E-FanX Airbus

Non-Conformists, Startups and The Next Big Thing In 2018

Adam Grant’s book "Originals" shows how to unleash creativity and propel groundbreaking ideas forward—but not how you would think.

Adam Grant’s book "Originals," about how non-conformists move the world, shows skillfully how to unleash creativity and propel groundbreaking ideas forward—but not how you would think.

Ideas that initially can seem like sure things to many savvy inventors and investors, such as the Segway, do not always achieve their anticipated successes—yet a book called "Harry Potter" that was deemed too long for a child’s attention span sold more than 400 million copies in 68 languages.

When evaluating new ideas, Grant says managers typically compare them to concepts that have worked in the past, which makes it harder—especially in evaluation mode—to consider anything unique. On top of this, the author shows that the more experience we get in an area, “the more entrenched [we] become in a particular way of viewing the world.”

As we close out 2017, the aviation aftermarket is balancing a stream of potentially opposing factors. Many mature aircraft are continuing to fly—longer than anticipated—yet the industry is ramping up to maintain the latest flying machines that are entering service. And in the last month, hybrid-electric propulsion systems such as the E-Fan X from Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens (page MRO16) have sent currents through the industry with the prospect of electric regional aircraft

In addition, colleague Michael Bruno reports on page 11 that “of almost 70 aerospace-related electrification development programs that [consulting firm] Roland Berger reviewed, aerospace primes were responsible for only 18%, while other aerospace incumbents notched 31%. Startups and independents made for 46%, while major non-aerospace companies accounted for 5%.”

It’s not just the primes and Tier 1 suppliers that are creating the next innovations—small, nimble startups and curious students are imagining the next big thing.

And at the same time, in 2017 we have witnessed big companies growing further through consolidation to gain scale and broader capabilities. Rockwell Collins bought B/E Aerospace and then United Technologies bid to buy Rockwell. Safran plans to acquire Zodiac Aerospace—probably closing in 2018. 

In MRO, Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services purchased Pemco World Air ServicesMRO Holdings added TechOps Mexico to its portfolio, AAR bought two Premier Aviation facilities in Canada, and Airbus acquired the remaining shares of Sepang Aircraft Engineering in Kuala Lumpur, to name a few.

No matter what your company’s path to growth and delivering innovation, technology’s evolution will only continue to accelerate. Data-based analytics need to be used. How will your company keep up?

People. Empower your people and allow for innovation. And diversity helps, too. As AAR CEO David Storch tweeted on Dec. 4, “This is my goal for @AARCorp . . . We strive to be all-inclusive, seeking diverse inputs, learning from a wide range of cultural experiences. To look beyond our personal experience and embrace all diverse views geared to making us a great company. That’s how we learn, that’s how we grow.”

That’s good advice. In our dynamic industry, we need new ideas and innovations while we manage the safe operations of a diverse fleet. What’s your plan to achieve this in 2018? What’s your plan to innovate in 2018?

Thank you for making 2017 a great year. I look forward to reporting on amazing undertakings next year. 

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