Dianne Chong, who served as the vice president of Boeing Research and Technology within the Boeing Engineering, Operation & Technology Organization, said that the definition of “innovation” is often misunderstood. She addressed the Women in Materials Science & Engineering Breakfast on Wednesday morning, talking about the role innovation plays in stability and change.
Changes are happening worldwide, and the “best talent” resides all over the world, Chong said. For companies to remain competitive, they need to adapt to these changes. They also need an element of stability, though, in order to stay in business. For example, at Boeing, the company made 40 airplanes a month while simultaneously disrupting their “stability” in order to do research and development into new products to meet the requests from their customers. The key to the company’s success was to be innovative not only in product development, but also in process and in a business model.
“Process” refers to exploiting existing technology while also exploring new technology. However, “process” also extends to how researchers within the company worked. Materials researchers, for example, formed integrated teams who focused on different aspects of the product. They also worked within a “network” culture where they shared information and ideas within and across departments.
Within the current competitive climate, companies must make new products and move them into market within a short timeframe. One way to do this is to license out products to manufacturers and the market that is ready to use them, Chong said. Furthermore, critical to getting a product “ready” for market is to form partnerships with other companies. For example, various part of a particular Boeing airplane can be made up of numerous composites that have been developed by as many as a dozen different companies. This is what Chong refers to as innovation in a business model.
The Women in Materials Science & Engineering Breakfast was sponsored in part by Aldrich Materials Science.