So far, 27 people were 300,000 km away – twelve of them were on foot and motorized on the moon. Survival was ensured by the Lunar Module and the A7L spacesuit (the seventh and fireproof version of the Pressure Suit Assembly (PSA) of the Apollo missions). In an environment that makes survival impossible without special equipment, people must carry all the necessities of life – the air to breathe, the mandatory pressure balance, air conditioning for the required temperature, supply, and disposal units, and all other necessary functions for the time when they cannot leave the suit. At the same time, freedom of movement, a panoramic view, and the exchange of data should be maintained. Even if business life does not seem so threatening to life, particular basic needs should also be ensured.
The workforce’s basic needs, including executives and business partners, imply the vital building blocks to survive in the VUCA world.
Sufficient resources to be able to work are essential. These consist of all supplies, such as capable and dedicated staff, knowledge accumulated over time, an up-to-date and sound infrastructure, and sufficient financial resources. As with A7L, survival is seriously threatened if vital resources are missing.
On the Moon, ALL crucial systems must be carried. Fortunately, they weigh only one sixth of the weight measured on earth. At the same time, maneuverability must be maintained. Just as a spacesuit restricts freedom of movement, bureaucracy limits in business. Myriads provide the necessary tools. If something fails, these employees provide an interim solution until everything is up and running again. The elbowroom is narrowed down by lavish procedures for their approval. This would be equivalent to a long, stiff cable that restricts range and maneuverability on the moon. In all cases, this makes tasks much more complicated.
To get an overview of the overall system, you need comprehensive monitoring. Apollo Mission Control included 20-30 experts in Houston and hundreds in the back office. Before powerful computers could take over these roles, employees had to observe and report individual sensors’ deviations. In the past, watchdogs took on the task of collecting measured values and summarizing them in reports. Today, networked IT systems pull data from databases and feed overviews and alerts. In any case, an essential basic need is the availability of data, at any time and ANY place.
- Communication channels
To enable all participants’ interaction, data regarding status, problems, ideas, solutions, and other impressions must be exchanged. Even with the Apollo program, voice and image data were exchanged along with a stream of automatically determined digital data. Today’s fast-moving business requires many short-term decisions, which can no longer be made with traditional reporting and decision-making channels. For this, the employees who make the decisions on site need a timely supply of data.
However, the best data supply is of no use if on-site decision making is NOT ALLOWED. In hierarchical companies, this is the default mode. Surprisingly, this is also true for companies that think of themselves as customer and employee focused. There is scope for decision-making with short reaction times when excessive reporting and decision-making channels are avoided. The management team does not practice micromanagement, and the acting employees have the necessary authorizations. If Neil Armstrong had not been allowed to take over the lunar module’s manual control, the Eagle would likely have crashed on the moon.
Bottom line: The essential needs of a company are indispensable for the continuance of the business. Just as the A7L ensures astronauts’ survival on the moon, similar building blocks must be provided in the enterprise. It needs the essential resources, without the restriction of movement, with the appropriate transparency, a trouble-free exchange of data, and, above all, sufficient authority for the acting people. Bureaucratic reporting and decision-making, a traditional leadership style, and corrupted resources by exaggerated stinginess further burden unsatisfying basic needs. If the A7l were in a comparable state, astronauts would not be conducting field missions on the moon or in space. In business, a few dedicated employees ensure that the survival of the company is not threatened. The A7L, with its life-supporting functions, is the ideal metaphor for basic needs.
Once data is regulated in a new way, the question is back: what is correct data? Some of it is already known, so that it does not have status of information anymore, since they do not provide anything new. Some are discredited as not true. The post-factual public questions everything and everyone nowadays. The original sense of facts (i.e. occurrences, actions, deeds) was derived in the 16th century from the Latin facere (i.e., make, do). Indignation spreads when facts are used by dissidents. They are quickly outlined as wrong and untrue. At the same time we have learned that there are different perspectives onto the world. Saint-Exupéry has described this with a drawing of an apparent hat. But what makes facts true?
In order to circumstantiates a thing, expressions are required that consist of texts, pictures, sounds and the like. But what are the elements that produce the impact of a fact?
- Paper doesn’t blush
A look into a printed matter or into a virtual publication generates awe of the published word. Many are missing the point that it could be a truly false statement. You can actually publish the biggest crap and still finding people, who believe it – be it a moon landing that should not have taken place; UFOs that kidnap people; or Pope Francis, who should have declared his support for Trump.
Printable things seem always to be true.
- Seeing is believing
The media has made such progress that you can create every conceivable circumstance by means of digital image processing. Since a picture says more than a thousand words and for many, seeing is believing, facts are being more and more created through manipulated pictures and films – be it the many political pictures from which unwanted comrades have been retouched; manipulated rocket launches; or mobile videos with posed scenes.
A picture is a representation of reality and therefore it’s true.
- Everyone has its right perspective
The point of view determines how pictures are put together and what ends up in the foreground and background. Eyewitnesses are also stuck in their perspective. As a result, a situation, besides the distortions in the memory, is perceived subjectively – be it the viewpoints of the cameramen and photographers; the eyewitnesses of the assassination attempt on John F. Kennedy; or the border conflicts on the Gaza Strip.
The truth lies in the eye of the beholder.
- Authorities can not be wrong
The reference to a historical personality unburdens the individual of the responsibility for assessing and valorizing the situation, although the listener does not necessarily understand what was meant originally. Even if on closer examination it turns out that the statement was made in a specific context in terms of time and content – be it the stock exchange speculator, who sometimes wins and sometimes loses a billion; the tech magnate, who determined that 640 KB of memory would be sufficient for the computer memory; or the car inventor, who limited the worldwide demand for cars to one million due to the lack of chauffeurs.
Why should you burden yourself with an assessment, if an expert knows better.
- That’s what everybody does
What’s really scary is the fact that we tend to believe what many believe to be true. This so-called group thinking distorts the personal rating till unrecognizability. After a certain time, the same individuals ask themselves how they could believe it – whether it was the mass panic that triggered a radio play in 1938 in the USA; herd-like investment in insurance; or sticking to the routine in the face of an exploding reactor in Japan.
Following in the footsteps of others creates security and the crowd cannot be wrong.
- The wording produces new old
The meaning depends on the words with which the circumstances are expressed. At the same time, new words can make old facts appear in a new light. Be it the action-charged concept of movement, behind which political parties’ hide by suggesting that they do not have yet encrusted structures; the fake news, which suggest that alternative facts are wrong; or the avoidance of stigma words while maintaining racist behavior.
A word means what the public means by it.
- Interpretation – the step to new things of action
The fact of matter becomes true when it is loaded with old aspects and finally uttered. The act of publication in the form of speeches, presentations or any other types of publication creates new facts. Fact check or not. In the end, do not trust statistics that you did not fake yourself.
Facts of matter also result from accepted truths plus the own conclusions.
Bottom line: For thousands of years, philosophy has been struggling to find out what is true. Be it the shadows in Plato’s cave or the luminaries of today’s media. What is real and what we can perceive remains unclear for the time being. As a result, all sorts of seducers try to take sovereignty over truth. This applies to conspiracy theorists, fake news but also for the so-called official media. Who sees the hat, is right and who sees the elephant, is right and who sees the snake, is also right … The crucial question is what we make out of these facts and whether we can stick to it ethically.