A simple recipe for innovation

Earlier this week, I attended a TEDx conference, sponsored by Airbus

There were several speakers. A few now-famous TED talk videos were shown.

One presentation really stood out. An economist named Martin Klettke, now working for Airbus, illustrated his approach to innovation.

An economist? Innovate? In a technical, aerospace environment? Blasphemy.

It’s not hard if you’re Martin Klettke.

It’s not hard if you dare to think differently.

Here are some of Martin’s one-liners that have stuck in my head every since:

Continue reading A simple recipe for innovation

Stay on the leading edge of the drag curve

“Oh, the times, they are a-changing’ . . . . . . ”

It’s a necessary, if unfortunate, feature of the aerospace industry, that it is highly regulated. Of course. The flying public has this irrational desire to want to arrive at their destination in one piece. With their baggage. Therefore, the process of designing, making, and operating aircraft must be regulated tightly.

Which means, those working in it live in a very conservative little bubble. You tend not to have much clue of what life is like in other bubbles.

And you tend to attract people who are conservative and blinkered in outlook.

I’m still meeting people in aerospace who say, “Yeah, I’ve heard about this LinkedIn thing. What is it?”

In a fast-changing world, that approach to life is fine, as long as your nice little bubble stays intact.

Don’t count on it.

Continue reading Stay on the leading edge of the drag curve

3D Printshow London, Oct 20-12

Following on from my last post, I’d like to encourage people to consider going to the first ever 3D Printshow London, Oct 20-21.

Just looking over the planned events for the show is enough to stimulate overwhelm. (But it’s cool overwhelm.)

In his latest book Makers, Chris Anderson argues that we are on the edge of a new cottage industry revolution. It is now possible, for very little initial investment, to conceive new products, and bring them to market, in very short time.

In short, to quickly become an entrepreneur producing real physical stuff (as opposed to just digital stuff).

Just how easy it would be for traditional aerospace techies to make such a career leap is not immediately clear to me.

But for those of seeking to change ourselves, and our industry, for the better, it should be a viable career option.

Who’s to say, 10 years from now, that it won’t be possible to raise money for a new aircraft design on Kickstarter, make most of it using additive manufacturing, and get it into flight test in 12 months?

Heck, Burt Rutan, from the late 1970’s onwards, averaged one new design into flight every year, without Kickstarter or additive manufacturing.

The 21st Century technological culture gap

I’ve recently become a Wired magazine junkie.

It’s been on the newsstand for almost two decades, and I’ve read the occasional Wired article online. But for whatever reason, I’d never actually peeked inside a hard copy until just a few months ago, when one of my teenagers came home with one.

It’s amazing what you learn just by imitating your kids.

Lo and behold, last week Wired‘s chief editor Chris Anderson came to town, lecturing to promote his latest book Makers.

The promotion worked. I bought the book, and am now devouring it. (On my Kindle, where I could buy it for half the price of the hard copy being flogged at the promotion. So the promotion was only 50% efficient. Ha, take that!)

I expected the lecture to be about 3D printing. And it was, but only in part.

Continue reading The 21st Century technological culture gap


(What follows below is a guest post by Olivia Stodiecke, a PhD student in aeroelasticity at U of Bristol, and previously a structural analyst at Airbus.)

Vision creates the spark, the excitement that lifts an organization out of the mundane. Shared vision fosters risk taking and experimentation. People know what needs to be done. Even if they don’t know how to do it, they keep experimenting till they succeed. But even when they experiment, there is no ambiguity at all. It’s perfectly clear why they are doing it.

The Fifth Discipline – Peter M Senge

(Here a link with the full first chapter of the book – worth reading: http://www.vedpuriswar.org/book_review/the_fifth_discipline.PDF )

For me, Vision = Something to inspire us techies now and in the future; something that we can all understand and be proud to aim for; something that can shape a business strategy ( … not a list of random incomprehensible bullet points in a powerpoint presentation labelled with vision 2050  … and not a visually attractive animation taken straight out of a cheap science fiction movie)

Continue reading Vision

And now for something completely different . . . .

On the odd chance that you’re wondering why someone would want to create a site like this, I thought I would tell you a bit of my own story.

I am a British engineer, living and working near Bristol, England.

However, if you bump into me in the street and have the misfortune to strike up a conversation, you’ll quickly detect something amiss in my accent. That’s because I’m also Canadian, and have spent most of my life in the Canadian provinces of Québec and Ontario. I actually grew up speaking both English and French, depending on who I was playing with. I was very proud of being able to speak two languages, and it’s a source of shame to me that my French has deteriorated over the years. Although that’s probably unavoidable, given that I have generally found myself surrounded by uniligual anglophones.

One of my earliest memories was of a visit from my grandparents. They would drive down from just outside Montréal to my home in Québec City. To give my parents some time off, they would take us kids to the local airport. It wasn’t a busy place at all, but Air Canada did fly some Vickers Viscounts and Vanguards through there. I would be absolutely transfixed by these amazing machines. The noise made by the props seemed musical.And all the movements on the ground, passengers getting on and off, taxiing to and from the runway, the take-off . . . . . wow.

Continue reading And now for something completely different . . . .

We have seen the enemy, and it is us

We get overlooked and taken for granted, us aerospace techies. Most of the time, we don’t say much. We just plug along, design a few widgets (which happen to form part of an airborne inanimate object), write a few documents (o-kay, a lot of documents), attend a few boring meetings (o-kay, a lot of boring meetings), and send a lot (read: a lot) of emails.

Sometimes we shout in those meetings, and once or twice in a career we might even punch somebody. But mostly, we just let our noggins collide over the problem at hand, play Death by Powerpoint, and make the occasional decision. Towards the end, we pour ourselves another cup of 10W40 from the thermos and wonder if there are any doughnuts left. Then we drift back to the desk (Nope, none left), flip up the laptop, send a few more viruses by email, and around 4.30 when the office quiets down, start to get some work done.

Continue reading We have seen the enemy, and it is us

The spirit of Steve Jobs meets aerospace

Um, welcome to Aerospace Nation. This would be the introductory post.

I’m starting this site on a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of whim. (Pun intended.) And as of yet, I don’t have a really clear idea where it’s going to go.

My motive stems from a comment left on my own personal blog by a young chap newly-graduated, and trying to land his first job in the field he’s gone into debt for.

It left me thinking, This sucks.

This guy should not be struggling like this.

Continue reading The spirit of Steve Jobs meets aerospace

For geeks who defy gravity