Global ignorance

by Colin Berkshire

Forty years ago America lead the world in pretty much every technical area. We had more freedom, we had the best computers, we created all leading software languages and databases. Our phone system was more advanced.

But today we are just a participant in a global economy. And, in the past decade America has become more isolated. Somehow, we continue to have the belief that we remain vastly superior when, well, others have caught up and sometimes surpass us. GM designs cards in Shanghai because they have some of the best stylists in the world.

I just about gagged when I saw a recent press release by Delta Airlines ( about their new “Innovation lanes”. Delta crows about how they spent more than a million dollars inventing an improved parallel loading automatic tray-returning security lane that speeds up security. In the video ( you can just hear the pride of their innovation. Heck, they even named them “Innovation Lanes.”

As anybody who has taken the Eurostar Chunnel train in Europe, this is exactly how the security lanes have worked for as long as anybody can remember. Parallel loading, automatic tray return…it’s the same.

The point here is that if you don’t have global awareness you may do something stupid. You may invent something that doesn’t work. Or you may reinvent something that was long ago invented, as Delta has done here.

It surprises me that Delta was unaware of how security works globally. Being the creative, multi-billion dollar company I would think something as core to their business would be well studied and understood. But as a college pointed out to me: Delta executives don’t get involved in details and Delta staff flies free, so why would they ever ride the train? I suppose.

This same thinking is why the Boeing 787 Dreamliner sucks. It’s a noisy rattletrap. Boeing touts how the 787 is highly pressurized for greater comfort while overlooking the fact that all modern Airbus designs (including the truly comfortable A380) are equally pressurized. When I chat with Boeing folks they seem genuinely ignorant of this.

So, Boeing and Delta seem to operate in a vacuum where they are largely ignorant of their competition. They spend millions of dollars “innovating” things which already exist and are better with their competition.

So my advice to you is this: buy and use your competitors products. Don’t look down your nose at China or elsewhere. Those folks may just have some good ideas you can just steal without the expense of innovation.

So watch the Delta Airlines Innovation Lanes video and listen to them crow. Now, you know how to ride the Eurostar through the Chunnel.