Ever wondered how to make your office a more inspiring and productive workplace? Just add a spaceship! Ok, this may not be a feasible option for most companies but it works great for our team at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company (TSC).
In the western tip of California’s Mojave Desert you will find Mojave Air and Space Port where TSC operates throughout several buildings located in Mojave, California. The Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hangar, or FAITH, has an energy that is different from anything I had experienced at previous jobs.
Instead of seven foot cubicle walls that create silos for creativity and knowledge you are greeted by an open work space where executives, managers, engineers, crew chiefs, technicians, business and administrative support along with many others were coming together to create clusters of collaboration.
The workspace promotes what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to as "a state of flow". This mental state takes place when individuals are experiencing extreme focus and energy while performing an activity.
One important component that supports flow is work that is both challenging and attainable. If a task is too easy an individual will find themselves bored but if that individual doesn’t have the resources needed to complete the task they become discouraged. By creating propinquity, our work space in FAITH brings together a diverse set of individuals each with different experiences and skill sets. This community creates the opportunity for team discussions and encourages the spread of ideas and knowledge that can be leveraged to break through roadblocks allowing challenging work to be motivating and attainable.
Sharing your space with others also allows for more efficient communication across departments and teams. An example of a recent task at TSC was designing a data plate for VSS Unity which would allow the FAA to identify the vehicle. I was ready and excited to design the layout but needed to identify exactly what information was required by the FAA and how to display it. I was able to walk across the hangar and in minutes I had received all of the requirements from our Quality and Regulatory Manager. Next I had to figure out the size and material requirements to ensure proper installation to the vehicle. A couple of steps from my desk was the Crew Chief who oversees all work performed on the vehicle. He was able to take me directly to the vehicle and give me a detailed explanation of how the data plate would be installed and what the size and material requirements were. By eliminating unnecessary work, such as sending emails to overpopulated inboxes, we are able to narrow our focus to more significant tasks which promotes a constant state of flow. The removal of these types of distractions allows for total immersion into our greater goals.
At FAITH, inspiration can stem from a number of experiences such as: witnessing an ideation session next to VSS Unity; watching the excitement of a new hire when they realise their new desk is next to a spaceship; watching spaceship deploy its innovative feathering reentry technology; turning FAITH into a summer concert setting and watching a band perform or simply walking by the simulator and witnessing the pilots train and prepare for the next flight.
Inspiration for me, also comes from meeting our Future Astronauts and listening to their experiences and passions that led them to fly with us. These unique opportunities always provide a new perspective on the importance of opening space to the rest of the world.
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