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When the bomb doors open

September 24, 2010
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley

In flight reaction - does your company have the right culture to allow risk taking?

In an aircraft, when the bomb doors open and the load is away, the plane suddenly shifts upwards. This is a critical moment for the pilot, the crew and other aircraft in the formation.  This is much the same case as when a new initiative is released onto the market – first the excitement and then the reaction.

The Sinclair C5 had a bomb door moment – initial blast than a surge of negative reaction. Or the Apple Lisa. Or the Austin Allegro’s square steering wheel.

Of course, these ideas are easy to mock – indeed, many famous duds are now viewed as classics in their own right (yes, even the Allegro – have you seen the Vanden Plas version?) but they also have a curious business and branding message.

It is all too easy to criticise the work of others. As a good friend of mine advises when someone criticises your marketing work, ask them “where were you when the page was blank“? We know that Steve Jobs at Apple is a genius – the Lisa is now largely forgotten. We know that Sir Clive Sinclair brought us many famous developments – including the pocket calculator. Harris Mann, however, is sadly a footnote in automotive history thanks to the compromises forced upon his original Allegro design by the ludicrous internal politics of British Leyland.

But any person responsible for creation is brave and valuable. They have the guts to put their efforts in front of staff and customers. They have to be prepared for criticism. Sometimes they have to face the uncomfortable internal politics of firms when they rock the boat.

The difficulty arises for companies in tackling the brickbats which may come flying. But this should never be a reason for quashing creativity and original thinking. Communication strategies for major launches are relatively easy to plan – as are crisis communication strategies for when things go wrong.

Despite criticism, despite potential failure and despite rocking the boat, the most foolish thing any business can do is to quash its internal abilities to create new things and challenge the old.

When the bomb doors open, the best pilots correct the course, steady the plane, and return safely home to base in clouds of flak. Ready to fight another day.

Image: an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bomber courtesy of the Military History Encyclopaedia 

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