NASA’s Dr Christyl Johnson has told a Sydney audience of startups, investors and innovators about the power of diversity in innovation, sharing why it will be key to space exploration and ultimately the future of the planet.
Noting NASA’s ambitions to get the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024 — and later to Mars — she discussed some of the essential areas they will need help with, during her keynote at StartCon today, as well as why they will be searching for a diverse range of ideas and the role Australians can play.
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Johnson is NASA’s deputy director for technology and research investments. She’s previously served in the White House under the President’s science adviser and is known as one of the world’s foremost experts on space travel.
“The best way for us to innovate is to get anybody and everybody to the table,” she told the audience. “Find someone who is not in your field.
“When you have people who look alike, who have the same background experience, who hang out after work, they start thinking alike.
“When you get to decision velocity, you should have a red flag on.
“If everyone is thinking the same way, you have to think ‘wait a minute, let’s think about this from a different perspective’.”
She shared how when working with the White House during the BP spill, President Obama was wanted to bring in outside people and technologies. When they did, they were able to make significant progress on getting the spill cleaned up.
Johnson said those in the room today could play a significant role in the future of space exploration and urged everyone to consider how the skills they have and innovations they are pursuing could help.
Some of the skills and solutions needed, she said, include mining expertise for working in extreme terrains, along with agriculture expertise for growing food in challenging environments, internet of thing technologies, big data analytics skills given the huge volume of data that will be generated, AI and machine learning, robotics and cyber security solutions.
Johnson followed an earlier session by Malcolm Turnbull, who spoke about the need for diversity in politics as well as to get more women pursuing careers in STEM.
Earlier this week, Johnson shared a stage with Megan Clark, head of the Australian Space Agency.
— Australian Space Agency (@AusSpaceAgency) November 20, 2019