Athena Southeast 2.0 Roundup

By: LT Lindsey Beates and LCDR Tim Bierbach

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The Athena Project returned to the Southeast region with quite a lot of energy! NAS Jacksonville, NS Mayport, and NS King’s Bay all rallied to support local grassroots innovation within the Navy and their communities at large. Athena Southeast 2.0 quickly hit targeted presentations of five, within two days after placing a call out for innovative projects. In all, five presenters and four other projects were accepted for this event. The event was held on August 5, at Veterans United Brewery, a veteran-owned company in the Southside of Jacksonville.

Presenters captivated the crowd with their creative concepts and ideas, making their pitches to fellow Sailors, industry, and academia, as well as a panel of leaders in the Southeast region. The panelists were CAPT Anthony Corapi, Commodore of Patrol & Reconnaissance Wing 11, CDR James Harney, CO of Afloat Training Group Mayport, LCDR Mike Zdunkeiwiz, Training Officer for the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School (MPRWS) and Chief Collins, LCPO at the MPRWS Mobile Tactical Operations Center.

Each of the projects challenged existing paradigms in a progressive fashion, and the panelists did an exceptional job directing their questions toward challenging the weak portions of the projects while bolstering their strengths. Every question provided insight from experience and helped the presenters continue to mature their pitch and project.

In no particular order, our presenters were:

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PO2 Kuhns, presenting Media Management Database

(Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage – Athena Southeast 2.0)

The Media Management Database is designed to increase efficiency and quality control of the media sets required for the P-8A aircraft and media issues are currently plaguing the community, causing late departures, excessive preflight, and canceled events.   The relationship between the squadrons and the Mobile Tactical Operations Centers (MTOCs) continued to be stressed while senior leadership develops a viable solution. Furthermore, combat aircrews began flying with limited standard media loads that reduce the US Navy’s overall combat capability.

PO2 Kuhns worked with VP-16 to develop a database centered on supply management and lean six sigma principals, and programed using Microsoft Access. The concept simply tracks the each piece of media, associated burning step, and location from start to storage in a near real time application. Everyone with the rights to the database now had the ability to track the applicable stages and location of the media.

This database was employed by MTOC One and VP16 as a pilot project during their inter-deployment readiness cycle and last deployment. The success was recognized immediately and media related issues were reduced, enabling MTOC One to create a more agile and adaptive process meeting the needs of the fleet. The database has the potential to be developed concurrently with SPAWAR and implemented throughout Wing 11 to increase the quality control of Media and effectiveness of the fleet. PO2 Kuhns, is stationed at Mobile Tactical Operations Center (MTOC) One at NAS Jacksonville.

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PO1 Laramie Foster, presenting Test Item Analysis

Test Item Analysis is program that has taken one of the Navy’s most vital challenges – its ability to conduct self-assessments. Training, one of the Navy’s core missions, is continuously improving the measures of performance (MOP) and measures of effectiveness (MOE) that build our warfighters. The current problem for the majority of the Navy is that we are still developing and testing based on a perceptual concept and not a systematic process. Test Item Analysis empowers the average sailor and improves our for Navy Instructional system design environments.

PO1 Foster’s program uses a visual basic to generate pre-populated templates to reduce the manual effort and increase the ease of use.  The Trident Training Center uses a beta version of the program and continues to undergo a continuous improvement cycle to deliver the training desire. Using a static version during several formal courses yielded extensive improvement on time required for testing the desired outcomes and reduced to time required to achieve the desired action. This program is not just for short-term analytics but it can develop long-term history base on outcomes and desired end states.

The test item analysis is looking to begin collaboration with other unit to expand its base and sample size. Several Commands at Athena expressed interest in building pilot programs to assess the potential outcomes. PO1 Foster designed the program to be maintained at a local level and is excited to collaborate with the Fleet in the near future. PO1 Foster is stationed at the Trident Training Facility NSB Kings Bay.

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LT Braz Kennedy, presenting iLOC

iLOC is a project that focuses on increasing the accuracy and timeliness of tactic, techniques and procedures (TTP) during the anti-submarine warfare (ASW). For decades, TTPs have accepted numerous errors based on the human limitation and the variables calculated. With the introduction of the P-8A and its combat system, we now have the ability to conduct rapid calculation based on amplified information to increase our warfighting effectiveness.

The Project looks to conduct incremental changes. The First stage would be achieved by developing a basic excel style application that would codify the current math and science portions of our TTPs. This spread sheet would utilize the computer as a calculator for the basic equations and while enabling the crew to alter the variables to keep pace with current tactical situation. The 2nd Stage would be to imbed this capability into the P-8A combat systems, similar to Boeing’s Flight management computer.

Currently the spreadsheet continues to be developed and reviewed by multiple Maritime Weapons and Tactics Instructors. The application has also been forwarded to the Center for Naval Analysis to begin validation. This project is a progression for Cold War system that was designed to be implemented into the P-7 program before it was canceled. LT Kennedy is stationed at VP-30 in NAS Jacksonville.

