Apollo 13 - Crisis, Innovation and Sensemaking

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


There can be few people that are unaware that Apollo 13 was on its way to the moon when an explosion caused several key systems to fail. Fortunately, the interlinked crises experienced by the Apollo 13 crew have been extensively documented. Using grounded theory techniques, we have analysed these rich data from an organisation development perspective and found that NASA’s ability to respond effectively was enabled by eight interdependent capabilities
that can be adopted by other organisations that need to be resilient in crisis situations. The distinctive capabilities are: (i) active role modelling of an engineering excellence ethos by the upper echelon, (ii) collective utilisation of standardised rigorous problem-solving methodologies, (iii) technology-enabled systemic situation awareness, (iv) extensive and forensic simulations of multiple contingencies; (v) clarity about decision ownership, (vi) aligned granular innovation capability, (vii) proof of the capability of individuals to be efficient and effective, despite adversity and (viii) a heedful group-mind.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe ISPIM Innovation Conference – Innovating in Times of Crisis
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020
EventXXXI ISPIM Innovation Conference: Innovating in times of Crisis - Virtual
Duration: 7 Jun 202010 Jun 2020


ConferenceXXXI ISPIM Innovation Conference
Abbreviated titleXXXI ISPIM
Internet address


  • Apollo 13
  • Crisis Readiness
  • Role Models
  • Organisational Agility
  • Group Mind
  • Heedful Sensemaking


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