Want stratospheric success? Look beyond your own worldview

Current physician and former NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski knows a thing or two about out-of-this-world success.

Scott Parazynski: I guess the best advice that I could give to creating really successful teams is to constitute them with people that don’t think like you, don’t look like you, don’t come from the same place as you, have different educational backgrounds, different cultures.
The more diversity we can create in a team the better, because you don’t really know where your blind spots are.
So that’s one of the most successful strategies that I’ve used and I would recommend to you.

Situationally appropriate leadership is kind of the mainstay of the success that I’ve seen on all of my space shuttle missions. It’s not always the person that has the title that has the knowledge or the situational awareness to make the critical decision.

Many times in a normal flow of activities you can work by consensus, but there are times when a leader has to lead, and it may not be the person who is designated the commander. It may be the person who has the deepest systems knowledge, it may be the rookie astronaut who has the knowledge or the insight or even just an orthogonal view that everybody else—because they have tunnel vision from their years of experience—that they could not see.

We don’t know what we don’t know, and so I’ve often asked, after working with a team for a while, “How is it going? Am I saying too much, too little? Is the creative spirit of the team working?” And I’ve gotten actually really good feedback in the past, and early on in my career actually I was told, “You really need to talk less.” And actually I paraphrased it—and I discussed in my book—“You need to shut up more,” and that’s a hard thing to hear. But as someone who wants to get the best out of his or her team you really need to listen to everybody around the table, and even if you have “the right answer” immediately sometimes it’s good to sit back and let the junior people speak and really take turns.

Another thing that we’re now spending more time thinking about is the cross-cultural issues. The space program is no longer a U.S.- or a Russian-only domain, but it’s mixing in many cultures, European, Japanese—you have Canadian astronauts and of course Russian cosmonauts flying with us, and there will be other nations flying aboard the International Space Station in the future as well.
So really having a sensitivity, an understanding of those intercultural kinds of issues is really important.

I’ve seen this in other aspects of my life as well. I actually worked as a Chief Technology Officer at a major medical research institute and I created these innovation teams that were comprised of not just physicians and traditional engineers but nurses and respiratory technologists and physical therapists and even lawyers and business people, people that don’t necessarily think alike, but it was really fascinating to see the people that came up with these really wonderful ideas.

Oftentimes it was the nurses who came up with the best ideas. They’re on the front lines of medicine and they see the things that are going well in healthcare and the things that aren’t. They come up with these jerry-rigged innovations that turn out to be really, really useful in patient care. I always place great value in creating multidisciplinary teams and really try and focus on empowering situationally appropriate leadership.

Current physician and former NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski knows a thing or two about out-of-this-world success. He knows that, most of all, that working with people that differ from you can open you up to new ideas. And new paths forward. Scott's latest book is The Sky Below: A True Story of Summits, Space, and Speed, and he is brought to you today by Amway. Amway believes that ​diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance.

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Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
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Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

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Experts are already predicting an 'active' 2020 hurricane season

It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

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  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

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