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2001 Speeches
Phil Condit portrait

Phil Condit

Chairman and CEO

The Boeing Company

"Opening the Frontiers of Lifelong Learning"

Business-Higher Education Forum

Summer 2001 Meeting

June 15, 2001

Thank you, Jim (Dagnon). Boeing is delighted to host this dinner and to co-host your summer meeting with the University of Washington.

I have good news, bad news and news. First, the good news. I have spent the last 30 hours, as you have, deeply engaged in education. The bad news is that I have spent four hours on my feet today teaching, and I am the only thing between you and dinner. So I will try to keep this to the point.

Let me talk a little about a world that is changing at an amazing pace and the implications for lifelong learning. We are all part of a civilization that for years changed very slowly. We learned to manage fire, invented the plow, created the abacus and alphabets. We are part of a civilization that grew slowly-with Confucius, Aristotle and Dante; with Euclid, Galileo and Voltaire; with Marco Polo and Magellan-a civilization that was radically transformed over many years by the Industrial Revolution from an agrarian, rural society to an industrial, urban society.

Now we are moving swiftly into a society linked by mobility and bandwidth. Both allow us to stay in contact, to change at a rate never seen before. If you lived in medieval times, for example, you had little chance to change, to learn a new occupation or skill. You did what your father or mother did, and your children followed you. Skills were passed from generation to generation.

When I was in college 40 years ago, the paradigm was that what you learned in school was what you would do for a lifetime, and what you learned in the classroom was as applicable in the workplace as it was when you learned it. But the Information Revolution has changed that for most of us. Advances in technology have opened many frontiers. The laptop I carry today has more computing power than the biggest scientific computer Boeing used when I joined the company in 1965. Today people can expect several dramatic career changes during a lifetime.

Companies are changing too. Boeing is one example. We began a very fundamental transformation about five years ago because the most dangerous thing for a company to do is stand still. Our transformation was designed to prepare the company for the 21st century. It began with the acquisition of Rockwell Aerospace and took major form with the merger with McDonnell Douglas, which set the path for a company with greater strength and greater breadth. We followed that with the acquisition of others, including the Preston Group, Jeppesen, Continental Graphics, Hughes Space and Communications, and Hawker de Havilland in Australia. The result: a company with enormous intellectual capital and capability, and opportunity for our 198,000 employees.

We also looked at how we should develop our people. We asked ourselves, how do we develop great leaders? How do we encourage employees to expand their skills? How do we foster a commitment to lifelong learning? We concluded that there was opportunity to change, to improve, and to try new approaches because there is a huge need to adapt in this rapidly changing world. So today at Boeing we have made a number of commitments to lifelong learning, and I want to tell you about two: our Boeing Leadership Center and our Learning Together Program.

We opened our Boeing Leadership Center outside St. Louis above the Missouri River a little over two years ago to develop better leaders. More than 6,000 people have been to the Center, where we have an integrated business and leadership curriculum. Executives, middle managers and first-level managers learn at the state-of-the-art residential campus as individual groups and together socially in the dining room (and at karaoke on the last night). The Center was carefully designed to help people learn how to lead their teams and to achieve results in today's dynamic global economy. Vice Chairman Harry Stonecipher, our Chief Financial Officer Mike Sears and I are there every month. Our business unit CEOs teach classes at the Center too. The Boeing Leadership Center is a powerful tool for learning and for integrating people from all over the company.

In 1998 we started our Learning Together Program for all employees. It is part of an ongoing effort to encourage employees to pursue education throughout their careers and to embrace lifelong learning. We believe that a workforce of skilled employees engaged in lifelong learning is absolutely critical to achieving our vision for 2016, when Boeing turns 100 years old: "People working together as a global enterprise for aerospace leadership." We are creating this company-wide learning environment to engage people, to stimulate new thinking and to bring diverse thought to the workplace.

Under the program, employees freely choose classes at any accredited college or university and sign up with our Learning Together program, and we pay for books and tuition. When those employees earn degrees, we reward them with Boeing stock. We believe this is one of the most progressive policies in business today, and it is paying off. Our people are taking us up on the offer and participating in high numbers. They are bringing back added knowledge that benefits Boeing and builds our intellectual resources. It's investing in our future.

We are learning interesting things too. Let me share some data so you get the scope of the program. Last year about 30,000 people used our Learning Together Program, 2,000 people earned degrees and 1,000 people received master's degrees. We paid out 173,550 stock units to graduates. We reimbursed 1,200 accredited schools about $80 million. We paid $30 million of that total to five schools where our students chose to learn...the University of Phoenix, South Coast College, Aviation Electronic Schools of America, City University and University of Southern California.

We are collecting other data, too. First, we are finding that people who continue their education are not selecting classes and schools in traditional ways. For example, half the Boeing people taking classes are buying them a la carte.

Second, we can clearly see an education system that has discovered electronic delivery. Just one example is the University of Phoenix. They are doing a great job of getting learning to the home with their approach to delivering classes and courses. It is the educational equivalent to FedEx, UPS and Airborne delivery: convenient, reliable and fast ... what you want, when you want it.

This is a new way of learning for our people, too. In fact, the data coming in is causing us to rethink how we support employees. People want to stay longer at work to learn on our Internet-based system and to use streaming video, and, as you might imagine, this is taxing our infrastructure. In our quest to understand how universities are valuable to our employees, we are adapting and adjusting. Likewise, we believe schools will need to adapt and adjust too.

So we might ask, "How will faculty adapt to this emerging lifelong learning world that likes online, on-time learning? How will universities adapt to a lifelong learning student, who wants distance learning and doesn't want to attend conventional classes because it's a pain to fight the traffic, find parking, eat, and get to class on time? How will the system adapt to students who want to learn no matter the hour or day?"

Lifelong learning offers a chance to imagine, too. Imagine a professor selling on a syndicated basis. Imagine the "best of the best" of professors, teaching globally on the Internet. Who will grant the degree? What does this mean to brick-and-mortar institutions? What does it mean to traditional professional degrees? How will schools serve lifelong learners, those who continually want more education for the next job, for the next career, for the next step in life?

One thing I do know: People do, and will, migrate to systems that are convenient, economical and reliable. With a little imagination and vision, I also believe there is an opportunity to create this new world of virtual lifelong learning no matter where we are.

Today we are constantly on the move, lugging laptops along. We need instant data wherever we go if we are to be effective in a dynamic, changing world. Today, when you fly, you have 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 stay in contact with your office, read a scholar's paper, answer e-mail, keep an eye on your stocks, watch the All-Star Game live or shop online. This will give new and powerful meaning to distance learning. The trip will go quickly and the time will be as productive as you want it to be. Our satellite-based system, Connexion by Boeing, will do just that, for people on the go. It will allow you to stay in contact-and connected-during your trip. This is what living, leading and learning in a changing, mobile world will be like. It has clearly changed the way I live and work!

We are moving into a world increasingly linked by mobility and bandwidth that will allow us to be in constant connection, to learn regardless of time zone, latitude or longitude. There will be resistance to these changes, but if we think differently, imagine and innovate, we can lead the way. We can lead and move ahead and embrace the future or try to hold back the inevitable advance of the tide. What many of us want is progress but without change, and that will not happen.

We can pay attention 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." By fostering new ways to learn, we can lead, prosper and survive. By working together, we can open educational frontiers and satisfy the thirst for learning that exists and will grow.

Thank you. Now I'd be happy to take your questions.