Innovation has driven aerospace from its earliest beginnings. However, as my colleagues and I found out when we researched and produced Aviation Week’s Innovation Special last November, everyone has their own definition of this process and the motivation behind it. Now Boeing has tackled the topic, producing a series of videos to illustrate the many shades of innovation and inspiration that run through the breadth of the company. The toughest part of the assignment for the director of the project, Boeing’s brand management director Jim Newcomb, seems to have been where to start.
“There’s a lot happening under the area of innovation, and we wanted to find a way of showing some of the best of it,” says Newcomb. “We asked ‘what is the story that they’re trying to explain to us?’” Newcomb’s team has made 12 videos to begin with, and plans to film a further 12 per year between now and 2016.
The first episode is an introduction from Boeing’s chief technology officer John Tracy. The second focuses on the 787 with Tom Cogan, and includes some fascinating new production footage. The third looks at the Blended Wing Body with the acknowledged father of the concept, Bob Liebeck.
Boeing/NASA X-48 BWB (Boeing/NASA)
Newcomb says each gave him a different perspective of innovation and inspiration.
“Bob Liebeck stressed the importance of the problem, and that innovation was a way to a solution. Innovation was a tool to solve problems that had not been solved before.
Tom Cogan focused on the persistent flow of innovation at all levels, from improving a part or sub-process to developing a whole new way of building an airplane. Innovation is always happening,” says Newcomb.
First Boeing 787 Section 41 (Guy Norris)
“John Tracy emphasized the importance of understanding the complexity and importance of the challenges we face in aerospace (only solving the hardest problems) and how innovation really comes from the training, intelligence and life experiences of the people engaged in solving problems,” he adds.