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LT Doug Kettler, presenting High Velocity Learning within Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force

High Velocity Learning (HVL) within Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (MPRF) looked at how to begin implementation of the CNO’s vision of HVL at every level. The project defined and dismantled the Toyota Production System (TPS) to build an initial framework to deviate.  It also drew a correlation between the history of the scientific method and the application in today’s innovative culture. This Framework is vital to cultivating an agile and adaptive process throughout the MPRF at large.

Doug’s project illustrated the progression from the Aviation Tactics and Techniques Innovation Cell (ATTIC) he helped stand up at VP-16. During his tour, he designed, developed, implemented and wrote on several innovative projects that applied HVL successfully. One of his examples was a project to reduce the P-8 preflight for ASW events from 3 hours to 1.5 hours. The command targeted several key performance indicators that related to delays, analyzed the information, and put controls in place. The Project was able swarm the problem and use ideology from TPS to develop the solutions. Within one day and the 6 flights dedicated to this portion of the project they were able to achieve their goal of reducing preflight time by 50 percent and saving in excess of 135 man-hours across the 6 project events. This data was then captured and published to complete the HVL process.

Doug continues mature his framework for HVL within MPRF. Many of his projects that he worked on during his tour at V16’s ATTIC have now been published as tactics, techniques, and procedures that have been adopted throughout the fleet. LT Kettler is stationed at the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School (MPRWS) in NAS Jacksonville.

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LT Josh Mitchell, presenting EMW4ASW

EMW 4 ASW (Electronic Maneuver Warfare for Anti-Submarine Warfare) was a CNO Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) accepted project before the group was defunded. This project targets a latent vulnerability from the Cold War ASW strategy. Sonobuoys use legacy technology that operates on one of 99 channels with in a small frequency range. This constraint also limits the data rate and amount of data transferred. Sonobuoys still possess enormous potential and the fix is not difficult. Incorporating photonic into the current sonobuoys increases their combat potential in the 21st Century sensor.

LT Mitchell project looks to open the aperture by building an agile system and incorporating photonic into current sonobuoys.   For minimal cost, photonic will expand sonobuoys frequency spectrum exponentially and enable them to become frequency agile. Spectrum management would now be constrained via software updated and not hardware changes. Many secondary benefits would materialize from this upgrade. Data rates, bandwidth, and encryption are just a few of the potential areas for improvement. LT Mitchell, the MPRWS, and Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have been collaborating on this project for over two years to turn EMW 4 ASW into a reality, which would be a game changer for ASW.

The project continues to look for a champion and funding to build an initial prototype. PMA-264, ASW projects, has now taken an interest in the idea but due to funding cuts the project is still in idle. GTRI estimated that the project would take less than nine months for an initial test of the concept and could support the development in the near future. LT Mitchel is stationed at the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School in NAS Jacksonville.

Overall, it was a very successful evening. All of the presenters gave practical, innovative solutions to current issues facing our Navy – either at the work center, squadron, or fleet level – and the audience members learned a lot. We are looking forward to Athena South East 3.0, to be held sometime this winter!

Athena West 9.0 Roundup

By LCDR Mark Blaszczyk

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2015 just came to an end, and Athena West 9.0 wrapped up the year with another great event.  We saw another batch of great ideas from innovators poised to make impacts in the coming year and beyond.  

This time we changed things up by kicking the event off with a keynote talk from a Department of the Navy Innovation Hatch winning entry SPIDER 3D presented by Michael Russalesi.  Another first for Athena West was the use of a “shark panel,” providing a unique diversity of perspectives for Athena.  NAVFAC Southwest Commanding Officer CAPT John Adametz joined Prospective Commanding Officer CO of LCS 203 CDR Doug Meagher, and Principal Software Engineer at Fuse Integration Mr. Dell Kronewitter to question, comment, and spark discussion among the innovator-voters in the audience and the great line-up of presenters!

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Keynote speaker Michael Russalesi demonstrates his winning entry on The Hatch, SPIDERS 3D.

Without further ado, our winner is:

*** The Athena West 9.0 Afloat Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage***

“Mobile Application for Command Sponsorship” – IT1 Ronald Coleman, COMLCSRON ONE

In today’s world almost everyone has a smartphone, why not take advantage of that to ensure our sailors can get the best support? An idea embracing current technologies and the realities of modern living, IT1 Coleman set out to solve the problem of connecting prospective sailors with their future commands.  From IT1 Coleman, “In my experience sponsorship programs within the Navy are inconsistent.  Many individuals seem to have a sense of burden when trying to contact new Sailors and vice versa.   My solution to that “problem” is the development of the In-Hand Sponsor Mobile Application.”  IT1 Coleman has created an application for mobile technologies (ios, android, blackberry, etc.) for our DoD personnel to connect with their prospective command and give them a concise source for the information they need, what the command mission is, who the chain of command consist of, what department to report to, who they should contact, and any other other useful information needed to guide the New Check-in to their new command on time.  

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IT1 Coleman displaying his winning idea.

Having checked into a few commands myself,  I can’t wait to see this one go live.

“Surface Fleet Shift Work Concept” – FCC McKinley Fitzpatrick, COMLCSRON ONE

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FCC McKinley Fitzpatrick talking about how to help ensure the fleet is always ready.

