SAN FRANCISCO--Heading up to a secluded ski resort or to a nice hotel are pretty much standard locations for enterprises that organize staff focus groups dedicated to starting up something new or improving a conventional process.
But now British Airways, the United Nations and the UK-based Decide Now Act (DNA) Summit are raising the bar big time: They are planning a summit in the sky for June 12 that stands apart from most other sequestered group-think meetups.
On March 21, the airline introduced UnGrounded, an event that will take place in the air aboard a private British Airways flight from San Francisco to London. UnGrounded will take 100 highly regarded innovators from the IT and science worlds on this 12-hour voyage across the world to the DNA Summit, where they will have three days on the ground to reveal the new ideas they talked about on the trip.
These ideas will be molded--shaped by the 12-hour deadline--into a solution package that will be revealed at the summit in London. Their task was not specifically laid out at the March 21 introduction event here at the RocketSpace tech incubator in San Francisco, but it will involve the need for companies to attract new talent by finding the right people to fill new-generation jobs.
Task Will Involve Staffing New-Gen Jobs
The specific nature of the problem to be solved during the summit in the air will be revealed at a later date, British Airways spokesman and co-coordinator of the trip, Simon Talling-Smith, told reporters.
It's no secret that there is currently misalignment between where science and technology talent is emerging and where opportunity exists for talented people to realize their potential. It's also no secret that many of these new positions involve math and science talent, and that much of that talent is not being nurtured well enough in many schools--especially in the United States.
"Our understanding is that the talent crunch is a real issue for companies and organizations in major tech hubs around the world," said Amir Dossal, chairman of the United Nations Global Partnerships Forum. "We need to give people the opportunity to discover and be discovered, to grow skills, provide experience and uncover new ideas globally."
Key Facts About the Trip
Key facts about the UnGrounded flight, currently scheduled for June 12:
--The inaugural UnGrounded flight will travel from San Francisco to London. This is expected to be the first of many such flights.
--British Airways has chosen to launch the UnGrounded flight from Silicon Valley, the global hub for technology and the de-facto model for how amazing ideas can be cultivated when people are together.
--Participants on the UnGrounded flight will include some of Silicon Valley's most prominent thinkers, from budding entrepreneurs to seasoned business leaders, venture capitalists and scholars.
--Upon touching down in London, flight participants will attend the DNA Summit, a meeting that connects the best minds in the world to progress talk into action.
--During the DNA Summit, passengers will present their solution to the challenge to a group of like-minded, global innovators. The outcome will be received by the Secretary General of the ITU, the UN agency for information and communication technologies.
The UnGrounded organizing group will select passengers for their energy, ideas and experience. Working with British Airways on this challenge and recruitment are leaders in the tech community, including Todd Lutwak of Andreessen Horowitz; Leor Stern of Google; Celestine Johnson of Innovation Endeavors; Duncan Logan of RocketSpace; Gerald Brady of Silicon Valley Bank; Marguerite Gong Hancock of Stanford Graduate School of Business; and Rhonda Abrams of The Planning Shop and columnist for USA Today.
British Airways Is the Conveyor
UnGrounded is part of a larger initiative by British Airways to open the door to collaboration with the startup community in Silicon Valley. The airline recently joined RocketSpace, an open innovation campus in the heart of San Francisco, and will be actively engaging with the startup community through the RocketSpace Corporate Innovation Program.
"Innovation is a contact sport. With 100 innovators from Silicon Valley together at 30,000 feet, anything is possible," Hancock said. "Our research shows that building talent networks is at the heart of creating high value and high velocity innovation."
eWEEK Innovation will be reporting more on this project in the coming weeks.