These are some principles of our R&D program.
First, do no harm
Human safety is always paramount. It’s the overriding concern in everything we do, make, use, test, and sell. Protecting the environment is also critical, second only to preserving human life.
We help people move more safely, swiftly, sustainably, and affordably. People want all of those. If you think we should abandon one for the sake of the others, this isn’t the right place for you.
Three laws safe
With a tip of the hat to Isaac Asimov, we design systems to simultaneously conform to three bodies of law:
- Laws of Nature
Follow the physics. This could also be expressed as extreme realism, distinguishing between a convenient rule-of-thumb and an immutable law of nature. We strive to understand the difference between what hasn’t been done and what cannot be done.
- As an example, chemical-combustion rockets are stuck with the tyranny of the rocket equation. They can’t avoid it, but we can outwit tyranny! We do it by sourcing external power while in flight.
- Laws of Economics
Follow the value. We design and build systems that are sustainable. To be sustainable, people must want to buy it. Sellers must make a fair return selling it and buyers must be willing to pay a fair price for it. Without both those things, it’s not sustainable. If the ticket price doesn’t cover the cost of the service, best not to undertake the effort. That keeps us focused on supplying what people value. You’d be surprised how often this principle is overlooked in the aerospace world.
- Laws of Governments
Follow your conscious. We always work within applicable statutes and regulations. We work with government officials to keep statutes and regs up to date as technology evolves.
Reasoning not rationalizing
Vincent Ryan Ruggerio observed that “Rationalizing is the very opposite of reasoning; whereas reasoning works from evidence to conclusion, rationalizing works from conclusion to evidence. That is, rationalizing starts with what we want to be so and then selectively compiles ‘evidence’ to prove that it is so.” Many companies accept or even prize rationalizing to get people moving in a common direction. Ayn Rand put it more bluntly: “Rationalization is a process of not perceiving reality, but of attempting to make reality fit one’s emotions.” Rationalizing requires strength of mind; reasoning requires additional strength of heart. Here you need both.
Direction before velocity
As Yogi Bera maybe said, if you don’t know where you’re going, you will probably end up some where else.
A good plan swiftly executed is better than a perfect plan delayed
Patton actually said “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” We changed it up a little as we work to harmonize with Mother Nature, not battle her. (Mother Nature is a formidable ally and a merciless foe, so best to stay on her good side.) Key take-away is you need both a good plan and swift execution. Too many companies tend to pursue one or the other.
It’s all about the goal, not the role
Expect to change roles. We’re a small company, so specialization is a little confining. Think of it as good cross training.
Lean & keen
We keep teams small, otherwise we won’t accomplish our goals. Big teams tend to be better for small incremental improvements. Small teams tend to be better for big transformative improvements.
Left, right, left, right
People sometimes like to debate what’s more important, theory or practice. That’s like asking a two-legged runner which leg is more important. The answer is both. Each pushes us forward, but each has limited reach. Working together iteratively, each advances the other.
Mother Nature can be quite coy about her secrets; she doesn’t yield them easily. We may collect some data that lends itself to different explanations, sometimes contradictory ones. We often discuss and debate. If we can’t come to a consensus, we typically settle the controversy by getting better data. When no more useful data can be gotten, then we employ high-level judgement.
Hindsight isn’t 20/20
People like to say “hindsight is always 20/20”. That hasn’t been our experience. When it’s not 20/20, it’s often a case of denial, and that happens more often in companies than you would think possible. As Rafiki said, you can either run from the past or learn from it. Running means looking away; learning requires thoughtful examination. Our goal is to learn, making hindsight a prelude to insight.
The following principles aren’t unique to us (at least, we hope they’re not), but are a baseline requirement to work here.
Mutual respect is non-negotiable, critical thinking is a requirement. Here, the two go hand in hand. Constructive criticism of a concept is respectful of people’s intelligence. Challenge the ideas, respect the people wrestling with them.
People are our only source of new ideas. We can be rough on the concepts, but not on the people generating them. Doing otherwise results in adopting bad ideas, or reducing the flow of good ideas, or both. We won’t tolerate a jerk, no matter how brilliant. We don’t have the headcount to add a “buffer” person to mediate relations between you and the rest of the team (try a large corporation, they tend to be more indulgent of that kind of extra headcount).
We also don’t have room for someone who gets along with everyone but doesn’t contribute much. We do a lot, and debate a lot. Doing requires ideas, action and follow-up. Debate requires talking and listening. If you’re someone who just likes to order people around, or someone who just likes to follow orders, you probably should go check out the bigger companies.
Here, you’ll have to inject your personal energy into everything you do, both listening and speaking up. What we’re trying to accomplish takes a group effort, with interactions that generate powerful ideas. You’ll have to carry your share of the burden. You’ll have to respect others enough to recognize you don’t have a monopoly on truth, and respect yourself enough to voice your ideas.
We’re an equal-opportunity employer. We don’t don’t discriminate based on race, skin color, national origin, religion, creed, gender, or sexual orientation. Instead, we care about your potential to contribute to teams in generating and implementing better ideas. We don’t care if you stutter; we care passionately about what you have to say. Ideas are selected on the basis of merit. Team members are selected on the basis of the ideas and accomplishments likely to flow from the teams they join. Teams are made from individuals. Individuals come with differences. What matters is how well we combine our differences when working together.
At Electric Sky, you’ll be expected to practice these principles every minute of every day. Like we said, it’s not for everybody. It may even be hard but, for the right person, that’s what makes it fun!