University of Southern California

Blue-Sky Thinking
August 20, 2010 • by Charles Ogilvie

Dear Friends of Marshall:

As a Trojan, I’m always looking for opportunities - including opportunities to give back. USC’s IBEAR (International Business Education and Research) Program has been a great example of how this circle of giving can work. Like the other IBEAR MBA students at USC Marshall, I took part in an International Business Consulting Project (IBCP)--a capstone project, which involves a real company, investigating a real business problem. Matsushita Avionics Corporation (a division of Panasonic) wanted to find out what airline passengers need in order to be productive and happy in-flight.

The IBCP mindset demands blue-sky thinking - literally, in my case. The late, great Dr. Jim Stancill encouraged me to approach situations with imagination - to pull things from the fringes and move them to the forefront. I completed my project on in-flight entertainment and that opened the door for me to be hired by Matsushita/Panasonic, where I ran a subsequent IBCP project the following year. From there, I was hired by Virgin. Richard Branson was dreaming of launching a Virgin-branded US airline, and wanted to rethink how we could “wow” passengers with an in-flight entertainment and communications system. Because of my involvement with two IBEAR projects at Panasonic, I knew what could work as a backbone for the system. And I knew what kind of imaginative help I could get by utilizing IBEAR.

I approached USC Marshall about sponsoring another IBCP project - although this time the situation was a bit different. At that point, Virgin was still going through regulatory challenges and didn’t have the cash allocated for such a project. Instead, Virgin offered a pledge of airline travel in a bartered deal…on an airline that had yet to launch its first flight! Did that faze Marshall? No, because the folks at USC understand how to capture an opportunity and take a calculated risk. Several years later we were able to launch Virgin America, and faculty, students and staff from USC Marshall were suddenly flying on Virgin and enjoying the cutting-edge, in-flight, entertainment system developed partially by IBEAR MBA students.

I’m now back at Panasonic, sponsoring the next generation of IBEAR MBA students. We’re giving them a real-world experience and real-world success, and they are helping me bring new international aviation technology initiatives to the company. I hope you’ll join me in supporting the circle of giving. It does us all a world of good.

Fight On!

Charles Ogilvie