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The University of Southampton
Southampton Business School

Lessons from a tragic disaster in space challenge business leaders

Published: 20 December 2017
Columbia Mission ELP event

Members of Southampton Business School’s Executive Learning Partnership (ELP) faced life or death decisions during their November workshop.

The delegates from major regional companies and organisations heard the inside story of how NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere in 2003, killing all seven astronauts. In groups, the business leaders went on to examine the actions of several senior managers at NASA before the disaster happened and tried to evaluate who was to blame.

“This is an authentic real-life exercise that completely absorbs the individuals who take part,” explains Southampton Business School Director of Enterprise Paul Bennett. “Emotions can run high during the day and many people tell me it is one of the most significant leadership workshops they’ve ever experienced.”

ELP Partner Andrew Tate from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) adds: “The Columbia case study allowed us to explore different management techniques in a totally new environment. It engaged our emotions and worked very well.”

NASA suspended space flight for more than two years as it investigated both the causes of the tragedy and the culture within the agency that contributed to the disaster; the space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011.

Click here to discover more about the ELP and what it can offer your organisation.

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