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Richard Plenty and Terri Morrissey provide their thoughts on how to encourage entrepreneurial spirt.

Back in 2012, we delivered a keynote address at ACI Europe’s Regional Airports Conference in Ljubljana on ‘Building an entrepreneurial mindset’. At the time, many airports were facing economic challenges which could not be met by simply providing ‘more of the same’. They needed to explore other sources of revenue to stay in business. Innovative thinking was required.

This requires a combination of creative thinking mixed with commercial ‘nous’. It quite often means looking at the ordinary in different ways, of putting on different lenses when viewing the day to day, of seeing new patterns or combinations or of re-imagining alternative methods of delivery.

It may also mean designing new products, services or of anticipating a new trend or demand.

Those who are best suited to this type of environment usually demonstrate characteristics such as curiosity, measured risk taking, openness to change, a willingness to experiment, perseverance and resilience.

They generally see the big picture. People who understand the customer and can anticipate customer experience and need – along with a good measure of empathy – are good candidates.

Fast forward to 2019 and an innovative mindset is still relevant. This time round it’s not just about money: it’s about sustainability in the broadest sense. Take Dublin Airport, for example. Back in 2012, they launched a scheme to sell ‘plane water’ at €1 a bottle, which was a great success.

In 2019 this popular offering has been augmented by an imaginative system of ‘hydration stations’, water fountains fitted with swan necks where passengers can fill their own bottles with less environmental impact.

So, what can be done to create a more ‘entrepreneurially friendly’ workplace environment and develop more ‘entrepreneurially minded’ employees? After all, many people who work in airports weren’t recruited for these kinds of skills, but for their ability to work in an operational environment where the priorities are consistent delivery and abiding by a rigorous set of rules and regulations.

A good place to start is to create space and time for reflective thinking and conversation. Many workplaces are far too busy, with little headspace for considering how the work is done and how it might be delivered in alternative or more effective ways.

Many day-to-day activities and experiences provide fertile material for thinking about better ways of working and of delivering new value adding services.

Creating an environment where people feel more free to express themselves and to challenge the tried and tested in a psychologically safe space can lead to surprising results.

It really doesn’t require much investment except the willingness to give it a go.

A few tips:

  • Review the tried and tested and see if it’s still relevant for today
  • Bring the outside in by looking at what other organisations have done
  • Wear new lenses when viewing the passenger experience

And most importantly, make sure you don’t just ‘think’ about things – but try them out to see if they work. ‘Trial and success’ can be a winning formula. Who knows where the new pot of gold lies?

Arrivals and departures

Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) in the UK has a new boss, former London Luton and Newcastle airport board member, Hywel Rees. He joins LBA from AMP Capital, where he has been a senior member of the asset management team for around five years, with a focus on airports. He said: “I am delighted to join Leeds Bradford Airport and look forward to working with the team to grow the airport long-term and deliver a high-quality service experience.”

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has announced the retirement of chief operating officer, Samson Mengistu. Mengitsu enjoyed a 30-year career with the City of Los Angeles, more than 25 of them at LAWA. He has served under four Los Angeles mayors, and numerous Airport Commissions and LAWA administrations.

Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) has announced changes to its executive leadership team with Martin Ryan taking up the leadership of the newly created Consumers Group as executive general manager. Following an organisational restructure that came into effect on April 1, 2019, the Consumers Group was created to better serve passengers and other visitors to Brisbane Airport.

Hong Kong International Airport operator, Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK), has welcomed three new board members – Stuart Thomson Gulliver, Dr Lo Wai-kwok and Thomas Jefferson Wu. All will serve three year terms.

Keith Ludeman is the new chairman of London Luton Airport (LLA). The former CEO of Go-Ahead Group Plc joins the UK’s fifth busiest airport ahead of the December 2018 completion of its £160 million transformation project.

Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust (TAIT) has made two new additions its executive leadership team after promoting Chuck Hannum to the role of chief operating officer and appointing Jonathan Gobbo as its new director of real estate. “Chuck and Jonathan bring over 30 years of experience to our leadership team, and we could not be more excited for their fresh perspective,” said Alexis Higgins, CEO of Tulsa Airports.

About the authors

Terri Morrissey is chairperson of This Is… as well as chair of the Science and Public Policy Committee of the Psychological Society of Ireland. Dr Richard Plenty is managing director of This Is… and runs the ACI World Airport Human Resources Programme. Contact them through info@thisis.eu


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