This is a headscratcher if not an elaborate early April Fool’s joke. British Airways has launched something called “UnGrounded,” an initiative that goes like this: Select 100 of the “most forward-thinking founders, CEOs, venture capitalists, and Silicon Valley game-changers,” and put them on a flight on July 12 from San Francisco to London, and let them solve the world’s problems. More specifically, the problem of “global misalignment of talent” which is described thusly:
UnGrounded participants will be tasked with connecting the abundance of emerging STEM talent in cities around the world with civic and commercial opportunities in major tech hubs, where talent crunch is increasingly an issue.
In normal English, that means trying to figure out how to solve the tech talent crunch in hubs like Silicon Valley and London with talent from emerging countries of Africa and others place that can’t come to these hubs because of geopolitical (read visa) issues.
There are some big-name mostly-British advisors involved, who will choose these 100 “forward-thinkers.” The passengers will be selected “for their energy, ideas and experience,” which isn’t explained beyond that.
The ideas and solutions drummed up during this flight will be collected, put into shape with the help of design shop IDEO, and upon touchdown in London the flight participants will attend the DNA Summit conference. During this summit, passengers will present their solution to the challenge to participants, and also to the Secretary General of the ITU – the UN agency for information and communication technologies.
No one can disagree that this is problem worthy of solving, but do gimmicks like these, underwritten by corporate overlords that are hardly the bastion of tech innovation, the best way to go? Or it is the more grounded practical solution-oriented efforts like Startup Visa Act — driven by the likes of Steve Case and others — a better way sans stunts?