By: Rob Hoehn
No matter the decade in which you grew up, the future promised one thing: flying cars. And yet generation after generation has been disappointed as our technological progress that has given us everything from angry birds to nanotechnology, but… still no Bladerunner vehicles.
Well, after listening to this latest podcast interview with EmbraerX Director of Innovation, Peter Berger, I’m starting to think that we are closing in on the age of flying cars.
EmbraerX is the United States-based division of the Embraer company dedicated to the development of disruptive businesses in the transportation sector. The problems that Mr. Berger and his colleagues are working on include autonomous vehicles, urban mobility, vehicle ownership models, and anything that includes fundamentally reimagining the human urban landscape.
Those are big challenges that will profoundly shape our virtual and real-world environment, so I was interested in Berger’s answer to the question: who do you need on your innovation team?
He said that no matter what industry you were in or problem you were trying to solve, you needed three people on your team:
Someone from the outside. Maybe they’ve worked in another company or industry, maybe they’ve got a background in big companies or start-ups as long as it’s different from what you do now – someone who knows innovation best practices and has a reason to constantly ask “why” things are done a certain way.
Someone from the inside who is a challenger. This person is pretty easily recognizable in an organization, because they’ve been bothering people at every level to change things for quite some time. They ask questions, finish projects, but are always trying to do things a different way despite their considerable institutional knowledge.
Someone from the inside with the social capital to advocate for both. This person is a well-respected leader – they have great relationships, they are able to build allies and foster connections between people. This person will help remove the roadblocks that are in front of the other two.
I happen to agree with Peter Berger – I’ve spoken to other innovation leaders and what’s interesting is that there’s a lot of variety in the answers to this question (maybe you need five people, maybe you need one), but the skill sets are similar regardless of industry or job to be done. You need someone who is incorrigible enough to not accept things at face value – maybe they’re an outsider, maybe they’re a partner, maybe they’re an embedded company employee but they also need to be able to build inroads in the company as it exists today and provide cover for others. It is a rare individual who can embody all of this, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be three people. And even if it is, the team building doesn’t stop there.
In fact, EmbraerX has hired other people to be on their team and regularly invites their career engineers to help them on other projects as they progress. And with that team, Peter Berger finishes the interview by imagining the future of transportation where you can travel across your neighborhood in a vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicle for the price of an Uber, where you don’t own a car except for pleasure, and your trip home across the country in a few weeks? You’ll be able to accurately predict your arrival on your Mom’s doorstep within five minutes.
So maybe flying cars aren’t as far-off as you might think… Oh and also…If you can think of a term that’s better than “flying car” by the way, Peter Berger offered a $100 bounty in the interview for a better term.
About the author
Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.