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064: Moving Beyond Your Mistakes with a NASA Expert

Posted By Digital Enterprise Society, Wednesday, August 5, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, August 4, 2020

064: Moving Beyond Your Mistakes with a NASA Expert


On today’s episode, Thom shares an interview he conducted on “The Webinar Talk Show Podcast”, in which he and co-host Eliz Greene interviewed Mike Ciannilli, the head of NASA’s EDGE Apollo, Challenger, Columbia Lessons Learned project.  This project explores what can be learned and what can be avoided from the tragedy of space disasters. Mike understands the importance of recognizing our mistakes, being open and transparent about them, and learning from them in order to create a more successful future.  He shares the importance of embracing the diversity of dissenting opinions in order to produce the best possible outcome on any project, and highlights some of the lessons you take away from the chaos and change that has been forced upon all of us in today’s COVID-19 world.  

On today’s podcast, you will learn:

The value of learning from your mistakes 

  • NASA has done a lot of things right over the last 6 decades, but the times they missed the mark are the lessons that they need to learn from most.

  • Study and understand your history and the reasons that certain decisions were made. 

  • Pinpoint the good and the bad, and then choose which one you want to repeat.

Lessons learned from the Columbia disaster

  • Rocket science is the easy part of a NASA project, communicating with people is the harder but most essential part of the success of any project. 

  • Learn to be a better listener to decrease the likelihood of miscommunication among team members. 

  • Over time people can be conditioned to ignore small changes, so be wary of the human ability to be conditioned to accept negative changes. 

  • Be vigilant in keeping up the habits that matter most every day. 

  • Understand your audience so that you can communicate effectively with them. 

The critical role of diversity in your organization 

  • Encouraging diversity of dissenting opinions is a critical component to the success of every team and project. 

  • Allowing team members to share different opinions or possible solutions will produce better results for everyone.

  • Apollo 13 proves that every idea has the potential to save the day. 

  • The ability to problem solve is at the heart of NASA’s success. 

Advice from a NASA expert

  • Every person on your team is built with the DNA to do amazing things. 

  • Be aware of the traps that we all fall into of not listening or considering different ideas.

  • Keep learning everything you can and bring your A-game to work every single day. 

  • Build a strong network of relationships with your team members. 

Overcoming the chaos and change of COVID-19

  • Identify what you can learn from the losses you are experiencing. 

  • Don’t disregard the difficulty of now, but also don’t lose out on the lessons that could save the day in the future.

  • Find the rays of sunshine that will help you do better and be better. 

  • Ask yourself what is around the next corner that will make the future better than today. 

Do you have an example of extraordinary efforts or innovation during these unprecedented times? We would love to hear your story and possibly interview you for an upcoming episode. Please reach out to us at


The Webinar Talk Show Podcast



Michael Ciannilli is the NASA’s manager of the Apollo, Challenger, Columbia Lessons Learned Program. He assumed this role in 2016, and is responsible for innovatively and effectively sharing the lessons of the past to help ensure future success.  As manager of this agency level program, Ciannilli oversees the Columbia Research and Preservation Office, which preserves all Columbia artifacts.  In addition, he gives lessons learned tours for NASA engineers, scientists, interns, executives, commercial partners, and others. During these tours, he uses the stories of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia to share what has been learned from these past mishaps to prevent recurrence in future missions. 

Prior to his work with the NASA EDGE program Michael was a NASA Test Director at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In this role he oversaw the processing and checkout of the Space Shuttle from landing thru launch, including leading the entire launch team through launch countdown operations. During the Space Shuttle Program, Mike was also a Landing Recovery Director and was responsible for ensuring the readiness of the ground teams for landing operations. In this capacity, he was responsible to lead emergency management and recovery operations in the event of a launch or entry accident. Before joining NASA, Mike began his space program career as a member of the United Space Alliance team as a Fuel Cell Systems Engineer. He also served as a Test Project Engineer and Orbiter Processing Engineer with the responsibility of leading the engineering teams for vehicle and ground systems during processing and launch countdown. Ciannilli was also the Launch Countdown Simulation Lead, responsible for designing, conducting and leading the launch team through numerous countdown simulations. Mike attended the Florida Institute of Technology and received a degree in Space Science.


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