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Innovation in the mile high club

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Innovation in the mile high club

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Last week I flew back from Prague on a British Airways flight.  I quite enjoy flying, or indeed any form of public transport, as they usually afford one the opportunity to catch up on reading without the digital distractions that so often prevent the focused concentration required.

Alas, it seems that British Airways have slightly more creative plans for flyers.  Last year they launched their first UnGrounded flight, whereby they intended to create an ‘innovation lab in the sky’.  The flight, from San Francisco to London, brought innovators from a host of big name companies together on one flight to do creative things.

“Breakthrough innovation requires a combination of partnership, ambition and collaboration and that when you bring the right mix of passionate people together, both virtually and in person, amazing things can happen. The sky is not the limit,” explained John McDonald, Vice President for Marketing, Americas, for British Airways.

As well as the creative types, the passengers also included venture capital investors and participants from social enterprises.  The original aim of the project was to forge deeper relationships with the high tech companies in California by helping to connect them.  Of course, any innovation effort needs a focus to it, and this focus was provided by BA themselves through primary research conducted by IDEO, who partnered with them on the project.

The challenge therefore, was to discuss four key topics surrounding the STEM talent crunch, before then presenting the outcomes of the effort to the G8 Innovation Conference the following day.  Outcomes from the event included the provision of greater access to STEM education and tools within emerging economies via a mobile powered backpack.

Suffice to say, this is thus far just a one off event, and therefore has a good deal of limitation attached to it because of that.  BA also aren’t the first airline that have attempted to improve the networking potential of their flights.  Back in 2011 for instance, Dutch airline KLM launched Meet & Seat, whereby you can view the social profiles of your fellow passengers, and decide based on that if you’d like to network with them.

You login to the KLM website pre-flight and volunteer the social data you’re willing to share.  You’re then taking to the seating map you’re all no doubt familiar with, whereby you can see the details volunteered by other passengers.  The hope is that you might, for instance, select your seat based upon shared interests.

Delta airlines have done a similar thing, but rather than aiming to connect up those of a similar standing, they want to connect the experienced up with the in-experienced.  The project, known as Innovation Class, lets users attach their LinkedIn profiles to their tickets, and the airline will then match you up with another passenger to share experiences.  Delta suggest that they will hand pick high class innovators on their way to various events and have fellow passengers apply for the empty seat next to them.

Would you enjoy such a facility?

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