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2000 Speeches
Phil Condit portrait

Phil Condit

Chairman and CEO

The Boeing Company

"Leading in a Changing, Mobile World"

American Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong

December 01, 2000

Thank you, Dick (Kahler). It's a delight to be here and to participate in your leadership series. Today, I want to talk about how, as leaders, we need to adapt to survive in a world that is being changed at an amazing pace...a world that is being linked by greater mobility through aviation and telecommunications. Then I'll take your questions.

The Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu said, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." We are all part of a civilization that started slowly, with a single step, and it took us years and years to go any significant distance. We learned to manage fire, invent the plow, the abacus, alphabets, and iron tools. We are a civilization that grew slowly: with Confucius, Aristotle, and Dante, with Marco Polo and Magellan. A civilization transformed by the Industrial Revolution from an agrarian, rural society to an industrial, urban society. And a civilization that has been changed by transportation and communication, by railroads, autos, airplanes, and the telegraph, telephone, radio, television, and the Internet. More important, our civilization has grown by continuously finding better, more productive methods. As a result, we have raised our standard of living.

Today, we are moving into a society linked by both mobility and bandwidth. Technology advances will allow us to stay in contact as never before. The Information Revolution will change the world, and, as leaders, I believe we must adapt to survive in this changing connected, mobile world.

In aerospace, the industry I represent, we have had almost a century of progress since Orville and Wilbur Wright first flew for 12 seconds. Early challenges were to fly higher, faster, and farther. And we have gone from the novelty of flying a few people a day to some 3 million people daily boarding more than 42,000 flights on Boeing jetliners to almost every country in the world.

Air travel is common and affordable now; overnight package delivery is popular and growing. Both allow us to be connected. We have grown in telecommunications, too -- from local news to CNN. And we have gone from Sputnik in 1957 to more than 2,000 satellites in orbit today. All allow us to stay connected.

Now we are moving away from an urban, industrial society to a connected, mobile world. And the Information Revolution is changing us once again, -- in ways that we know -- and in ways that are beyond our imagination today. The freedom of the Internet has opened the flood gates to connect us at incredible speeds regardless of time zone, latitude, and longitude. We can accomplish amazing things online. We shop for our airline tickets there. We trade stocks there. We read the latest on vote recounts, check the bank account, and keep in touch with our families there.

The Industrial Revolution changed the way things were made and dramatically reduced the cost of production. The Information Revolution is allowing us to radically change the cost of interaction just as the machine changed the cost of making things.

For example, we designed our Joint Striker Fighter demonstrator in St. Louis, in Seattle, and in Gloucester and Bristol, England. All the pieces fit together when they were assembled in Palmdale, Calif. And so information and communication technology allows us to be connected and to work in many different places.

Today, as leaders on the go, we are constantly on the move lugging our laptops along. We need instant data - wherever we go if we are to be effective in a dynamic and changing world. Our challenge now will be to go from asking each other, "Were you able to get online last night?" to being able to plug-in anywhere and be connected. That will be true not just for the office, home, or hotel, but aboard a non-stop flight from Hong Kong to New York.

What we have come to realize is that no one knows highly mobile platforms -- whether on military or commercial airplanes better than Boeing. We also know satellites and space-based communication. We are world-class at large-scale systems integration. Put together, these provide the technology and knowledge to build broadband, real-time mobile communication.

Today when you fly, there are a limited number of choices. You can read, watch a movie, or work on your computer until the battery wears down. But soon you will be able to watch live news, you can stay in contact with the office, keep an eye on your stocks, or watch a live sporting event, and then your airplane trip will begin to feel like your office, home, or hotel...a seamless experience.

Our satellite-based system, Connexion by Boeing, will do just that, for anyone on the go with the need to know. It will allow you to stay in contact -- and connected -- during your trip. Mobile communications will have a dramatic impact on business productivity, too.

Let me share a personal example. Last year, I was in the air almost 600 hours, or the equivalent of almost 75 - eight-hour days. The airplanes that I use have the capability that I just described; they act as my office in the sky. This allows me to operate in a fast-paced, mobile world, to stay in contact with my leadership team while accomplishing important Boeing business, in person, worldwide.

Being mobile and connected allows me to meet more often with customers, government, and industry leaders; to see suppliers and employees in person; and to speak to you today in Hong Kong. Being mobile and connected allows me to send e-mail directly to almost 160,000 employees from anywhere, at any time, as I did from Beijing yesterday. Being mobile and connected allows me: to arrive rested, informed, and ready to do business. This is what living and leading in a changing, mobile world will be like.

This new era of constant connection is radically changing our society and us as leaders. We are moving into a civilization linked by mobility and bandwidth. We are moving to a world marked by relative independence to one with real inter-dependence. There is, and will be, resistance as we work across national boundaries and across cultures, because this involves great change.

We can lead the way in this changing, mobile world if we work together and make the right choices. We do have a choice. We can recognize that constant change is here to stay, or we can wish for "the good old days" that really weren't so good after all. We do have a choice. We can lead and move ahead and embrace the future or try to hold back the inevitable advance of the tide. What most of us want is progress, but without change. And that will not happen.

We can lead -- as did those before -- who dared to do what others said was impossible, or dangerous, or stupid. We can listen carefully to the wise words of Darwin, who said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is most adaptable to change." We can survive by adapting and taking advantage of the great technology that is available to us.

Now I'd be happy to take your questions.