Tag Archives: Star Trek

LAUNCH Borg: Collective Genius

“Resistance is futile!” The Borg, Star Trek Next Generation

We are the LAUNCH Borg, the Collective Genius for a Better World. For all you Trekkies out there, you know what I’m talking about. For those of you non-Trekkies, the Borg is a fictional collective of multiple species connected together by a “hive mind.”

Star Trek Captain Jean-Luc Picard as Borg

Star Trek Captain Jean-Luc Picard as Borg

In Star Trek Next Generation, the Borg assimilated populations by force, absorbing their collective intelligence. At LAUNCH, we have no need for force. Folks come to us by choice to participate as innovators, LAUNCH Council, and non-traditional partners. We assimilate ideas and expertise through associations within our extended network — the collective genius (think hive mind) — in order to support transformative innovations and propel them into the world to solve intractable problems.

Astronaut Ron Garan sharing orbital perspective at LAUNCH: Beyond Waste forum

Astronaut Ron Garan sharing orbital perspective at LAUNCH: Beyond Waste forum

We concluded the LAUNCH: Beyond Waste forum last weekend at the Jet Propulsion Lab in California. I’m still processing all the conversations (as well as pictures) from the event. I came away energized and renewed. LAUNCH is a brain feast for me — an opportunity to talk about what if, and why not, and let’s do it. New ideas bubble up and collaborations are born. The atmosphere of generosity by all the participants is, quite frankly, humbling. One of our new LAUNCH team members from NIKE told me LAUNCH filled him with hope for the future. And that’s what it’s all about.

Together, we can make a difference!

Impact rotations at LAUNCH: Beyond Waste forum

Impact rotations at LAUNCH: Beyond Waste forum

We asked our LAUNCH Council and Innovators to provide feedback on their experience at the conclusion of  the LAUNCH: Beyond Waste forum. Here are a few quotes:

  • “LAUNCH plays an important role in society”
  • “best investment of time to connect with future collaborators, best example of true collaboration, inspiring to be a part of selfless, genuine desire to help launch these ideas and change the world”
  • “this is the most work fun I’ve had in YEARS!”
  • “intense and rejuvenating”
  • “inspiring, creative, bold with the potential for real impact”
  • “energizing, optimism, game changing things for the world”
  • “amazing brain food” 
  • “the most transformative and impactful weekend”
  •  “phenomenal, soul food, humbling”
  •  “youthful enthusiasm matched with high intellect and professionalism–usually one gets two out of these three”
  •  “the conference for a new millennium”
  • “one of the highlights of my life and career so far”

I’m so thrilled to be a part of LAUNCH. Not only can we promote innovative solutions for the problems facing humanity, we can offer our NASA problem-solving expertise and potentially pick up unexpected solutions to long-duration human space challenges. We have an opportunity to demonstrate the relevance between the extreme environment of space and constrained resources on Earth, while creating new ways of conducting public-private partnerships that other government agencies can follow.

Cool story: One of our LAUNCH partners told me that when asked by the airport customs official why he was coming to the US from Indonesia, he told him all about LAUNCH and how NASA’s challenges in the extreme environment of space mirror our struggle with extreme resource constraints on Earth. Score! He’s telling our relevance story for us. Such a fab validation for non-traditional outreach approaches, like LAUNCH. His circle of influence is outside any we could touch through our normal space network.

LAUNCH Panorama of Beyond Waste forum

LAUNCH Panorama of Beyond Waste forum

The quote below from Nader Khalili really put LAUNCH in perspective for me.

“My quests became more meaningful when my goals met with others’ needs and goals. And I became more important, in my own heart, only when I reached the others, as a drop of water becomes important only when it reaches the sea.” Nader Khalili, Racing Alone

The nine innovators associated with LAUNCH: Beyond Waste are but a drop of water. But, when connected to the sea of resources through the LAUNCH collective genius, the innovations collectively expand their potential impact toward solving the problems of humans living sustainably within constrained and finite resources available on (and off) this planet.

LAUNCH: Collective Genius for a Better World — or — LAUNCH: Better than Borg! 😉


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LAUNCH: Culture of Collaboration

My NASA colleague Diane Powell and I spoke to the DC campus of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology about the collaborative principles of LAUNCH. LAUNCH is a public/private partnership with USAID, State Department, and NIKE. The PhD students, including my daughter Steph, are exploring ways to collaborate with international organizations in culturally sensitive ways. They wanted to learn two things from the LAUNCH experience: how does collaboration work, and how do we address international and cultural differences to get the best results.

Diane gave an overview of LAUNCH as a program. I talked about the culture of collaboration, based on our experiences creating and managing LAUNCH.

Key takeaway: Collaboration is messy. 

But well worth it, in my estimation. Anyone interested in engaging in a collaborative enterprise, of any kind, should assume a bit of craziness. To expect otherwise might lead to disappointment. In other words, we should be realistic in our expectations of fellow collaborators. After all, we humans see the world differently. And that’s ok. That’s what makes the human experience so rich…and complicated. Here are a few observations about why collaboration may require us to step outside our comfort zone.

