The Growing Wave of Creativity in the Navy

By: LT Dave Nobles


Since our first event, The Athena Project has been focused on developing the Navy’s young thinkers, giving sailors a voice and a platform to have their ideas heard and spreading the culture of creativity and intellectual curiosity throughout the Fleet!

As LT Jon Paris has pointed out on his excellent blog post on the Center for International Maritime Security‘s page the motivation to create and innovate throughout the fleet is often hurt by our own lack of agility. Great points all, and certainly something that we’re trying hard to improve.

We’ve heard it often: Execution really drives innovation.

What LT Paris said is spot on: Our organization would benefit by listening to the ideas on the deckplates, then pulling the trigger to make those ideas happen.

For the individual, creativity is a conscious decision, and the same applies for organizations. After all, an organization is merely a collection of individuals. Once the Navy commits to creativity at all levels, then true innovation can be born.

And that’s exactly what we aim to do: Harness the creativity within our ranks in hopes that we’ll shift that culture. That said, we’re talking about a culture shift here, and that requires a bit of what Warren Bennis calls “Courageous Patience.”

Shifting an entire culture takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, of course. To change the way that the Navy fundamentally thinks about creativity and innovation is going to take time. And, what it’s going to require is a series of “wins” from the deckplates, by the deckplates that show that the organization values the ideas of its Sailors. The way we do that is by rapidly executing these visions and implementing the great ideas across the fleet — and fast.

The cool part about an initiative like Athena is that we’re starting to see the forward progress that’s going to make these wins happen. A great example is the work that the last Athena event’s winners, a team of Second Class Fire Controlmen, are doing in concert with SPAWAR engineers to make their project a reality. Since the Waterfront Event, the Optical Database and Information Network (ODIN) team has been working in conjunction with SPAWAR RAPIER team engineers to develop their concept. They’ve participated in several meetings, shared information and organized a workflow and their idea will soon be a reality. That’s the power of Athena.

One of the coolest moments from the last event happened after these guys pitched their idea – and it’s something that I talked about in the recent podcast I did with my fellow member of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell, ET1 Jeff Anderson. These Second Class Petty Officers presented their idea to improve a frustrating process they found on a deployment, and then during a break, they were swarmed with engineers from various organizations talking about how to make their idea happen. It was truly an inspiring sight, and things like that motivate me to keep pushing the ball down the field.

I hope they do for you too.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that the fire is there. There are Sailors out there (and you may be one of them) who want to make a positive change and make our organization better. And, as a service, we owe it to them to listen, just like LT Paris said. Beyond that, we need to demonstrate our implementation agility to keep this fire alive.

We’ll be stoking the flames in February at the next Waterfront Athena event in San Diego. So come out and join us! Bring your best ideas, bold innovators, and let’s make some magic happen!

All Engines Ahead Flank.

LT Dave Nobles is a Surface Warfare Officer assigned as Weapons Officer aboard USS BENFOLD (DDG 65). He is also a member of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell.

You can like Athena on Facebook: or follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy. Interested in starting a movement of your own? Message us, or e-mail!

1 thought on “The Growing Wave of Creativity in the Navy

  1. Pingback: DoD Provides Industry With Deep Insights Into Coming USN and Joint Opportunities at SPAWAR Industry Day - Delphi Brief

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