Vision

(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)

So this post isn’t about a project, but something I recently watched and felt ticked all the boxes for an inspiring aerospace vision. I can probably safely say we badly lack shared vision and visionaries in the commercial a/c industry today. Not that the people don’t exist – they just don’t have any say.
btw – feel free to disagree! or share some more vision links!

Hope you enjoy this:
http://www.ted.com/talks/burt_rutan_sees_the_future_of_space.html

And dreaming on from that … If we get rid of all the administration and politics in the business, if we can put the emphasis on recruiting and keeping the right tech people (doing what they enjoy and what they are best at) and encourage them to work together, develop and challenge themselves – surely innovation, quality and engagement will ensue? Then, maybe, we can concentrate on designing the great aerospace products of the future – that we know people want and that we can deliver …  Vision + Strategy + Leadership= Success

From the petty little aero engineer sitting in the box next to yours, aka BeerMonkey – Dream on!

2 thoughts on “Vision”

  1. A very interesting topic and I’ll have to read Senge. But I agree and don’t agree. There are two types of innovation.
    I agree with his discussion on government in terms of the Aerospace industry. NASA is stagnating to an extent and, I haven’t been following it much, but is the Curiosity program really that forward thinking outside of exploration to Mars, i.e. as Rutan says, regarding the Grumman module and what we are achieving today? This is a government focused endeavor more than a private venture…I know a lot of airlines have government involvement, but NASA and the likes of something like Air Lingus is different.
    However, his opinions on commercial aerospace have to be taken with a pinch of salt, I think. From an Airbus point of view, how much does the government really get involved with the design process of one of our aircraft (remember, I am referring to design and not the bullshit politics in terms of unions, etc.). Really what are determining the process are the airlines that require to achieve business targets, which is fair enough. Innovation is needed, I completely agree, but I don’t think, at the moment, that a new Concorde is required, or a sub-orbital transport is required because, as Rutan says again, it is a safety issue. But what is needed is an improvement in efficiency of production, materials, lighter, stiffer (in the right places of course!) which is a different type of innovation – a local, business focused innovation rather than an exploration innovation.
    So, exploration is very much required it keeps us interested, curious; where would we be without Ernest Shakleton, Robert Scott, etc. However, I believe the commercial aerospace industry isn’t the place for it to happen. Let me clarify, please…the commercial, in the short term (and I am all for organizations trying to develop ideas, it’s important to big hitters like Airbus and Boeing), is built around efficient bulk transportation of livestock (humans) and needs to focus on local innovation. It’s a financial issue. As everything evolves, things become cheaper, but we all love a cheap Ryanair flight..for the money, of course, certainly not the comfort or the smokeless cigarettes!
    I agree with you, BeerMonkey, the people certainly exist and I know of a few who have good ideas and they are, unfortunately, defeated by people with agendas. I also agree that the internal admin/politics is unreal. But, it does also highlight that, no matter if you have an organisation that holds together a lot of people, we are fundamentally out for ourselves and view-able in many ways, but those same people (who negate forward thinking ideas) are often doing it to be promoted by someone else, so where does their integrity really lie? I think their confused…..!

    1. Good comment Gordon! You raise the interesting question of integrity … I think that the lack of a fundamental vision and the lack of leadership to achieve the vision means that people just do what seems best to them (as an individual or a team) without efficient feedback or understanding of the larger company aims … and that inevitably leads to conflicts. Don’t get me wrong – I think internal politics will always exist in some measure, but they could be used to a better end if people agreed on common goals and strategy, instead of building walls at every opportunity. As for the influence of politics and government on commercial design – well … I actually think it does have an effect. Example: when work packages are handed out to different countries, not based on their experience or skills, but based on the number of shares the government owns in the company and therefore the number of workers they are entitled to, that could have a dramatic effect on the efficiency and quality of the ensuing design! Add to this the silo mentality (i.e. your problem is not my problem) and a green culture attitude (i.e. problem? there is no problem) – and you get a right mess.

      Innovation. I’d like to think that commercial aviation could be more than just cattle transport for the masses. Even in todays tough financial times, there are the people with the money and interest to make travelling faster, more comfortable or even more customised … local innovation is great – in fact it’s mandatory – but it will only get you so far. The truth is that big companies are not good at taking risks. Why take a gamble if your current business has people queuing outside the door? Why go to the moon if you can go to Ibiza instead (note the sarcasm here)? I think we’re about so see a new revolution in the aerospace industry. Small, flexible companies making (3D printing?) the plane you really want to travel on …
      Ok, I might have slipped into dream mode again 🙁
      Let’s watch and see. Or even better – let’s do it!

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