How Insitu Has Turned the Infinite Game into a Model For Success

Since Ryan Hartman joined Insitu seven years ago, he and his team have been pioneers in innovation, delving into a previously non-existent industry in unmanned aircrafts. The company operates under a “pixel by the hour” business model in which the digital footage collected by the cameras on board Insitu’s privately owned aircrafts is sold to clients. The mission statement of Institu reads as follows: “To pioneer and innovate in all that we do to positively impact people’s lives.” As the first company to fly an unmanned aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean, they have proven that they are capable of doing just that. Hartman points to four pillars that have guided the company’s mission and contributed to its success thus far.

The first is “Pioneer,” meaning to pursue fresh and fearless ideas through embracing a risk of failure and leaning into discomfort. The second is “Perform,” and to do so to the highest standard. This pillar extends beyond the quality of the product and encourages a commitment to the company’s purpose or to what Hartman describes as “living our why.” The third pillar is “Unite” which serves as a reminder to employees to embrace diversity in all aspects of the company and to do so “with purpose, action, and integrity.” The final pillar is “Care” which extends to fellow employees, customers and the community around the company’s headquarters. Hartman expresses a special sense of obligation to take care of their community in part because his business accounts for 25% of the area’s GDP.

In order for people to be successful, Hartman says, a company cannot neglect the importance of the environment in which they work. This, according to him, is the “role of culture in innovation.” When pressed about the type of leader he would describe himself to be, Hartman is quick to respond that he is a “servant leader” devoted to creating opportunities for those around him to succeed. He attributes his devotion to a diverse, collaborative, and fearless culture at Insitu to his childhood growing up on a ranch where he observed the respect his grandfather gave to the cowboys day in and day out.

Although his purpose-driven mindset is a product of serving in the military, Hartman’s leadership strategy varies dramatically from the rigidity of the top-down structure he experienced. In fact, he encourages a break down of the barriers between employees in different positions. As a CEO, he frequently believes he is best serving the company by “creating a team and then getting out of the way” to allow them to succeed on their own. Following this model and focusing on making decisions that benefit the company’s long-term goals is part of their value on the ‘infinite game:’ making decisions that will have an impact that outlasts current technology. This gets to the root of innovation, and addresses a central question to the International Conference: How can we make sure that what we are doing is beneficial, beyond our current circumstances, for future generations?