141 – Rocket science propelling librarians

When you build a workplace culture that allows mistakes to be shared and discussed, you ensure they won’t be repeated. Listen to hear how a jet propulsion laboratory owns its failures and fosters a learning culture.

This week on Anecdotally Speaking, Shawn shares a space story that you can add to your story repertoire! He first heard this story in 2005, when attending a conference in Las Vegas. It follows the 2004 crash landing of the Genesis space capsule. 

Shawn mentions a YouTube video of the event, which you can find here.

For your storybank

Tags: culture, failure, learning, mistakes

This story starts at 00:50

Teresa Bailey is the Librarian for a jet propulsion laboratory and has been for 41 years. She organises regular project story sessions, where Project Directors and Project Managers come together in the library and share the stories of their projects.

On the 9th of September, 2004, the Genesis space capsule reentered the earth’s atmosphere. Usually, space capsules land with a parachute, but Genesis’ research cargo was too delicate. The jolt would be too much for its contents.

So three helicopters were waiting in different places, poised to scoop up the capsule’s parachute upon release and take Genesis to the ground slowly.

Groups of people gathered in the hanger and mission control, ready to watch the momentous occasion. The event was narrated by one man to an excitedly smiling and clapping audience. The capsule was getting closer and closer.

Then, all of a sudden, the narrator said, “Looks like we have no shoots there.” And all those smiles turned to frowns. The capsule plummeted to the ground and smashed into the Utah desert.

A few months later, Teresa Bailey thought she would approach the Genesis Project Manager, Don Sweetman, and ask if he would speak at one of her sessions. He respectfully declined.

A year later, she tried again, and he agreed to speak. Don told a packed audience that a formal investigation had found that a single mechanism had been installed backwards. And as a result, most of the data collected by the multimillion-dollar, three-year project was lost. But by hearing the story, they would learn from their mistake.

About  Anecdote International

Anecdote International is a global training and consulting company, specialising in utilising storytelling to bring humanity back to the workforce. Anecdote is now unique in having a global network of over 60 partners in 28 countries, with their learning programs translated into 11 languages, and customers who incorporate these programs into their leadership and sales enablement activities.

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