Culture Clash: Failure is not an option vs. Fail early and fail often


Wednesday, April 3, 2019, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Darman Room (Harvard Kennedy School, Taubman 135)


Ellen OchoaIn high-risk environments like air and space travel, anything short of perfection can have dire consequences. Even lower stakes settings—from a government office to a science lab—can feel like pressure cookers. Yet successful and innovative outcomes are often the product of failures that occur through iterating and inventing new solutions. Is it possible to balance a “Failure is not an option” culture with a “Fail early and fail often” mindset? What can we learn from the two?


CPL Hauser Visiting Leader Dr. Ellen Ochoa, veteran astronaut and the 11th director of Johnson Space Center will join moderator Brittany Butler, Executive Director of the Social Innovation + Change Initiative to discuss what it takes to build a culture where averting and embracing failure allow innovation to flourish while achieving high-quality results.




This event is free and open to the public. For those who can't make it in person, join us on Facebook live


Ellen Ochoa is an outside director and speaker, following her 30-year career at NASA as a senior government executive, astronaut and engineer.  She was the Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center from 2013 to 2018, leading the human space flight enterprise for the nation.  She became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1993. She has flown in space four times, logging nearly 1,000 hours, leading onboard scientific activities, operating the robotic arm, and serving as flight engineer during the launch, rendezvous, and entry phases of the mission. She has shared her experiences in more than 300 presentations to a variety of audiences.  She is honored to have six schools named after her, several books written about her for the K-8 grades and has been profiled in textbooks and on websites geared toward encouraging females and minorities to pursue technical fields.

Dr. Ochoa provides executive guidance to a variety of organizations.  She is the Vice Chair of the National Science Board and chairs the Nomination Evaluation Committee of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.  She is on the boards of Service Corporation International, Mutual of America and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.  Previously, she served on the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas board (after chairing the Houston branch board), the Stanford University Board of Trustees and the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation, Inc.

Dr. Ochoa is the recipient of many awards including NASA's highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Presidential Distinguished Rank of the Senior Executive Service, and three honorary doctorates.  She is in the Astronaut Hall of Fame, the California Hall of Fame and the International Air & Space Hall of Fame and is honored to have six school named after her.

Prior to her astronaut and management career, Dr. Ochoa was a research engineer and holds three patents for optical systems. She earned a Ph.D. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford, and a B.S. in Physics from San Diego State University.  She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), and the Optical Society of America (OSA).