To fly a balloon around the world is no simple feat. Some may say that it depends entirely on luck. It doesn’t. In ballooning, as in business, you create your own luck. You use your knowledge, skills, imagination and expertise to exploit the opportunities presented to you. Certainly you can plan, but you must also respond rapidly and flexibly when unexpected challenges arise.
If the winds and weather that carried Breitling Orbiter 3 around the world are a vivid metaphor for the global business environment, then the Orbiter team and its two pilots are the epitome of the successful business team.
In my talk, I draw on the strong parallels between my adventure and how enterprises, and the teams within them, must operate in their chosen fields to achieve their goals. I speak from experience of both sides of the Breitling Orbiter enterprise. As project manager, I was well aware of the importance of careful planning, motivating the team and of getting things right first time – after all, many of the balloon’s systems could only be tested on take-off! And then, as one of the two pilots on the journey itself, I was called upon to show personal courage, determination and ingenuity, often in situations over which I had no direct control.
Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard are referred to as heroes. Well, maybe, but I will make your people aware that it is the whole team that matters. I will highlight the contributions of the unsung heroes of the Breitling Orbiter team – like the meteorologist who, working with an innate understanding of his subject, made the crucial decision to take the balloon on a never before attempted southern route across the Pacific Ocean. In these circumstances it is not only expertise that matters, but trust.
During the midmorning of March 20, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones soared into the history books when their balloon, Breitling Orbiter 3, sped at 130 miles an hour at an altitude of 36,000 feet over an invisible finish line at 9 degrees 27 minutes west longitude in Mauritania.
After riding the winds for nearly three weeks, the two pilots–Piccard, a 41-year-old Swiss psychiatrist whose grandfather invented the pressurized capsule for high-altitude ballooning, and Jones, a veteran British balloonist–took title to being the first balloonists to circumnavigate the globe by recrossing the westernmost longitude reached in their journey.