Our 3 Innovation Resolutions

By: LT Dave Nobles

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The new year is upon us, which means it’s the time for resolutions.

2013 was an awesome year for not only The Athena Project, but also for the growing culture of creativity within our Navy. But, just like anything, we can ALWAYS get better. The new year is a great opportunity to reflect and find those spots where we can improve upon ourselves.

At Athena, we’ve identified three innovation resolutions that may help us to get better. What good is a resolution, though, without a means to test it, right? That’s why we’re going to be throwing down on our Second-Ever Waterfront Athena Project in February. More to follow on that.

So, here you are: Our 3 Innovation Resolutions for a more creative 2014:

1. Take the time to THINK! – I often hear from people that they “don’t have time.” Now, whether that’s with regard to innovation, participating in The Athena Project or working to make something – anything – better, that mindset is just plain wrong.

The first step of any innovative process or creativity writ large is ideation. And, contrary to popular belief, ideation is not a time sump.

There are loads of small opportunities in the course of our everyday routines wherein we can apply a little brain power to think of new and/or novel ideas to make things better. A long run (or the shower that follows), the 5 minute “snooze” period when you’re waking up, the long drive home, or even just closing your internet browser or Microsoft Outlook window at your desk for a few minutes are a few primo examples of thinkspace that we can steal away from our busy days. It does take a little commitment to free our minds of the daily toils to “think big thoughts,” but these five-minute clips will hardly derail your entire day.

So, we’re resolving to take those little chunks of time to think. Who knows, you might think of something really great! (Just be sure to write it down!)

2. Share your ideas! – The great part about the Navy is our diversity. Within our ranks we have an abundance of different experiences, upbringings, educational backgrounds and, of course, sea stories that, when combined, broaden all of our horizons. As a result of that diversity, there are so many varying points of view that you’ll get if you share your thoughts with other people.

So, all that big thinking you’ve done with your carved out time blocks? Talk to people about it! One of the things that we’ve found is incredibly valuable is building a small team of creative folks with different backgrounds in which you can freely share your thoughts without judgement.

Do you have an idea for a mobile application? Find someone with app-building experience and talk about your idea with them? Do you have a fix to an administrative process? Talk to a yeoman about whether or not it would be useful. If you talk to others, you never know where you may find the perspective you’ve been looking for – and it might lead to a breakthrough for your idea.

3. Do! – We’re beginning to get very good at talking about our ideas, but as we often hear: Execution is the new innovation. Even one of our favorite destinations for creative inspiration, TED, is under blogger fire for talking too much and doing too little.

Though several of our Athena Projects are currently being worked feverishly at various levels, we can always do better. So, this year, we’re resolving to execute. And then execute some more. And then keep on executing.

As Anatole France famously said, “To accomplish great things we must dream as well as act.” Certainly, a quick Google search would likely yield a litany of similar quotes from many of history’s big, philosophical brains. So, we’re accepting that challenge and we hope you will too.

Of course, this is always the tough part. But, there are more resources than ever to prototype ideas (not to mention IDEO and the TANG Forum’s favorite tools: Foamcore and construction paper!) and the quicker you can showcase the thought that’s in your mind, is the quicker you can perfect its design. Be first to the whiteboard this year: Get your ideas out there and then DO something about them!

To use a term that one of BENFOLD’s phenomenal Senior Chiefs often says: Don’t put execution in the “too-hard pile.”

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Waterfront Athena is coming this February! Are you?

So, that’s what’s on our minds as we hit the 2014 waypoint. With February’s Waterfront Athena Project right around the corner, we’ll see how many of you feel the same way!

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: www.facebook.com/athenanavy or follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy. Interested in starting a movement of your own? Message us, or e-mail ATHENA@ddg65.navy.mil!

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