For the four LAUNCH founding partners, NASA, Nike, USAID, and State Department, LAUNCH is the Collective Genius for a Better World. Nike’s LAUNCH 2020 Summit is sheer genius!
“Our society has reached a point where its progress and event its survival depend on our ability to organize the complex and to do the unusual.” James Webb, former NASA Administrator
Last week, Nike hosted the LAUNCH 2020 Summit in “sunny” Portland – and sunny it was, both in weather and collaborative engagement. The purpose for the Summit was two-fold: 1) introduce the new seven-year systems focus on materials, makers, and access; and 2) debut the LAUNCH 2013 Systems Challenge. Our last four challenges featured water, health, energy, and waste solutions. This year’s challenge is focused on materials – which are crucial for supporting life outside the protection Earth’s atmosphere – as well as for gravity-bound Earthlings.
One of the Summit’s highlights: Hannah Jones, Nike’s VP for Sustainable Business and Innovation, led a discussion about how creative humans can rise above the limits with certified limit-busters, Astronaut Ron Garan and Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson.
Nike also featured an innovation showcase that included past LAUNCH innovations, Gram Power, Bioneedle, DTI-r, and “Born at LAUNCH” Carbon for Water – among other innovations such as NASA’s Solar Sail and the Nike Flyknit.
The AWESOME-sauce Nike team created an immersive process called the Systems Innovation Experiment (SIX) to engage our Summit participants in a decision-making atmosphere that reflects fictional, yet realistic system choices. Team investment decisions were ranked in relation to profit, environmental impact, and social capital – with collaboration as the key to system change. The moral to the story: investments we make today greatly impact our future tomorrows.
I was given the opportunity to share the “Why NASA” story on stage during the first day of the Summit. I was “set free” from a scripted speech (due to a glitch in the teleprompter), so I have no idea what I actually said. But, here are the notes of what I planned to say. Hopefully, I hit some of these points from stage….
For NASA, we look at LAUNCH as a Collaborative Innovation Incubator. In addition to serving as an alternate means to uncover early stage technologies, LAUNCH has become a testbed for new and unexpected ways of doing business in the government. We’re incubating new methods and processes to:
- collaborate and partner with new communities outside our normal orbit of influence,
- innovate new solutions to a more sustainable existence off-planet, and
- broker ideas across diverse innovation clusters of creative thinkers.
Our mission is to enable off-planet citizens to live and work in the extremely hostile environment of space. Materials are key.
Think about it: We take the materials for human existence with us when we leave our home planet for destinations beyond Earth – whether for orbiting outposts, planetary bodies, or asteroids. These materials must be reused, recycled, and recreated into anything and everything we need to fuel a self-sustaining biosphere – which could be a spacesuit, spacecraft or space colony. As you can imagine, resupply becomes less of an option the farther we travel away from home.
In essence: we need a fully sustainable, closed-loop system to support humans (on and OFF the planet).
At NASA, our issues mirror the struggles facing earthlings – scarce, dwindling, constrained natural resources – but our problem is magnified. We have no natural resources for our journey – except what we harvest along the way.
We’ve learned [during our occupation of Earth] that our ability to thrive as humans shouldn’t harm the planet that hosts us. Sadly, we have a parasitic relationship with Earth. What we want is a symbiotic partnership where Earth thrives because we live here!
We see LAUNCH as the rocket fuel to reach this new reality.
With our LAUNCH 2013 Systems Challenge, I’m most excited about our potential to discover cool, futuristic multi-purpose synthetic or bio-synthetic, smart and/or self-healing materials, and technical fabrics with novel attributes that will enable makers (humans) to have access to the materials and data needed to make better choices for better lives.
Highest praise to Nike’s Santiago Gowland and his team for providing leadership for our LAUNCH shift toward systems thinking. Nike provided systems experience and research as the foundation for our new approach. The map below is just one glimpse of the work they’ve been doing with MIT to create a better understanding of the materials value chain.
As for the LAUNCH 2020 Summit, I have one word: WOW! The Nike team envisioned, produced, and magnificently hosted a gathering of system thought leaders to engage in the materials system, share expertise, and collaborate to bring about inspired solutions to intractable problems. I’m absolutely awed by Nike’s storytelling genius and professional muscle – crucial ingredients for the Summit’s success. They’re quite brilliant at leveraging the power of spoken word and compelling visuals. They created fabulous assets the LAUNCH team can use to help tell our story going forward, and inspired us to keep pushing through the pain – collaboration is quite messy, but WELL worth it! I’m honored to be part of the LAUNCH team and have the opportunity to take part in this process.
Nike, you guys ROCKet!! You’ve propelled us from a high school-level sports team to Olympic contenders – EXTREME performers of the magnificent kind!
Planetary CALL to ACTION: Earthlings, we need YOUR help. One of you has a mind-blowing solution to this challenge – one that we could never have imagined without you. Please apply! If, by chance, you’re not the one, but you know who is, please share the LAUNCH Systems Challenge with your innovation networks. We can’t succeed without you.
Remember, we’re in this journey together. Help us create a planet-friendly future.