Tim Chrisman Promotes Generating a Space Infrastructure That Supports Economic Growth on Earth
Tim Chrisman is the Executive Director at Foundation For The Future, a scientific education and public works advocacy group dedicated to the creation of a public-private space infrastructure partnership to make space accessible to all. One of its goals is to create sustainable space infrastructure that supports economic growth on Earth,.
What is your overall philosophy for leading an organization?
Lead from the front, listen from the back. Truly leading an organization means you have to know and be known by that group of people. To do that, I have to be the visible face of the organization - internally and externally - but I also need to take the time to know the individuals who make up the organization. Only being in front means I am susceptible to hubris and ignorance, only listening from the back means I lack the will to decide. Neither work on their own.
How would you rate the importance of transparency in a CEO role?
An 8 out of 10. Real and apparent transparency are two of the most important tools of a CEO in leading an organization. I separate out both real and apparent transparency, because it is possible to have one without the other, and ultimately both serve overlapping but different roles. Whether it is reassuring workers or building a team's trust, transparency is extremely important
Can you please tell us about your company's mission and brand?
The Foundation for the Future is a 501(c)3 nonprofit built around the idea that space needs to be boring before it can be real. To get to that point, we focus on reskilling or upskilling workers, as well as designing and advocating for long-term financial investments in the space sector.
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What is your approach to making big-picture decisions?
Measure, cut, measure. You've heard the saying measure twice, cut once? Well, it is a decent saying. However, you don't need to measure both times up front. I try to get off the decision-making step as soon as possible. And to do that I analyze, measure and evaluate the options available to me, decide on a course of action, and go. From there I immediately enter a feedback loop where I am looking for evidence I was wrong, or evidence that there is a better way. If I did make the wrong choice, then I am very comfortable owning that and adjusting from there. And that flexibility really is the key to any good big-picture decision-making. After all, none of us can know the future, so we are all better off adapting to it.
How do you see your company progressing in the future years?
I see the foundation growing into an organization that connects regular people to the space sector in three primary ways. The first is our Workforce for the Future program. This program will be a nationwide network of schools, colleges, companies and organizations collaborating on blue-collar workforce development for the space economy. The second piece is our Association for the Future, the trade association for space finance firms. The Association is the only trade group representing Wall Street firms doing work in space, and this organization will only grow in size and reach in the coming years. The third way is a political action organization. This organization will seek to leverage objective data about politicians across the spectrum and assess whether they are supportive of space economic development or not, and support the space community in directing their donations, volunteer hours and ultimately votes towards politicians who are most helpful in growing space as an economic frontier
What is the most important thing to you on a professional level?
Feeling useful. In everything I do I want to add value. I want to know I am making a difference. And that is my one way of knowing when it is time to move on. When I realize that I am falling behind, or otherwise not being useful; then it is time to find another cause, place, or thing to work on.
What is your message to our Heart Of Hollywood Magazine readers?
Outer space offers the promise of entirely new fields of engineering. Not just “spinoffs,” items of hardware developed for space that find use here on Earth, but things that cannot be done at all in the gravity of Earth’s surface.
Space is the ultimate, boundless frontier. No society has ever gone wrong betting on the frontier. Nations are invigorated spiritually, and prosper economically, by challenging and finding new uses for new frontiers. America is a nation founded on the frontier. From our first settlers to landing on the Moon, we are a nation that has sought out each new frontier and molded it in our image. And for the first time in our history, we as a nation have the chance to venture forth into a new frontier without exploiting each other.
In 1913, Earnest Shakleton, in preparation for his Antarctic expedition, placed the following newspaper ad: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” More than 5,000 men answered the call.
It wasn’t for jobs or money - the British economy was at its prewar peak.
So why did they clamor for the chance to risk life and limb for an uncertain and intangible reward? They answered because they wanted to be a part of history.
Similarly, the Apollo generation worked long hours to learn and apply the difficult science and engineering skills that they would need to put footprints where no human footprints had ever been before, and hoped it would be their boots that would make them.
No quest for material gain or abstract altruism could inspire that level of dedication and sacrifice. It is the grand adventure of reaching new worlds which kindles the best minds of a generation. The legacy of the race to the moon is not a half-dozen faded flags and a few footprints in the lunar dust. It is an educated workforce that has turned its talents to many other high-tech challenges, from computer design to medicine.
Putting footprints where no footprints have been will always have the power to inspire hard work and discipline, with all their attendant benefits to society as a whole, and there are plenty of new frontiers left for that purpose.
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