On a recent Airlines Confidential podcast, former CEO of Airbus-America Barry Eccleston discussed how Airbus has grown over the years to dethrone Boeing as the world’s largest commercial aircraft maker.
Airbus began in the late 1960s as a consortium of pan-European companies connected by a shared crusade to counter American industrial prowess. Once aviation’s leaders in innovation, these European underdogs had been surpassed by Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Lockheed in the ’50s and ’60s.
Once Airbus got started and was standing on its own feet, the concept of ‘Beat Boeing’ became the Airbus mantra. Indeed, it brought together the French, the Germans, the Brits, and the Spanish. If you think about it, Europe had been trying previously to do joint venture programs successfully for quite a while, but most of them didn’t happen. But this one did. And, I believe, it happened, not solely, but in large part, because everybody rallied around a flag, and the flag was called Beat Boeing. Do you remember, in the old days, the Avis slogan was “We are number two, and we try harder?” That kind of like, was where we were at in Airbus. We knew we were number two; we knew we could become number one, and we tried harder.
Idea for Impact: Nothing unites a team like a common enemy. The adversary doesn’t have to be a person, a team, or a competitor. It can be a being-the-underdog mindset or an against-the-the-odds challenge. It can even be a system that has resisted change.