When the Falcon Heavy, made by daring entrepreneur Elon Musk and his SpaceX company, roared from the launching pad on February 6, 2018, in the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, it was a special moment.
Initiating from the very same pad that NASA used to hurl the first astronauts to the moon, it marked the first time such a powerful rocket (in fact the most powerful in the world) was launched into space by a private company versus a government agency.
It was truly a spectacle to behold.
But in the midst of all that another amazing thing was happening--Team SpaceX was having fun.
Usually, when rockets are sent into space they carry a mass simulator like concrete or steel blocks according to Musk. But that was far too boring for the visionary thinker. He instead opted to load the Falcon Heavy with a zestier payload--a cherry red Tesla roadster, complete with a mannequin driver (named Starman) donning a fully operable SpaceX spacesuit.
Check out the incredible live feed shots of Starman at the bottom of the post--these are images that will turn out to be some of the most indelible images ever created in space travel.
Starman will be in orbit looking for the off-ramp for a very, very, very long time by the way--hundreds of millions of years in fact. (and will probably be stuck behind somebody who's had their blinker on for three planets)
Why such attention to folly in the face of one of the most important events in space travel history--a private company going big into the great blue beyond?
Musk put it this way: "It's kind of silly and fun, but silly and fun things are important".
The SpaceX team obviously took that sentiment to heart.
As an extra touch, two words were stamped on the Tesla's dashboard for Starman to gaze at in perpetuity--"Don't Panic" (an ode to Douglas Adams's A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). Additionally, Starman can contemplate what it means to be (not) human while symbolically listening to David Bowie's Space Oddity playing on the car audio. Over. And over. And over.
And not to forget the aliens that will ultimately find the rocket and roadster within, a secret message was stamped on the Tesla's circuit board, "Made on Earth by humans".
Set aside for a moment the fact that it's utterly brilliant branding. The image of the red Tesla as a symbol of human advancement won't fade anytime soon.
It's just really important perspective to keep in mind--no matter what's at stake, no matter how big the goal, it's critical for leaders to remember the role of having fun.
Research from the University of Minnesota supports an astonishing array of benefits to having fun in the workplace like reducing job boredom, stress, and unhelpful conflict and increasing socialization, team cohesiveness, creativity, communications, employee retention, and yes, profitability.
My own research across thousands of employees even shows that party-pooper bosses can hinder employee self-confidence. When you're cold or distant and not seen as fun-loving, it can create doubts in employees minds about how you're perceiving them.
The problem exacerbates because it can create distance between a boss and subordinate. After all, people can read a lack of warmth and playfulness a mile away, and they'll stay a mile away too.
So, Major Tom, while you're working with Ground Control and leading the team to build your own big rocket, while you're racing towards your next monumental milestone, don't forget to cover a few of those miles with a pair of clown shoes on.