The typical environment in any Flying Training Establishment (FTE), has wilfully forced the management to focus all their resources towards a Safety Branded Industry with ulterior motives of Economic gains as is the case in any Capitalist Society. Whilst Safety remains a primary concern for everyone, the available potential within its reach has neither quantitatively nor qualitatively contributed towards Innovation. An appropriate, deliberate and institutionalised innovation process with suitable rewarding mechanisms would increase awareness and encourage the process to move realistically on the path of Innovation. In reality, a whole hearted shift in mind-set towards innovation process needs to be fostered.
Ask yourself “How many trainee pilots have contributed towards Innovation?”
What is not understood by Flying Training Establishments?
- Besides Flight Safety (core issue), Innovation is also a priority issue to be addressed by a Training Organisation.
- Efforts taken to improve Quality/ Redressal of complaints and concern are only a part of the process and not comprehensive Innovative efforts.
- Goals achieved (like Flight Compliance percentage, savings on fuel etc) as result of tackling key concern areas are not measures of Innovation.
- Innovation, if not addressed with appropriate concern can doom their very survival in a technology driven, research intensive Aviation Industry.
- Innovation is value based and not completion of deadlines and achievement of milestones.
- It is merely the mind-set that requires a change and not allocation of funds and resources. The prevailing culture prohibits innovative ideas/inputs.
Step 1. Destroy the Illusion. Innovation in Aviation is perceived to be the core concern of major stakeholders of Aviation (NASA, Boeing, Airbus, Corporate Airline Industries, Defence sectors etc), who produce results from various initiatives, processes and Research and Developmental activities. Training Establishments believe that there is no dire necessity to re-distribute their efforts and resources to contribute to the process of Innovation. Further, Innovation does not mean a product or service more advanced than its predecessor. It is an on-going process which leads to creation of “difference and impact” in the Society.
Step 2. Understand what it Implies. Innovation creates value to the Industry. To achieve value, the stakeholders should be encouraged to inspire, analyse customer insights, foster creative thinking to define relevance of customer needs, collate and brainstorm bits and pieces of inputs, segregate and identify possible ideas of innovation, feed the ideas into the process of implementation methods with feedback mechanism for prompt refinement/modifications and finally ascertain and verify the successful creation of value that was intended at the start of the process. Innovation does not require additional effort or resources as often perceived by the management. The process needs of a perpetual Innovation cycle are omnipresent in any FTE. All it requires is a careful shift on myopic entrenched views to a broader angle with a firm belief that any FTE is already in possession of adequate efforts and resources to effectively contribute to creation of value to the Aviation Industry. Flying Training is a vital link in today’s Aviation Industry as it ensures adequate supply of pilots as per the demands of the Industry. In the event of a possible Destructive Innovation, the requirement of a pilot in the cockpit may become redundant as every link in an economic chain is constantly replaced by a better link and the older one disappears into thin air. So, the FTEs have to be a part of the Innovative Process to avoid unforeseen drift in to the dismal doom. Major strides in technological advancement have reduced the number of crew in the cockpit over the years and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is increasingly being used for military and surveillance operations. These are some indicators towards the possible acceptance of unmanned commercial operations as norms of future. So, the FTEs in future, if in vogue, may be delivering totally a different requirement for the Aviation Industry.
Step 3. Modify the Environment. The environment in any Flying Training Organisation has an absolute focus on a flawless flight training curriculum with stringent schedules on time and resources coupled with multifaceted efforts to survive in a competitive market. Undue stress, anxiety, need for perfection and fear of failure are everyday norms of the trainee pilot and an equally stressful timelines and on-the edge milestones are the perpetual goals of a Flight Instructor. It is in such scenario that the pilot trainees are susceptible to experience psychological renaissance in terms of raw ideas, unnatural solutions, instantaneous impulsive alternatives and sometimes irrational responses. Such flows of thoughts are rarely captured in the Flying Training Establishments possibly due to lack of a suitable process/structure. Experienced Instructors, if encouraged to look for these raw inputs/sparks, as a culture, would be able to sift the voluminous inputs and extract relevant ones that can possibly be put through the innovation process. The specific learning process along with high level performance by trainee pilots(as a consequence of environment induced stress factor) are bound to produce a sumptuous flow of ideas on Innovation, which are grossly unnoticed and untapped. So, the environment has to undergo a gradual evolution process to bring about a cultural change.
Step 4. Define the Process and not Goals. The aim is to bring about a culture change. A self-analysis of any FTE would reveal the flaws of the existing system and the near absence of contribution by the trainee pilots, so far. The required process would necessarily include de stressing the trainee pilots and encourage them to feed in all their views into the process chain. The talented Instructors would not be directed towards goals but given adequate spare time to venture into own adventurous ideas, build on raw inputs of trainee pilots and collaborate peer views and crystallise on possible innovative ideas. Management has to carefully integrate innovation process into its strategic planning enabling activation of all possible avenues to harvest ideas from all stakeholders in Aviation Industry. The failures and the negative impacts of the process need to be effectively understood and catered for in the setting up structure. Awards for proficiency in Piloting skills, Academic performance, Flight Safety, qualitative improvement in Engineering practices and Cost Savings are generally part of the curriculum in any FTE. What is missing is a dedicated recognition for contribution (any idea, effort or process) towards creation of value (Innovation). Suitable and periodic awards and recognition for the best input/idea on any cycle of the process of Innovation need to be institutionalised. Even the worst idea could be recognised /rewarded as it would deliver the maximum learning value to the Organisation.
Step 5. Institutionalise a Change in Culture. Changes in culture first need a complete understanding of the process and its long term benefits of “value creation” by the management. The same needs to be amalgamated into the existing strategic plans and modifications brought sequentially and smoothly through education of all stakeholders involved. This may involve a series of exchange of views between FTEs across the globe and the major players of the Aviation Industry to draw out specific plans to eventually bring about a culture change.
The setting up of a cultural change by instilling innovation process is a continuous and educative process and has no definite goals to achieve and terminate like any other technologically driven project. The existing mind-set has to change and entirely a new culture has to evolve to perpetually facilitate innovation efforts of the Industry as a whole.
The rationale of the existing potential within the Training Organisation and its possible contribution towards innovation without severe drain on existing efforts and resources needs to be understood first. If the myopic view of a Safety Branded Industry is disillusioned by the management, a genuine concern to build the blocks of innovation process would emerge.