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Networked technology holds limitless promise, exec says.

Harry C Stonecipher, president and COO of The Boeing Co, recently offered his thoughts on technology management at the Parks College of Engineering and Aviation, St Louis University in Missouri. Here are excerpts from that lecture.

When I was studying for my undergraduate degree in physics, we prided ourselves on being able to produce precise and lightning-fast calculations with this instrument. It's called a slide rule.

Now that may cause some of you to laugh. But here is one prediction that I can make with absolute confidence: It won't be too long before many of you are laughing at the antiquated methods and technologies that you used to employ when you were still in school. The Palm Pilots or DVDs of today may be the slide rules of tomorrow.

Why is this? Are people any smarter today than they were 100, 200, or even 5000 years ago? Are they innately more creative? Any biologist would tell you that is not the case.

Web-paced world

The big difference, almost certainly, is in the transmission of useful information, knowledge, and insight. This is happening at a faster and faster pace; and it is becoming less and less costly in the bargain. Faster transmission begets greater discovery.

This brings me to the so-called "networking effect," which states that the value of networked products will rise quickly with the number of people using them. In other words, the bigger the network, the better it is, in most cases, for just about every one.

Like our counterparts in other fields, we in aerospace are using web-based networks to lower costs, improve communication, stimulate innovation, and deliver greater value to our customers.

Earlier this year, a group of aerospace firms--including. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon and British Aerospace--announced the creation of an independent enterprise that will develop an Internet trading exchange for the global aerospace and defense industry. Based on the Commerce One MarketSite Portal Solution, and powered by Microsoft, this exchange will create a secure, electronic marketplace where buyers and sellers around the world can conduct business.

Means to an end

We expect this open business-to-business exchange to lower transaction costs by as much as a third, in some cases.

Technology is an enabler. It is the means to an end--not the end itself. The great inventors have seldom been the solitary geniuses of popular myth. They have always been great borrowers and adapters. Where breakthroughs have occurred, it has often been because of their ability to combine a profound grasp of what is already known ... with a willingness to think and act differently.

How does all this apply to our own businesses ... and to our own careers ... in the present environment?

First, we must make the most of what we have been given. In today's world, we have been given almost free and instant access to great amounts of information and knowledge ... and the ability to communicate with others ... anywhere and everywhere ... all over the world. We fail to use this gift at our own peril because it has been given to everyone.

Second, we must be willing to change, and to take risks. We must recognize the likelihood ... or, indeed, the inevitability ... of declining security in traditional businesses, skills and professions.

Third, we cannot stop learning at any point in our lives and careers. Thinking differently is no longer the exclusive province of the Tom Edisons. It is something we all must do in the business of running our own careers. The most dangerous rut in today's economy is mental or intellectual stagnation. Regardless of where you are, if you continue to learn ... and grow ... new opportunities and options will open up in front of you. They may not be in the job that you begin with. They may hot be in the company you begin with. But they will be there.

For most of our history, we at the Boeing Co have thought of ourselves as a builder of airplanes, space vehicles, satellites, missiles, and other hardware. Today we are endeavoring to be a provider of integrated products and services to all of our customers ... and we are also looking for whole new avenues of growth in newly emerging markets that are much different than anything we have encountered before.

This has forced us to think of ourselves in new ways. It will test us in new ways. Certainly, it will test our capacity to relate to new customers and to forge new alliances, and networks.

But that is a challenge that each of you will face as you go along in your own career. It is nothing to be afraid of.

Being proactive

I would urge you to think of networking not just in bits and bytes per second, but in the most personal of ways. No man, as John Donne said, is an island. Each of us is dependent upon others. It is well not just to accept that but to act upon it in a positive way.

As you go from one stage of your career to the next, always try to reinforce and enlarge your inner circle of friends, mentors and teachers. This is not an easy task. It demands personal growth and a willingness to explore new territory. You won't find many new recruits to your inner circle if you are content with the status quo; if you are content with your current level of knowledge or expertise; or if you fail to develop your skills as a listener and a communicator.

On the other hand, if you can succeed in building a growing and robust personal network through a variety of assignments, you should have no problem in making your way in a fast-changing and increasingly interconnected world.
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Title Annotation:Harry C Stonecipher, president and COO of The Boeing Co
Comment:Networked technology holds limitless promise, exec says.(Harry C Stonecipher, president and COO of The Boeing Co)
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2000
Words:950
Previous Article:The Can Do! conundrum.
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