Barriers to Collaboration:

  • We don’t speak the same language — whether English, Russian, Afrikaans; rules-oriented vs. free-spirited; public sector, private industry, NGO or faith-based.
  • We don’t share the same work ethic — good enough vs. perfection…or somewhere in between.
  • We don’t look the same — clean cut or eclectic; round or square; purple, green, or polkadot.
  • We don’t share the same values or focus — public good or profit; community, state, national interest; childhood or adult issues; male or female-oriented.
  • We prefer different styles of authority — collegial, authoritarian, dictatorial.
  • We often assess motives of others based on our own assumptions or experiences.

You get the picture. We all approach issues, problems, solutions from our own unique perspective. Valuing different perspectives helps foster a collaborative frame of mind.

Western solutions to the world’s problems:

The PhD students are assessing how to appropriately apply western approaches to international professional psychology. From my perspective, the “do no harm” Star Trek Prime Directive may be relevant for the discussion.

Star Trek Enterprise

Star Trek Enterprise

Jean-Luc Picard

Jean-Luc Picard

“The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules. It is a philosophy, and a very correct one. History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous.”—Jean-Luc Picard, Symbiosis

At our LAUNCH: Big Think, I was chatting with Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez, CEO, Goodwill Industries San Francisco. We talked about how “helping” organizations are accused of disrupting traditional cultures and communities. Her response:

“We live in an ever-evolving cultural eco-system.”

Her point is that we can’t stop helping less fortunate individuals and communities for fear we might introduce disruption. In fact, we want to interrupt the downward spiral. The good news: new businesses grow up around change. Those who don’t change with the needs of society die off. Just look at Kodak, for example. Digital film left the company in the past.

Any change we introduce into a cultural eco-system will alter the flow. We can’t expect the world to stay the same. LAUNCH is all about disruptive innovation to bring about solutions to the world’s most intractable sustainability problems. But, in order to avoid Sociologist Robert Merton’s Law of Unintended Consequences, we need to look at downstream consequences – not just point-of-disruption solutions — to understand the full impact of any change we introduce.

Here are a few tips on how to affect positive change in a culturally sensitive way.

  1. Askwhat are the issues, needs, barriers; how can we help.
  2. Absorb listen and hear objectively, remove personal filters from what we think the issues are.
  3. Adapt find creative ways to apply “our” solutions to their needs.
  4. Adopt success means the end user takes ownership, internalizes solutions.

End goal: Learn to be culturally relevant so that our innovative solutions take root in society. If we do it right, we can all…

Star Trek: Spock

Star Trek: Spock

…“Live Long and Prosper”


Filed under culture, innovation, LAUNCH, social entrepreneurship

South Africa: Creatures Large and Small

South Africa is home to many exotic creatures. Some are amazingly beautiful and others quite ugly — yet all are majestic, intriguing and fabulous in their natural habitat. I wanted to share a few pictures with you from our trip.

The zebras amaze me. I can’t get enough of them. Each one looks like a painting.

Zebra: South Africa Pilanesberg Game Reserve

The giraffes seem so awkward, yet so compelling. The elephants so ancient, yet agile. They can run faster than a car — especially the rental car we had. Our little rental car could barely make it up a hill. That’s why we moved out quickly when the elephant (below) started flapping his ears and moving toward us. I wanted a head start in case he decided to give us a scare.

Charging Elephant: Pilanesberg Game Reserve

The Wildebeest remind me of Klingons. You Star Trek fans know what I’m talking about.

Wildebeest Looks Like WorfWe missed seeing the lions at Pilanesberg Game Reserve, so we visited a Lion Park to pet the lion cubs. I had visions of holding the cute little darlings in my lap. That’s not exactly how it went down. The cubs were quite cranky by the time we got our turn inside the cage to pet them. They fussed and paced. We chased them around for the elusive snuggle time. Hey, we tried.

Lion Park Cubs

A highlight of the trip: Seeing South African penguins up close and personal, not once but twice. We saw them at the Penguin Colony in Simon Town and also at Robben Island. I’m quite taken with the little tuxedo-creatures. So much poise. So much character. They’re simply adorable. And they mate for life. How cute is that?

Penguins: Simon Town

Come with me on a visual stroll through my virtual zoo.

I’ve also thrown in some pics of the Bethany House animals — hog, turkeys, chicks — and some geese we encountered at a local shopping mall. 

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After spending time out in the countryside in South Africa (which, BTW, reminds me SO MUCH of Texas), it’s hard to conceive how society “progressed” from living off the land with caves as shelter and wild berry snacks to wifi-wired life with computers, cubicle farms and vending machines. Yes, I’m addicted to wifi and comfy beds, but I long for more time in nature away from traffic and deadlines.

Someday. But, for now, I’ll enjoy trips to visit Steph in South Africa.

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Filed under Africa, Bethany House Trust