1. In your opinion, what makes a company innovative?
We think that innovation is fundamentally about solving a problem effectively. Discovery, creativity, research, and originality are all cornerstones of innovation, but to us, changing things for the better is the final measure of success. Airside has had its share of technology advances (and we have a couple of patents pending), but when we look at our biggest successes, combining existing elements in new ways has been the key.
2. What makes your company innovative?
To be innovative, we need to have people who can problem solve creatively and not simply accept the standard way of doing things. And equally important, we need to find partners, customers, and travelers who are open to those ideas. It’s not enough to have the coolest, best, most efficient solution in the world if nobody is willing to adopt it. So for Airside, we are incredibly lucky to have the people that can re-imagine a business process, that can engineer a new solution from scratch, and who can inspire partners and customers to join the effort. Without those people, we would be just another development shop.
3. What or who are some innovative companies or people that inspire you and your team?
Beyond the obvious answers, we look to other companies that have taken a similar philosophy to innovation. We love the story of TripIt, which built a seemingly simple but incredibly helpful solution for travelers. We think about the team at Pandora, who just plain endured until the market validated their vision. And personally, I have been incredibly fortunate to have Kip Hawley, who ran the biggest start-up in American history at TSA (60,000 new hires at 450 locations in ten months) and who put up with an avalanche of negativity, as a mentor.
4. What are some publications, print or digital, that you read daily to keep you on top of your game?
That’s a tough one. Each of us reads a fairly eclectic selection of publications, ranging from technical blogs on encryption to Der Spiegel. Obviously, we read TechCrunch, Business Insider, etc., and a lot of our ideas have come from reading basic news sources like the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. But I’m a big believer that the best ideas come from mashing up influences from different verticals. One book that I constantly keep in mind is “When Genius Failed,” which from my perspective is about a group of smart people who put too much faith in their models and analysis at the expense of thinking more broadly about the world. So we try to keep our reading diverse and even a little random.
5. What advice would you give to up-and-coming leaders striving to be innovative?
You know what the say about free advice… The first thing I’d recommend is entering some kind of endurance event, like a marathon or the Birkebeiner (www.birkie.com), because you will be tired, it will hurt, and there’s always going to be another hill. Beyond that, the best advice I received about innovation is “don’t get sticky.” Avoiding stickiness to an idea, an opportunity, or a mental model is way harder than it sounds.