Disruption Dynamic
Joel Sercel



In this seminar, I describe a simple unifying theory of how change occurs in the practice of science and technology and discuss the implications of this theory. This seminar unifies the work of contributors from several diverse disciplines. I quickly review the thinking of several including the early 20th century economist Joseph Schumpeter, the first to understand the economic effects of innovation; Soviet Field Marshall Nikolai Ogarkov, who described how and why military doctrine changes over time; the scientific philosopher Thomas Kuhn who wrote on "The Structure of Scientific Revolution"; the British psychologist Michael Kirton, who developed the most analytically-useful physiological model of creativity; the planetary scientist Eugene Shoemaker who described the process of abrupt change in geological systems; Everett Rogers, whose 1962 model of diffusion of innovation still dominates thinking about marketing in silicon valley; the mathematician Vladimir Arnold who described "Catastrophe Theory" in useful and transparent ways; the "Innovator's Dilemma" of Harvard Professor of Business Administration Clayton Christensen; and the "Black Swan" theory of Historian Nassim Taleb.

A powerful underlying principle emerges that these people are all saying the same thing. Once you see this simple unifying principle, the concept, Change, or Be Changed becomes clear. Our society is at a crossroads. Will we change, or will we be changed? Every scientist faces the question: "should I work on research to sustain the status quo, or should I disrupt the status quo and help build the new world"? This seminar provides some guideposts that students and their advisors may find stimulating and useful.

Bio:Joel C. Sercel, PhD, is the Chief Engineer, President, and Founder of ICS Associates Inc., a small business that provides training, consulting, and contract engineering focusing on developing solutions to complex aerospace problems, primarily related to advanced technology and innovation. Joel spent 14 years at JPL and two years as a senior program manager for the Air Force where he ran a team over 120 systems engineers architecting a $20B-class classified satellite network. While at JPL Sercel led the conception, proposal, and definition of NSTAR, the first deep space application of ion propulsion technology. Sercel taught graduate level courses in space propulsion and mission design at Caltech for 12 years. Partially concurrent with his work at JPL and the private sector, and for five years full time, Sercel was a visiting member of the faculty at Caltech and Director of Caltech’s Laboratory for Spacecraft and Mission Design (LSMD). Software and processes designed by Sercel have been used extensively at JPL, Boeing, Raytheon, United Technologies and Northrop Grumman (formerly TRW), and are credited with increasing team productivity by a factor of four for complex systems engineering tasks such as satellite design and requirements development. Robotic systems conceived of by Dr. Sercel are in use by the department of defense in diverse environments. Dr. Sercel was the lead systems engineer and proposal manager working with Prof. Chris Russell of UCLA on the first proposal that led eventually to the Dawn mission. Dr. Sercel was the IPT Team Lead for the Modular and Multifunctional Structures team in the New Millennium program and was responsible for the integration of the NSTAR ion propulsion system and the multi-band-gap solar array on NASA’s Deep Space One mission. Recently Dr. Sercel served as a liaison between SpaceX and the Air Force as part of the certification of the Falcon 9 and he was the chief consultant with NASA on the RISE (Revolutionize ISS for Science and Exploration) effort. Prior work included consulting with Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com on the formulation of the Blue Origin aerospace company. ICS Associates Inc. is currently engaged with NASA developing technology and mission concepts to produce rocket propellant from asteroids as a way to reduce the cost of human space exploration.