Feb 4, 2016

Innovation at Airbus

Innovation at Airbus: The business in focus

Andrea Vorm Walde

From idea provider to entrepreneur: “Make your ideas fly!” With this headline Dr Markus Durstewitz, Head of Innovation Methods and Tools, made a clear statement: basically, ideas are developed in order to go to market – at Airbus they literally “take to the skies”.

By quoting the Airbus President & CEO Fabrice Brégier, Markus Durstewitz described the topic of innovation as “the heart of Airbus” and as “part of their incorporated DNA”. This attitude was the main reason why we really wanted him as our guest speaker and he didn’t disappoint us: Markus Durstewitz spoke in detail about the approaches in innovation development at Airbus. Absolutely crucial for him: to be open for the new, not to lose sight of added values for the customer and to enable ways to realize these innovation ideas within the organization quickly.

A lot of companies believe in the confrontation of “Performance vs. Innovation” – but a company like Airbus does need the both of them for sure. So the core question appears: how can we transfer good ideas into reality? One part of the answer: consolidating the corporate innovation culture, putting the focus onto the customer at all times and accelerating the development process to ensure a fast market entry.

The conclusion for Airbus: innovation has to evolve within the departments and cannot be delegated. There’s a so-called “Catalyst Network” that serves as direct link for employees whenever they want to put an innovative idea forward. So to speak “first aiders for innovation” who take care of supporting innovators.

Defined stations that every idea has to pass, so-called “Acceleration Points”, ensure that everybody complies with a structured process. These “Acceleration Points” are as well represented as physical touch points like e.g. labs, partly located in closed spaces that allow “being crazy” and open minds to think completely freely. Without this kind of freedom, innovating wouldn’t be possible in the first place. Whether in the “Idea Space”, a web-based tool for the exchange of the employees’ ideas or in the “Proto Space” where ideas can be physically realized and tested at once – in this light, close teamwork promotes rapid detailing of projects. The crucial factor of all of this is – and here we absolutely share the vantage point of Markus Durstewitz: Design Thinking as mind-set is the core of a company’s ability to innovate.

Finally, our guest speaker summarized the perspective of Airbus in a clear and catchy way with the so-called “Ten Commandments of Innovation”:

1. An open-minded attitude towards change is a key point for innovation. It is accompanied by the readiness to run risks and to accept the possibility of failure to adapt and learn fast.

2. The focus at innovating has to be on generating business – that’s why every innovation has to offer a particular value for the customer.

3. Based on the aforementioned, it’s essential to generate customer and user insights, to integrate the outside-in perspective and to remain open-minded for external impulses and ideas.

4. The strength lies in the community. Cross-department and cross-structure networking as well as informal exchange of information is pushing innovation forward.

5. Don’t forget: achievements have to be celebrated, successful innovators have to be praised in a non-monetary way and joy has to be shared to make it a success story. In short: you have to talk about the good!

6. You reach and inspire your employees with events – whether in engaging talks and conventions, or in open market places for information exchange and networking: this way the mission is being spread most effectively.

7. Dedicated physical spaces for innovation must be provided to the employees. Team-up by innovating together. In these rooms creativity, Design Thinking, early prototype development and testing of ideas should be promoted with tools and further enabling approaches. That’s learning by doing.

8. In order to speed up concept development in general, practical conditions and support need to be given to foster simultaneous yet different processes – providing a dedicated fast lane to innovation.

9. Only big and ambitious projects earn the title “Innovation”. Inflationary usage of this word takes away inspiration and enthusiasm. It’s crucial not to mix up real novelties and on-going improvements.

10. Employees need to be promoted according to their abilities to innovate – with the help of specially designed training programs and modules that create fundamental awareness for innovation.

Indeed a really perfect keynote that gave a lot of insight to our guests and above all, outlined a central theme with some core findings! Of particular interest: especially the tenth “commandment” approved the issue Karel Golta described before: employees need to be empowered to innovate!

So let’s see what Local Motors is thinking about this hot topic in part 3 of our dmi: NightOut review – available here within the next couple of days.


Header Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Andrea Vorm Walde

PR and Communications

Andrea takes care of our PR and likes to show how innovative and versatile Indeed is. Actually, she is responsible for the words - nevertheless, she usually leaves us here first because we as designers and developers want to report authentically in our blog. And that’s what we can do best ourselves.


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