Why co-creation is the key to achieving real industry progress


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The challenges experienced during the construction of the Sydney Opera House provide some valuable lessons to the airport industry, according to AAAE’s Chris Runde. (Image: Sydney Opera House)

Guest article by Chris Runde, Director, Airport Innovation Accelerator, American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE)

The Sydney Opera House is an iconic structure that few know was a project management disaster. Even with the smartest minds, best plans and massive resources in 1959, the four-year project with a $7 million budget ended 14 years later at a cost of around $102 million. Poor communication between the architects, planners and the government was one of the main culprits for the overruns and missed deadlines.

History is filled with projects that fail due to ineffective collaboration between the key stakeholders. Luckily for Sydney, the Opera House project was eventually a brilliant success, and one the Australian government and people are rightly proud to call their own.

For the aviation community, we have many opportunities like the Sydney Opera House that we must make a success of. From seamless passenger experience to optimising operations, airports are destined to realise the benefits of emerging technology.

Airports, airlines, government partners, concessionaires and passengers all play a role in the evolution of airports. Our willingness and ability to work together will determine how quickly and efficiently we realise these benefits.

No one group can do it alone

Passengers crave a connected experience. Airlines understand that need and have invested in mobile applications and other technologies that put information and experiences at passengers’ fingertips.

But airlines can only go so far. Airports own the parking garages, retail offerings and other physical property. Government partners in the US own the security process at checkpoints and customs stations, which historically have ranked among the worst parts of the passenger journey.

The only way the airport community drives forward efficiently is with inclusion, vested interest, and continual communication among the stakeholders. The best solutions emerge when we combine our efforts to serve passengers.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” 
– Henry Ford

How it works

“Where Airport Solutions Take Flight” is the tagline of AAAE’s Airport Innovation Accelerator. Our goal is to serve as a hub among the key aviation stakeholders to launch impactful innovations into the airport community. 

Everything we do, from meetings to mentoring to industry services, is built on the belief that the best solutions spring from the intersection of innovators, airports, airlines, government and key stakeholders.

Our initiative on drones is one example of how we serve the aviation community, and the Accelerator began by hosting the first ever Drone Enforcement Training with airports and law enforcement.

Another key element of our approach includes mentoring innovators. For instance, the Accelerator partnered with AirMap, and within a short time we helped AirMap recruit 125 airports into a pilot to provide product feedback and invaluable experience with end-users.

Dialogue is the tip of the spear

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” 
– Henry Ford

The starting point for great collaboration is a dialogue.

I’m amazed how often teams within the same organisation or government agency are unaware of their colleagues’ parallel or complementing efforts. This challenge is multiplied when you have many stakeholders across many locations, like the airport community.

To address the challenge of awareness, you need a variety of conversations. That is why the Accelerator hosts large industry gatherings, like the Airport Innovation Forum, as well as intimate discussions on very specific topics called Solution Summits.

The same elements are built into the Future Travel Experience Global event in Las Vegas, where attendees hear from experts in many areas but also have interactive discussions during the Co-Creation sessions. 

Take action

“Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now.
You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.”
– Indira Gandhi

Talk is just talk until you take action.

Piloting ideas is a critical component of effective innovation and the foundation of the Market Match service. You can’t gather reliable feedback from the back office. You must engage with users in the real world.

While action is critical, to test the right ideas you need forethought, inclusive discussion, and planning. The conversations at FTE and the Innovation Forum uncover the right ideas to test and bring the right stakeholders to the table.

Airports are ripe environments for innovation. Through effective collaboration and decisive action, the airport community will thrive in the coming decade.

Future Travel Experience will be exhibiting at the AAAE Annual Conference & Exposition in Long Beach, California, 7-10 May. Pay us a visit at booth 855.