AMU APU Business Original Space

7 Business Lessons We Can Learn from the Race to Space

By Dr. Kandis Y. Wyatt, PMP
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics

The year 2021 highlighted a race to space between three billionaires: Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. All three did what many people have only dreamed of: the commercial use of space.

They successfully transported humans to the edge of space while the world watched. There is renewed interest in space, and we have these three businessmen to thank for it.

Understandably, all three billionaires had considerable financial resources. Elon Musk is the manufacturer of Tesla autos and is the founder of the SpaceX Corporation. Sir Richard Branson is the creator of Virgin Air and Virgin Galactic, among other companies. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the owner of Blue Origin.

But how were Branson, Bezos and Musk able to accomplish sending people into space? There are seven important business lessons we can learn from all of them.

Business Lesson #1: Believe in Yourself

Throughout their careers, each of these three billionaires have been fearless. Believing in yourself, even when others don’t, is critical for success. This attitude is crucial for anyone pursuing a dream.

Scientists have been labeled as radicals when they introduce a new concept or theory that is contrary to prevailing thought. Likewise, these three business-minded billionaires were labeled as out of touch and lacking knowledge. They were ignored and even gaslighted until they produced verifiable results.

Sometimes we are our worst critic. We limit our own capabilities by doubting our potential achievements and listening to other critics more than we listen to ourselves. It has been scientifically proven that you cannot fear something and have faith simultaneously; fear and faith cannot occupy the same space. So positive thinking can have an impact on your future aspirations.

“When you’re fearless, you take more risks because you’re less conscious of failure or what can go wrong.”–Brett Ratner

Business Lesson #2: Think Outside the Box

Musk, Branson and Bezos think outside the box. They use creative thinking to drive ingenuity and create new ideas; as a result, they developed three different ways to explore space.

Each of them was business-minded, not science-minded. By looking at the race to space from a different perspective, they bypassed traditional space transport ideologies. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Take the time to dream the impossible dream.

Business Lesson #3: Use Your Own Funding

The space flights of Musk, Branson and Bezos were self-funded. In most cases, business owners who are self-funded have more freedom than those who need to answer to a financial backer. While most start-ups and mom-and-pop businesses are credited with having the most innovative and trendsetting ideas, they are also credited with having more projects that do not mature to fruition due to a lack of resources and funding.

Finding funding to support a multi-billion-dollar effort is usually limited to donations, crowdfunding, grants, and investors, resulting in different pros and cons. Bezos, Branson and Musk all own large companies with a board of directors, so if their efforts were not in conjunction with their companies, that would have delayed the process.

As a result, each created a separate company to advance the space industry and largely used their personal funds to launch their endeavors. This tactic speaks to the power of self-funding your future efforts.

Related link: Entrepreneurship: How to Plan a Career As Your Own Boss

Business Lesson #4: Competition Breeds Creativity

Competition breeds creativity. The adage “Iron sharpens iron” highlights the need to surround yourself with people who  will challenge you and make you strive for success.

In other words, the right amount of competition can actually spark more creative ideas. Aha! CEO Brian de Haaff explains that business creativity includes:

  • Identifying the goal
  • Defining new ideas in private until they are ready for prime time
  • Practicing creativity daily
  • Striving to do better every day
  • Enjoying the process 

Business Lesson #5: Diversity Is Critical to Success

Diversity is critical to achieving business success. Many times, we think of diversity in terms of what we can see, such as gender, age and race.

But there is a special added benefit to having a diversity of personal backgrounds, geographic backgrounds, opinions, education and experience in business endeavors. Equal representation helps generate ideas from a multitude of vantage points.

Each billionaire employed a variety of national and international experts to contribute to the effort of building a spacecraft, launching it, and ensuring that it successfully returned humans from space. The crew for each mission was also diverse: one was the first African American female spacecraft pilot, another was a cancer survivor and the third was the world’s oldest space traveler. This use of various experts and crews speaks to the diversity of future enthusiasts who are interested in space.

Related link: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in Workplaces

Business Lesson #6: Failure Isn’t Fatal

Branson, Bezos, and Musk all documented their failures and setbacks with the race to space. Failure has some lessons in it that can’t be ignored. But instead of stopping or quitting when you fail, failure can be beneficial if it redirects you and puts you on the path to success.

In other words, your true skill is realized when you push through your failures toward success. Take each failure as a learning experience, not a reason to stop pursuing your goal.

Business Lesson #7: Celebrate Your Success and Offer Support to Others

As in every business, it’s important to celebrate milestones along the way toward achieving your goal. The little wins are just as important as the big wins, and ongoing support by both team members and adversaries can be beneficial.

One of the greatest aspects of the race to space was the support that each billionaire gave to the others. Musk reportedly purchased a ticket to fly on a future Virgin Galactic flight at a cost of $250,000.

The Future of the Race to Space

So what will 2022 bring for the race to space? It is very interesting that the future of space will require experience from a variety of backgrounds, such as business, space operations, education, cybersecurity, intelligence, law, ethics, technology, engineering, and astrophysics.

Many space enthusiasts are interested in becoming a part of the groundbreaking group that makes commercial travel a reality. If you are interested in learning more about space, the University offers a variety of space studies degrees and certificates.

Dr. Kandis Y. Wyatt, PMP, is an award-winning author, presenter, and professor with nearly 30 years of experience in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). She is the creator of the Professor S.T.E.A.M. Children’s Book Series, which brings tomorrow’s concepts to future leaders today. A global speaker, STE(A)M advocate, and STE(A)M communicator, she holds a B.S. in Meteorology and an M.S. in Meteorology and Water Resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in Public Administration from Nova Southeastern University. She is a faculty member in Transportation and Logistics for the Wallace E. Boston School of Business and specializes in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in transportation, education, and technology.

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