The other day, we shared a fascinating article on Twitter about the Mars rover Curiosity and one of its top missions: drilling a bunch of holes into the surface of the red planet. It may not sound all that significant at first, but each and every one of these drillholes provides a new sample for analysis, offering geological insights into a planet where we can still only dream of setting foot ourselves.
After a brief, albeit very detailed, daydream about being on Mars and also having a jetpack, I got to thinking about some of the similarities between Curiosity's mission and the awesome work we do building custom e-learning for a huge variety of content and skill areas. Maybe, in some ways, we're not so different from that little rover out in Gale Crater.
1. YOU NEED A STRONG PLAN FROM THE START
Before Curiosity drilled its holes on Mars, guess what it did first? Drilled "pre-holes." Isn't that great? You know what a pre-hole is? It's just a hole! But it's what Curiosity started out doing, as a test for the larger mission. Digging small test holes helped the rover ensure that its drills and sensors were functioning properly and that the resulting powder would indeed be suitable for its onboard analysis systems. It's not exactly the most exhilarating part of the project, but it's so crucial, the whole mission would fall apart without it.
By the same token, our projects all rely on this important step of defining your success. Getting key stakeholders together at the very outset of a project is essential to make sure everyone is aligned to the same vision and dedicated to realizing it together. These exploratory conversations use the resources already in place to make foundational decisions and ensure that goals are clearly laid out. They don't just tell us where a project is going--they put us on the road to getting there.
2. PREPARE FOR THE WORST AND KNOW HOW TO AVOID IT
Curiosity almost ran into trouble on a certain rock, the awesomely named Bonanza King. While performing the initial drill test, onboard software detected an instability in the rock. This told Curiosity the rock was unsuitable for analysis, and Curiosity moved on. This might seem tiny, but it's huge. If Curiosity weren't designed to recognize and avoid just this kind of situation, it would lead to wasted time, energy, and resources. For a robot performing its mission 34 million miles from home, every second counts.
So, okay. The e-learning development process takes place entirely on Earth, but we still place a lot of value on the same idea: Proactive management of development issues prevents major setbacks. That's why we think it's so important to maintain an open dialogue early on and always avoid poisonous arguments. By talking frankly about expectations and ironing out some big issues early on, you can keep your project running smoothly. When you've got a strong plan, you can spot these snags from far out and keep them from slowing down your project.
3. EVERY NEW EFFORT LEADS TO NEW DISCOVERIES
Some drill sites revealed surprisingly high levels of silica, other sites showed evidence of acidic leaching, and yet others had traces of jarosite. I couldn't possibly tell you what jarosite is, but it might not have been detected if Curiosity didn't dig exactly where it did. Each little drill site has slightly different results, peculiarities specific to the exact placement and geological history of that very spot.
It's a strong argument not to take anything for granted. Sure, maybe you've worked on something incredibly similar before, but no project can thrive on old tricks. We pride ourselves on using expertise and a killer toolbox to drive new discoveries and create something truly innovative and custom to the needs at hand.
4. AT THE END OF THE DAY, IT'S REALLY COOL
There's no two ways about it. Whether it's a high-tech mission to Mars, or a fully immersive gamified training experience, there's virtually no limit to what that can be accomplished when talented, passionate people put their heads together and create something incredible. When you work with dedication and care, you can create the coolest stuff on the planet. Well, this one, anyway.