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Rail News Home Norfolk Southern Railway

December 2013

Rail News: Norfolk Southern Railway

Wick Moorman: At RailTrends 2013, the right man took home the hardware


— by Pat Foran, Editor

RailTrends® 2013, held Nov. 21-22 in New York City, may have been our best yet, as Tony Hatch writes (for his comprehensive recap, click here). Thanks to the presenters, attendees and sponsors who helped make RailTrends 2013 enlightening and entertaining. Special thanks to Norfolk Southern Corp. Chairman and CEO Wick Moorman, our 2013 Railroad Innovator Award winner, for being his gracious, eloquent self — and for making it plain why he took home this year's hardware. Even if he did try to make a case for why he shouldn't have.

Moorman, known for his dry sense of humor, began his acceptance speech by quoting "Honeymoon Suite," a Suzanne Vega song: "One by one the old and young lined up to touch his hand/He spent the night explaining they had come to the wrong man." We'd chosen the wrong man to receive the award, he said, but the right company in NS. He then waxed a bit on the nature of innovation, demonstrating why we were spot-on right to recognize him.

Innovation isn't necessarily about invention; often, it's about applying an existing technology, process or practice in a new arena, he said. And it isn't the exclusive domain of individuals. "There's such a thing as group innovation," he said. At NS, he added, it's evident in technology development and application, and in idea generation — from employee-suggested process improvements to new routes to revenue growth, such as the Class I's corridor strategy, symbolized by the Heartland Corridor.

"There's a great comedy sketch out there — 'If it wasn't for bacon, we never would have heard of the water chestnut,'" Moorman said, paraphrasing a Jim Gaffigan one-liner. "If it was not for Heartland, we wouldn't be talking about corridor strategies. I could go on and on about innovation at Norfolk Southern."

For a few moments, he did. How do you spur innovation? First and foremost, you must "create a culture for it to happen," Moorman said. "People have to be willing to raise their hands and say, 'Hey, I've got an idea.' And you've got to make it so they want to raise their hands." They're doing so at NS, he said.

Colleagues and counterparts crow about Moorman's ability to diagnose and solve problems — better still, they tell me, is his ability to include others in the process to come up with even better solutions.

For encouraging the hand-raisers, implementing their ideas (not to mention a few of his own) and helping to create a culture that cultivates group innovation, Moorman was the right man, all right. Thanks, Wick, for reminding us that innovation comes in different shapes, sizes, songs and one-liners.


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