Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Monday, January 15, 2018

Thinkers Strategize in DoD’s Innovation Corps Boot Camp

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2018 — Forty innovative thinkers from the four military services gathered here last week for a class where they tested out new methods to solve problems in the Defense Department.

Joshua Marcuse, executive director of the Defense Innovation Board, acknowledged the participants likely would encounter resistance in DoD when trying to solve problems with new approaches. His message to them: Keep fighting.

"When you hit that barrier, I want you to figure out a way to push forward," Marcuse said Jan. 12, closing out the weeklong class. "When the going gets tough, you need to hang in there."

The military and civilian personnel in the DoD pilot of the Innovation Corps boot camp learned about and applied the Lean Startup principles, which aim to solve problems and develop products faster and with less waste.

New Approach to Problem Solving

The class was the first time the boot camp was held for DoD-wide participants, Marcuse pointed out. Previous efforts encompassed the intelligence community.

It is critical that leaders are receptive to new approaches to problem solving, he said. Otherwise, innovative thinkers who continually face opposition might stop trying to be change agents, resigning instead to be a “cog in the machine,” he said.

Another scenario, he explained, is that these thinkers might “fight the fight a different way,” taking their ideas and talents into the private sector.

"But they're not fighting shoulder to shoulder with you in your trench at that point, or in your foxhole -- and we need them in the foxhole next to you,” Marcuse said.

Importance of Operating with Agility

The Defense Department has proven it can be highly innovative and operate with extreme agility, as it has done in the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, Steve Blank, the founding father of the principles for Lean Startup, said via phone today to DoD News. But, he added, resistance in innovation is encountered back home, as the DoD execution machinery and bureaucracy “crushes whatever we did in the field.”

Blank underscored the importance of agility and innovation in the Defense Department as the United States faces near-peer state adversaries and a host of evolving nonstate threats.

In recent decades, he said, the United States essentially faced a single threat – the Soviet Union – and built organizations, structures and capabilities to counter it with the luxury of being able to respond over the course of years.

 "Fast forward to today -- we don't have one threat,” he said. “We need, in fact, a scorecard to figure out who we're dealing with.".

Today’s adversaries are “ironically not burdened with our 100 years of success," or with all the things DoD needs to support, such as contracting, procedures and other bureaucratic matters, Blank said.

The goal of the Innovation Corps and its methodologies is see how innovation and delivering solutions can be done at speed -- not just from idea to demonstration, but also from idea to deployment, he said. He recommends that each DoD and intelligence community agency establish an organization that has an innovation pipeline.

‘Eye-Opening’ Experience

Marine Corps Capt. Chris Wood, from Headquarters Marine Corps Installations and Logistics, is an innovation lead in the next-generation logistics innovation team. As a participant in the Innovation Corps boot camp, he said, he found it interesting to see the collaboration among the personnel from the different commands, including those with various levels of experience in these techniques. Tasks included conducting in-person interviews, examining the needs of the customer base, and testing a hypothesis on how to apply solutions to problem solving.

“To see them receive the training and really embrace it was eye-opening for me in that it starts to build a realization that these tools can be applied to a lot of different functions," he said.

With the world outside DoD constantly evolving, Wood said, the department needs to be agile to best respond to the threats and meet the demands of the warfighter.  

"We cannot accept doing business the same way that we have been,” he added.

Recommendations from Defense Innovation Board

The Defense Innovation Board meets Jan. 17. The 14-member panel will include in its recommendations that DoD examine whether career avenues exist in the agency for innovative thinkers who want to apply new approaches and methods to problem solving, Marcuse said.

Board member and retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas System, said he never encountered innovation in a structured fashion in his nearly four decades in the military.

“We did innovation via technology, but it was more about finding ‘things’ that solved a certain tactical problem,” he said in a written statement, noting a process or intellectual framework to help shape thinking did not exist in the military when he served.

“Efforts to build innovation capacity in the DoD workforce are essential to renewing our competitive advantage on the battlefield," McRaven noted.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Chief of Naval Operations Stresses Leader Responsibility

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 11, 2018 — To improve the Navy, the service must turn to commanders at all levels, the Chief of Naval Operations told the Surface Navy Association here Jan. 9.

Like the rest of the military, command is what all officers should aspire to, Navy Adm. John M. Richardson said at the association’s annual meeting.

The collision incidents last year involving the destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain called attention to the need for leadership, the admiral said.

Valuing Leadership, Command

“As we craft our way forward, we must revolve around a Navy that values and treasures command -- never lose sight of that,” Richardson said.

Service members, he added, must discuss, “the preparation, the support, the execution, indeed, the celebration of command.”

Good leadership propels the military forward, said Richardson, who added that all leaders must understand that they are in a competitive environment, and there is no trophy for second place in war.

