Where Are the Innovators When You Need Them?

Where Are the Innovators When You Need Them?

Gene Kranz
Yesterday, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped below 7,000, I took a deep breath and wondered "is America caught in an endless downward economic spiral?" It was a dark thought. And a brief thought. And you'll never believe what lifted my spirits.

While channel surfing (on traditional cable TV...) last night, I stumbled onto "Apollo 13" -- one of my favorite movies. But more importantly, it's one of my favorite stories about focused innovators overcoming extremely long odds.

Imagine being in space -- 200,000 miles (322,000 kilometers) from earth -- and your ship is bleeding to death as it speeds toward the moon. Even if you could turn the ship around, all of your indicators show you won't have enough resources -- fuel, oxygen and computing power -- to make it all the way home.

President Nixon, We Need Your Help

Now, imagine if NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz (pictured) had dialed President Nixon and Congress for advice on how to save the Apollo 13 crew. And imagine if NASA started handing out large bonuses to staff for hard work during an incomplete mission where lives hung in the balance.

As I watched the movie unfold, it put our everyday economic challenges in perspective. Throwing money at problems often isn't the solution. True innovation -- from large, nimble companies and small, hungry start-ups -- will pull the US and other countries out of this economic mess. Led by innovators, the turnaround is coming. I just wish I knew when.

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