I have discussed the benefits of Design Space thinking in several posts and have talked about the need for eight people from disciplines corresponding with the eight faces of the octagon. In a way the seeds for Design Space thinking were sewn by the events touched on in the discussion of Geoffrey Wilde's obituary here. The obituary hints a the Rolls-Royce culture of engineering excellence and the need to have the right individuals in place striving and succeeding to make a difference. When I worked at R-R the culture meant that I had an allegiance to the company, my department and my project(s). But they were on a par. This meant that a project in need would get extra resource by an informal discussion between managers, allowing staff to be co-opted onto ventures that needed to be done. I widened my knowledge considerably under the tutelage of the various managers that I was co-opted to work for and realised early the power of dream teams. This ability to crack tough problems was built on the ease with which people networked and shared information across borders. As projects get tougher, in today's business environment, knowing who to involve, knowing how to involve and orchestration of the dialogue that results is key to fast, excellent products that win, in the marketplace.
In order to understand the behaviour of components in the Rolls-Royce turbine programmes referred to in Geoff Wilde obit. it was most important to understand what the goals were (improving the RB211 hp turbine life by at least 100%) and increasing the turbine entry temperature on the demonstrator units by some 250 degrees K. The two targets were interrelated. In order to dramatically improve creep life we had to change the turbine materials from Nimonics that could be extrusion formed to MAR M materials that had to be cast. The change of material on the RB211 had not achieved the expected life improvement and the high temperatures on the demonstrator reduced the cast blade life to less than that required to collect the experimental data. My 5 years of apprentice training had taken me into a new department every 5 or ten weeks. Fortunately, because I had taken an interest in aero-engine history as well as a desire to understand today's engines, so I got introductions to the people who, in a small or large way, had shaped the company. This meant that I could go off and talk to people all over the company to expose the clues and possible reasons for problems we encountered... this particular clue turned out to be in a buff folder of "private" material testing results generated from sections of material taken from real components, not test bars. A peer mwtallurgist had been interested in doing tests on sections from real "things". It turned out that there was a geometric effect that considerably reduced creep life; although this affected both extruded and cast components, and therefore had not been circulated "because the results are similar and older aircraft (e.g. Boeing 707) in service with extruded extruded designs had adequate life". But it turned out that because ductility of materials was an order less in cast blades they could not redistribute strains through the geometry without failure, so although extruded designs was only slightly effected but cast ones had a dramatically reduced life. So a fast track programme of improved cooling technology and design was initiated, together with a manufacturing technology programme to introduce crystal structures that nearly eliminated the geometry effects ensued. Within a short space of time solutions to the problem were proposed and shown to be solved, first on the demonstrator then on the real engines.
So if we look at the social implications of this process of improvement we can see it is based on the ability of people to carry out curiosity driven experiments to investigate "What if we...?" and then connect the knowledge with other knowledge residing in people's heads around the business. It is the conversations around pieces of paper, test-pieces, components, test results, etc, that started to reveal the "truth" and more artefacts created as a result that enabled solutions to be found. Hugh Macleod's doodle sums it up
What cultural characteristics do we detect that will help innovation to flourish?
As a service to other parts of the company we should understand clearly what the objectives of our clients (airlines, driven by their passenger needs, and obectives laid out contractual agreements), say the engineer in charge of an engine project. Then we need to understand the interactions of all the parties involved and orchestrate the discovery of new knowledge and of relevant (and irrelevant knowledge).