Posted by Cognito on Sat, Mar 10 2012

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Management Advice from a Billion Feet Up

Photo with Dr David Scott

Forget the 10,000 ft view. Cognito recently got the view from 1,261,11500 ft above the earth. 

In December we sent the entire firm for a two-day global off-site in Las Vegas. The event proved to be an excellent opportunity to share insights and best practices and also to connect with colleagues from other offices. The highlight, for most of us, was an address from Dr David Scott, who among his many accomplishments is perhaps best known for being the Commander of the Apollo 15 mission, the seventh man to walk on the moon and the first human to drive the lunar rover. Dr Scott is known to Cognito's LA team and was gracious enough to travel from LA to Las Vegas, despite a mini hurricane, to share with us some thoughts gleaned from his many illustrious years at NASA.

There were three key messages I took away from David' inspirational speech:

Everyone must pull together for the mission: The Apollo program at its peak employed 400,000 people but at the end of the day each mission came down to a single rocket, a single crew and a single destination. Without email, skype or advanced project management software, NASA managed to pull this multitude of individuals into a cohesive team with a unified purpose. There are many 100, or even 10-man companies today that would struggle to come together in this way. 

Preparation is everything: David enjoyed pointing out that the sum of NASA's cutting-edge technology in 1971 had less processing power than a modern iPhone. For this reason, preparation was everything. Not simply the astronauts but everyone involved in the mission had to train, rehearse and run simulations to catch even the smallest error. The same advice could be given to modern PR agencies before putting their spokespeople in front of the media, sending out pitches or press releases or before presenting to a current or prospective client. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Vision matters: David spoke about President Kennedy's 1961 address in which he set an unprecedented goal of sending man to the moon before the end of the decade. At the time of the speech only one American had flown in space—less than a month earlier—and NASA had not yet sent an astronaut into orbit. Yet the speech and the vision behind it set the direction of research and funding that would meet the target within 8 years. A clearly and powerfully articulated goal for the future is a hugely motivating force which can often bring people together to achieve what was once considered impossible. When we started Cognito in the US our 'set-up' amounted to a one way plane ticket, a laptop and five nights in a hotel in Boston; but our dream was big and that has been the single biggest driver of our success so far.

Thanks to Jason Lahita, head of Cognito's LA office for inviting David to the conference and to Mag Black-Scott, CEO of Beverly Hills Wealth Management, and Chris Willis of Verivo who also presented and shared a great deal of their wisdom with us. 

Chase, Events, Planning, Risk Management,
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