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Critical Knowledge inSight: Culture of Innovation

Pat Simpkins

Creativity and innovation are at the heart of NASA work. NASA focuses on researching and developing technologies, which improve aviation, enable space exploration and further science.  Making advancements in these areas requires technical knowledge and creative and innovative thinking to generate new solutions.

Practitioners may be more motivated to think outside of the box when there’s little risk in doing so. Employees that feel empowered in their work to contribute new ideas, will continue to think outside of the box, and will help an innovative culture to flourish. Leaders and managers have a big impact on creating a culture of innovation.

Pat Simpkins, Engineering Director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, describes in the video an example of a culture that is open to listening to new ideas. A culture focused on looking at new ideas is important for fostering innovation at NASA.



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      Be open to new ideas and create an environment that allows people to feel open to bringing their new ideas to the forefront.Create comfortable settings for people to share new ideas.Leaders and fellow employees need to at least get different ideas heard. Make sure to celebrate when a new idea is implemented and promote it across NASA.


Embedding innovation into NASA’s culture requires a workforce that encourages and values new ideas. The NASA workforce could insist that new ideas at least get a chance to be heard and then put a spotlight on any new ideas that are implemented. A spotlight on new, successful ideas would create an environment that would always be looking for new innovative solutions and make people feel comfortable to offer their own unique ideas.

Related Resources

Critical Knowledge Gateway Videos on Innovation

Human Spaceflight Knowledge Sharing: Innovation at NASA

Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation

NASA APPEL Creativity and Innovation Course


NASA APPEL ASK Magazine articles on innovation:

Back to the Future:  KSC Swamp Works

Spaceport Innovators: Knowledge Sharing as the Gateway to Innovation

Solving Challenges through Mass Collaboration

The Freedom to Learn



Critical Knowledge inSight is a new series of articles highlighting information to help practitioners identify and overcome obstacles that interfere with mission success. Each article focuses on a critical knowledge topic and features knowledge insight through a short video clip with subject matter experts sharing information needed to solve problems and drive innovation. Articles include a brief summary of key learning points gleaned from the expert’s insight along with related resources, such as case studies, courses and lessons learned, to further explore the topic and provide you with quick-hitting, targeted learning to enhance your knowledge base.

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