October 12-14, 2013 | University of Chicago Booth School of Business | Chicago, IL
Over 120 military innovators and entrepreneurs came together to discuss challenges in our military and how to overcome them.
“Ideate” served as the heartening metaphor for the spirit of DEF2013. The inaugural annual conference’s central thrust was the array of actions necessary to turn ideas into realities. The amazing speakers and participants all demonstrated how they activated their ideas into being.
You Don’t Have To Be The Innovator/Doing Your Homework
BJ Armstrong reminds us that Admiral Sims started with an innovation from someone else, an ideat he considered worth his effort and attention. Further, if Admiral Sims hadn’t done his research and tests on Percy Scott’s continuous-aim firing, no one would have taken him seriously. If you’re “ideating” without tests, research, prototyping, and probing the solution, you’re not “innovating”, you are just talking.
Fighting a Loyal Insurgency Inside the System
Peter Munson’s speech was summed up by the delightful peregrine falcon, Dora. Be credible in the system and aggressively attack when opportunity arises. If Dora flew around squawking all day and making a mess without that focused action, too many leaf-eaters would be alerted and defend their steaming piles of process.
Building an Army
Howard R. Lieberman’s reminded us that finding the meaning of your idea for others is what inspires people to sacrifice their time and resources to see your idea through to the end. Some of those stakeholders may provide top-cover. The ground-forces are great for “taking the hill” of an idea, but close-air-support flying high in the chain of command can really change the equation. No man is an island, and no innovation is a one-man mission.
Execution, Execution, Execution
The second day of entrepreneur presentations was a wall-to-wall show of how the ability to find market demand while developing the necessary supply is the center of the innovation universe. The difference between a real-life innovator and the chatting classes is action.
‘Don’t Get Killed in a Good Battle’
Dan Moore’s shared much about his personal life. “To be or to do,” should never overwhelm “being” things like a good father, husband, or just healthy individual. In repairing the system, “don’t get killed in a good battle,” you are needed in far more than the one fight you might be in now.
The afternoons at DEF were dedicated to breakout sessions intended to building actionable solutions to real-world challenges. Great innovations were produced, from the Professional Military Education real-time lesson evaluation using Twitter, to the Emotional Vitality Assistant (EVA) to create a hand-held link directly to mental health professionals, to rewarding military members for great ideas or great execution of ideas.
The quiet center-piece of the presentations was the integration of the twitter-wall. The constant discussion of presentation quotes, disagreements with speakers, and collaboration on emergent problems created an active audience engaging in a quiet track-two ice-breaker. As our DEF leaders said it best, “people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it.”
We didn’t seek innovation for innovation sake, but we sought mission victories, safety and effectiveness for our fellow warfighters, and good stewardship of the resources in which we were entrusted. DEF2013 bolstered the community that is going to build the innovations of the future.