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How Can Culture Drive Innovation?

Article originally published by Ernst & Young, visit ::

All entrepreneurs are passionate about what they do. But knowing how to infuse an entire organisation with that passion is critical to building a culture of innovation.

Gilo Cardozo, the entrepreneur behind Gilo Industries, believes that anything is possible.

He’s been focused on building the ultimate flying machine since he was a young boy and, now, what was once just a hobby and a passion has become a commercially successful business. Today, Gilo Industries is pushing the limits of aviation technology by providing both sports enthusiasts and those in the aviation and defence sectors with innovative aircraft solutions that are lightweight, agile and intuitive. The company’s products include everything from Parajets to flying cars. But it’s Gilo’s engines powering the aircraft that is the truly innovative and disruptive technology:

“Our main area of disruption is in our engine technology and how we apply that to aviation. One of the key drivers behind the business is propulsion systems, making things move more efficiently, more quietly and with more power and more speed, and that is what I’m working on all the time in the background: how do we make a propulsion system for mankind that is better than anything else we have had before?” says Gilo.


Harnessing Gilo’s innovative ideas is a team effort. Almost 60 employees work in Dorset to make Gilo’s dreams a reality. It’s a truly entrepreneurial culture that Gilo has built from the ground up, and one where everyone is welcome to contribute: “What I might do is come up with the initial drive to create something, but I don’t know all the answers that will actually solve the full problem. Along the way to getting there, there will be people in the team who will innovate brilliantly.”

That team of people is vital to the organization’s success and provides Gilo with the support he needs in order to innovate. In return, he injects the company with a sense of entrepreneurship, enthusiasm and – most of all – fun. In fact, while many companies have a “cycle to work” scheme, Gilo provides all his employees with a “fly to work” scheme, enabling them to buy the company’s Parajets and literally fly to work. At 17:30 sharp, the company closes its doors and the majority of employees can be found in a nearby field strapping the backpack aircraft on for a quick flight home.


In addition to the team, the company’s customers are also an important part of its innovation. Jim Edmondson, Gilo’s CEO, says that the development of their products and technology is an organic process that is sometimes led by their customers: “Our customers have certain demands about what they aim to achieve from their end system, so that helps to guide us on the direction of our products.”


However, it’s always a balance between creating innovative new products and remaining a profitable business. Carrie Tucker, Gilo’s CFO and an EY alumna, believes it’s important to have focus, and she is there to act as Gilo’s “financial handbrake,” while at the same time giving him the freedom to explore.

“We create very structured budgets that we get signed off at board level and then, on top of that, we have a research fund that Gilo is allowed to use, because you don’t want to suffocate him. What makes Gilo so fantastic is his inspirational ideas, and so if you take that away, the company will not continue to grow,” says Carrie.

For Gilo, this formula seems to be working: “You see extraordinary engineers around the world –­ brilliant innovators doing amazing things ­– and we want to be one of them, we want to be part of that excitement, part of that adventure.”

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