, the Chief Innovation Officer, Engineering at NASA and Executive Director of the Space Studies Program at the International Space University. In today’s discussion, you will hear how Omar has seen NASA change over the last 21 years, how they plan to use technology like 3D printing and AI in the future, and his thoughts on which technologies are overhyped. Omar also gives us a sneak peek into how NASA works including how they tackle problems, how they build effective teams and deal with failure, and how they focus on creative thinking.
Omar Hatamleh is the Chief Innovation Officer, Engineering at NASA and the Executive Director of the Space Studies Program at the International Space University. He is the former Deputy Chief Scientist Ames and he has been with NASA for the past 21 years.
Over his 21 years at the company, he has seen a lot of things change. Back at the time of the Apollo program, the whole environment at NASA was very competitive as several nations were racing to be the first to get to the moon. It then moved to a collaborative environment when several nations came together to put the space station into orbit.
Now, Omar says, they are in a third movement, which has been to get into the commercial sector. They are now using their expertise to help small companies and startups learn the technologies, knowledge, and ability they need to have an impact in the aerospace industry.
“Combined with the amazing corporate knowledge that we have, and amazing innovation and agility that the corporate sector has, I think that creates an excellent environment to create more jobs, improve the economy, and so on. Then, what you need to do, is basically, we're going to free up our resources, and go explore deep space. Our next goal is going to be, for example, going to the moon again by 2024. From there, we're going to go to Mars, hopefully soon after that, in a decade or so.”
Omar leads design thinking workshops at NASA where he tries to get people to think completely outside of the box. He shares some examples of real-life companies who have solved major problems by coming up with unconventional solutions.
One example he gave was regarding an electric bicycle company that produced bikes with a lot of electronics and sensitive pieces. They found that 60-70% of their orders were being returned damaged because the shipping companies saw that they were bikes and assumed they were durable. Someone at the company had a brilliant idea to print a picture of a flat screen TV on the outside of the box instead of a bike and it solved their problem.
NASA uses the latest technologies including AI, 3D printing, and quantum computing. Omar believes there are positives and negatives to all technology and the advances we are going to see in the future.
With driverless cars, for example, they can cut down on the number of cars each family needs, it can cut down on accidents, and it makes traveling easier because you can sleep or work along the way. Having autonomous cars can also create new jobs for technologies that will be needed, such as new gadgets that people can use now that they aren’t focused on the road. But it also could have a negative impact on manufacturing workers because we will need less cars. It will affect insurance companies. It will affect hotels because now people are able to sleep in the car while continuing towards their destination instead of stopping and staying somewhere overnight.
These new technologies will displace jobs, but they will also create new ones. The question is will it all balance out? Will there be more jobs lost than created or vice versa? Only time will tell.