The Navy in 2018 is in a different environment than just a few years ago, he said. Russia and China are competitors now. Both countries have made significant investments in their militaries and the United States is, again, involved in great power competition, not seen since the Cold War.

Developing Winning Leaders

The Navy must “develop leaders, especially commanders, who know how to go out into that great power competition and come back winners,” the admiral said.

The top leaders or commanders “inspire their teams to perform at or near their theoretical limits, and by making their team stronger, they relentlessly chase best-ever performance,” Richardson said. “They study every text, they try every method, seize every moment and expend every effort to out-fox their competition.”

The best commanders challenge their teams and themselves, he said. “They routinely seek out feedback and are ready to be shown their errors in the interest of learning and getting better. When they win, they are grateful, they are humble, and generally [feel] spent from their efforts. And by doing all these things, great leaders bring their teams to a deeply shared commitment to each other in the pursuit of victory.”

Victory and winning must be the focus, Richardson said. “Today’s [commanders] must be prepared for winning in a great power competition war at sea,” he said. “They must be preparing their teams on the bridge, in combat, in engineering, at their guns, to win in combat.”

This means commanders must be ready to lead teams into combat against a competent and advanced enemy and win, the admiral said. In naval terms, they must be the ones “to sail away with their crew and leave the enemy out of action, slipping beneath the waves. It’s a stark test, but anything else, anything less, is negligence.”

Confident, Humble Leaders

Commanders must be confident enough to lead and humble enough to understand they are not the font of all wisdom, Richardson said. “In combat, the best idea is the only thing that matters,” he said. “[Commanders ask] people to challenge their thinking, their ideas, because they know it’s much better to find a weakness, much better to find a flaw in the discussion in the ward room or with the Chief’s quarters, or in the crew’s mess and adjust before finding that flaw in combat. And combat will find that flaw.”

Commanders must have complete devotion to their teams, he said. “They bring their teams into their obsession with winning, constantly communicating, constantly building them up, challenging them,” the admiral said.

The best commanders always test their teams, the admiral said. “These leaders are always stretching their teams -- stretching them to achieve their theoretical limits,” Richardson said. “[Then the team] starts to push themselves and one another, and they build toughness into themselves -- toughness focused on defeating an enemy, not toughness as focused on tearing each other down.”

Through these efforts, commanders achieve a combination or a shared vision of winning, and a shared commitment to that goal, the admiral said.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Face of Defense: Okinawa-Based Marine Leads by Example

By Marine Corps Cpl. Bernadette Wildes 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

CAMP HANSEN, Japan, Jan. 8, 2018 — “I could care less about the awards, the rank, or any of the stuff that I’ve been given,” said Marine Corps Cpl. Noel Mayorqa. “I want to be an example to my squad. That’s what I strive for.”

Mayorqa, a squad leader with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Marine Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment here, ensures the platoon leader’s intent is being met by making sure each task is done quickly and efficiently. He’s also in charge of accountability, training and the general well-being of his squad. He knows each job within his squad with great detail so he can help guide and shape his squad to perfectly execute the mission.

“I’ve learned everything about being a radio operator from him,” said Lance Cpl. Mason Townsley. “He taught me how to communicate, how to be a better rifleman and how to be a better person.”

Townsley, a radio operator in Mayorqa’s squad, said he doesn’t want to be in any other squad because of Mayorqa’s leadership. “He never lets us slack off,” Townsley said. “He always strives for us to be better, and he’s always pushing to improve himself. It’s really awesome working with someone who is very dedicated to his job.”

Learning Curve

Mayorqa started his career at Marine Barracks Washington, also known as “8th and I” for the intersection near the main gate. The base is home to the Corps’ ceremonial units, and Mayorga said he spent his two years there focused on drilling for ceremonies. He participated in more than 150 standard funerals, 50 full-honors funerals and four different special teams.

“They are really strict on the little things -- the way your uniform looks, the way you drill,” he said. “They always told me that the little things matter. I got a lot of discipline from 8th and I. They also taught me to be confident, respectful and humble.”

Mayorqa said when he checked in with his unit here, he didn’t know anything about being a rifleman. The newer Marines knew more than he did, but that didn’t slow him down. He came to the unit with a positive attitude and ready to learn, said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Stuart Sanford, the platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company.

“He didn’t know everything, but we threw him in a lot of different positions,” Sanford said. “He excelled, and is now one of the best squad leaders in Alpha Company.”

Mayorqa said once he started to learn the information he just wanted more.

“I didn’t do it to stand out with my peer group or be the best,” he said. “I did it because I wanted to know my job and I wanted to share the knowledge that I know. I want to better myself so I can better the Marines to my left and my right.”

Mayorqa said he plans to stay in the Marine Corps as long as he can to continue to push himself and the Marines around him.
“It’s never been about me when it comes to the Marine Corps,” he said. “It was for the brothers to the left and right of me. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my Marines.”