Modeling the Skunkworks Technology: Sharing Experience to Make the Difference

Modeling the Skunkworks Technology: Sharing Experience to Make the Difference

Sylvia C. Mupepi (Grand Valley State University, USA), Kuda B. Mupepi (St. James College of Medicine, USA) and Tatenda Mupepi (St. James College of Medicine, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7390-6.ch004

Abstract

Management view the skunkworks approach as an enriched environment composed of individuals possessing the required experience critical in the formulation of strategy to advance efficiency and effectiveness in the firm. It is a purpose-built forum where learning happens by sharing experiences to design and implement new products in at least four modalities. The first is its capability to ignite the company's mission by co-construction a shared vision. Organizations need to appreciate what the future may look like. The second is the collective experience of its membership where new ideas can lead to the design and implementation of the technology to progress the job. A company must do all it can to differentiate itself to compete successfully. The third is its ability to create diffuse and distribute knowledge to cognitive areas where it will be put into organizational context. The fourth is the need to sustain change by continuing to learn and improve. This chapter models the skunkworks technology.
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Background Information

In their audio book, Ben Rich and Leo Janos tell the story of how their company Lockheed Martin developed new products such as the Stealth Fighter jet which answered America’s quest to dominate the skies. The team’s mission was characterized by the notion that failure was not an option. The Skunkworks team was selected from military personnel who had aeronautical, electrical, ballistic, information systems, mechanical, and logistics engineering backgrounds. The Skunkworks team was located in an abandoned barn where real skunks and raccoons and the occasional owl thrived. The team got its name from that habitat. It had to clear the barn to make room for their meeting place, offices, computer simulation, and break rooms. When the Skunkworks finally got to work, their end products were numerous classified military technology resulting in products such as the U2 reconnaissance aircraft and Stealth Fighter Jet. The gregariousness of the Skunkworks team was characterized by deep mental involvement to create possible end products and where algorithms had to be perfect in finding answers to known problems. Ng (2012) suggested that deep learning was a subfield of machine learning concerned with algorithms inspired by the structure and function of the brain called artificial neural networks. The argument progressed by Ng is that machine learning could be utilized to enhance product improvement and development. Ng is a founding entrepreneur credited with products and services such as Coursera and Google Brain. Ng is at the leading edge of artificial intelligence, the application of computers to areas normally regarded as requiring human intelligence.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Continuous Learning and Improvement: Forming an unbroken learning and making corrections to errors, without interruption to perfect performance.

Purpose-Built Forum: A purpose-built forum is one created to do a specific job. For example, a knowledge community is made to create diffuse and distribute knowledge throughout cognitive areas where it will be put into context to make the goods demanded by customers.

Experiential Learning: Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience and is more specifically defined as learning through reflection on doing.

Skunkworks Project: A skunkworks project is a project developed by a small and loosely structured group of people who research and develop a project primarily for the sake of radical innovation. The terms originated with Lockheed's World War II Skunk Works project.

Deep Mental Involvement: The action of immersing someone or a team in problem solving or creating explicit practices to advance organization.

Resistance to Change: The degree to which a group or individual opposes change or new rules and procedures preferring the old regulations.

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