Aug 19, 2019 • 4 min read

American Association of Airline Executives (AAAE) Innovation Forum Keynote

The American Association of Airline Executives (AAAE), is the world’s largest professional organization for airport executives, recognising the value of advancement in the aviation by individuals committed to the industry. At this year’s AAAE Innovation Forum, the keynote was delivered by John K. Coyle, Olympic speed skating silver medalist. John’s keynote focused on design thinking, identified as an analytical approach to problem-solving using a step-by-step method for finding working solutions.

American Association of Airline Executives (AAAE) Innovation Forum Keynote

The American Association of Airline Executives (AAAE), the world’s largest professional organization for airport executives, recognizes the value of advancement in the aviation by individuals committed to the industry. To that end, they offer professional development, certification programs, training opportunities. They also host over 80 domestic and international meetings each year.

The AAAE conference topics always vary, but one constant is that they always showcase fantastic keynote speakers, often from non-aviation industries. They deliver powerful, inspirational messages to promote professional and personal development. This year was no different.

At the AAAE Innovation Forum in July, the keynote was delivered by John K. Coyle, an Olympic speed skating silver medalist at the 1994 Winter Olympics. John’s keynote focused on design thinking, identified as an analytical approach to problem-solving using a step-by-step method for finding working solutions. Another way to think of this approach is striving to find new ways to solve old problems.

A key point in the presentation was the importance of accepting your weakness, an interesting thought that can have a profound impact on how to approach day-to-day processes. We naturally believe that we should work on weakness as a method of continuous improvement, effectively striving to eliminate them. As individuals, we are often hesitant to admit our weaknesses aloud, as if there is a sense of shame associated with anything “weak.”

This was apparent during the presentation when John projected a list of weaknesses on the and asked the crowd to, by raise of hands, identify which weakness they relate to. Few hands went up. On the flip-side hands were readily raised when the question was posed with list of strengths.

There is a fantastic quote from Donald Clifton (from the book Now, Discover Your Strengths): “You will excel only by maximizing your strengths, never by fixing your weaknesses,” which speaks well to John’s keynote address. As individuals, we tend to believe the best path to improvement is working on our weaknesses with the goal of becoming a jack of all trades, even if it means being a master of none in our professional careers. Clifton’s quote delivers a different message altogether, that it is okay to be weak in some areas and that one should focus on improving their strengths instead to striving for broad continuous improvement.

The hardest question in a job interview is always “What’s your biggest weakness.” Typically, people answer with a planned response, along the lines of “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist,” which are, frankly, boring and do not say anything of consequence about a person.

John’s keynote provided a completely different perspective on this question: be open and accept your weaknesses, knowing they may well be the resultant inverse of your strengths.

You can find more information about John and his story, including his book on Design Thinking, on his website: https://www.theartofreallyliving.com/

 

About AAAE: Founded in 1928, AAAE is the world’s largest professional organization for airport executives, representing thousands of airport management personnel at public-use commercial and general aviation airports. AAAE’s members represent nearly 875 airports and authorities, in addition to hundreds of companies and organizations that support airports. AAAE serves its membership through results-oriented representation in Washington, D.C. and delivers a wide range of industry services and professional development opportunities including training, meetings and conferences, and a highly respected accreditation program.

 

About the Author: Joe Emery has been employed with Daifuku’s Jervis B. Webb Company for over 12 years. In 2007, Joe began his career as a mechanical engineer with Jervis B. Webb. Over the years, Joe has moved into his current position: Senior Sales Application Engineer where he has made himself a huge asset to the Airport Technologies division of Daifuku. Joe has established himself as a leader known for always offering a helping hand to his peers and colleagues.

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