Concorde 2.0: Reinventing Supersonic Technology
(10 pages of text)
The Concorde, a British–French supersonic jet, captured the hearts and minds of aviators, business professionals, and celebrities around the world through its iconic design, superior features, and unique inflight experience. Despite its transcendent appeal, the jet became surrounded by controversy, catastrophe, an environmental movement, and changing consumer trends, all of which led to its grounding in 2003. In almost two decades, no aerospace program had been successful in recreating commercial supersonic air travel. The Concorde’s story showed that these non-technical aspects of technology adoption and diffusion were strong enough to force the retirement of a superior, breakthrough technology and replace it with an inferior one. In 2021, did it make sense to aim to commercialize supersonic travel by imitating the good in the Concorde and tweaking the downsides, or was there a hidden reason why the Concorde had failed and supersonic transport had not been recreated?
This case can be used in undergraduate- and graduate-level courses on strategy, technology management, general management, sustainability, entrepreneurship, new product development, or information systems. The case uses the story of the Concorde to teach Everett Rogers’s diffusion of innovations (DOI) theory, inviting students to reapply this theory in 2020. This case highlights the complexities of the DOI in a market, presenting an opportunity to learn the theory by focusing on why an iconic innovation failed despite its technological superiority. After working through the case and assignment questions, students will be able to do the following:
- Describe and analyze characteristics of a technological innovation.
- Explain the emotional appeal of an innovation, in addition to its functional benefits.
- Differentiate types of innovation adopters.
- Assess the environmental conditions in which a technological breakthrough is introduced, and describe its impact through a sustainability lens.
- Evaluate the potential of an innovation to become mainstream.
Transportation and Warehousing
France; United Kingdom, Large, 2003
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