Looking at the challenges presented to sailors during a 24 hour duty day, FCC Fitzpatrick saw an opportunity.  Using an idea he not only saw tested but work effectively, he developed a shift work program to eliminate the 24 hour duty day.  From FCC Fitzpatrick, “The idea is to incorporate (3) eight hour overlapping shifts onboard ships to eliminate the need for 24 hour duty by utilizing the proven concept of duty section manning to meet all workforce/training needs. There are two concepts; Legacy concept (CVN, LHA/LHD, LPD/LSD, CG, DDG) & LCS concept (Minimal Manning).”  His idea maximizes crew readiness by limiting the length of the the work day to ensure a rested and aware crew while at the same time keeping the working 24 hours a day.  He acknowledged the difference between hull types and the challenges of implementing the system but he believes if this is fully embraced the Navy would see an improvement in readiness and quality of life.

“Vertical Integration of Admin Program Management” – LT Josh Sando, COMLCSRON ONE

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LT Sando fielding questions from the panel.

While working to increase readiness in the OPSEC and Safety programs for the Littoral Combat Ship Squadron ONE, LT Sando stumbled on to the idea that tremendous efficiencies can be had with very simple changes to the implementation of those programs.  By moving program managers designations to the staff, LT Sando saw a reduction of 74% of the administrative burden for the individual units under his cognizance.  Talking about the fleet as whole LT Sando stated, “PACOM stands to benefit should it direct CNSP as a subordinate unit to ensure all Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) Staffs under their cognizance adopt a ‘vertically integrated’ program management construct in relation to their Afloat Safety and OPSEC programs.”   This simple modification implemented at LCSRON ONE resulted in a swing from 0 of 6 to 8 of 8 crews earning the Yellow “E” for Battle Efficiency.   LT Sando’s idea’s simplicity and proven results made it one of the top contenders for the ADM Simms award and idea with truly huge implications.

“Improved Electronic Engineering data and log integration” – LCDR Steve Hartley, ATGPAC SD

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LCDR Hartley making his plea for better use of engineering data.

LCDR Hartley experience as chief engineer officer and as an ATG assessor has led him to believe their is a better way to use the data collected by smart ships to save time and money in ship repairs.  He presented an idea for an automated logging system to bridge the gap between Smart ship engineering systems and the needs to evaluate the trends in operating parameters to save money and time in repairs. His vision is of a web based application that takes the base data, places it in a standard US Navy log format, is reviewable by the required watch standers and applicable Chain Of Command, and automatically performs some of the functions that a watch stander would need to take. The system would be accessible from both shore base and sea based units, have automated data sorting routines, and be able to run while not connected to its shore based server.  Ship and civilian counterparts would be able to communicate real-time to analyze and review data, and digitally sign the individual logs. This system would incorporate the equipment operating logs, the ships bell logs, and the Engineering log.

“Virtual Landing Signal Officer (LSO) trainer” – LT Clay Greunke, SPAWAR 59000

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LT Greunke pitching his trainer concept.

Landing Signal Officers (LSOs) are the backbone of tailhook naval aviation. Currently, once a junior officer is selected from a squadron to become an LSO, that person typically will go through an entire workup cycle before going to the Initial Formal Ground Training (IFGT) course. This means that an LSO will undergo months of on-the-job training at sea and assume different roles needed to recover aircraft before that individual receives his/her first formal training during IFGT. At the center of IFGT is the LSO Trainer, Device 2H111, in which the LSO receives a series of six one-hour long sessions. For many LSOs, this will be the only interaction will be this training simulator.  The aim of his project was to develop and evaluate whether major training objectives for the 2H111 could be supported by other means. The result of LT Greunke’s study is a light-weight, portable VR trainer with a VR HMD as its display solution.  Using off-the-shelf technology, LT Greunke created a proof of concept, that has the potential to not only replace Device 2H111, but provide LSO’s the ability to train anywhere at any time, providing a more distributed, cost-effective, and more capable trainer.

It was great seeing many new faces and returnees to the event.  Thank you again to 32 North Brewing Company for hosting, to our Sharks, and to everyone that attended.  It’s was awesome to see the diversity of backgrounds at the event and watch the networking at work.  The driver of Athena is not just the ideas but getting those like minded individuals in the same room talking and Athena West 9.0 continued that tradition.  

We look forward to serving the Fleet to continue the US Military with it long running tradition of innovation!

 

LCDR Mark Blaszczyk is the Combat Systems Training Lead in Commander Littoral Combats Ship Squadron One and the co-lead for The Athena Project’s San Diego chapter.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a BS in Civil Engineering and Duke University with a Masters in Business Administration.

There are loads of Athena Events coming up! If you’re in the San Diego, Groton or Yokosuka areas, connect with us if you want to be a part of our upcoming events! Connect with us 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 athenanavy@gmail.com!

 

Introducing, ATHENA Far East!

By LTJG Tom Baker

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USS BENFOLD (DDG 65), the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum, and a team of innovation veterans from fleet concentration areas across the United States have teamed up in Japan to establish ATHENA Far East, our first permanent ATHENA hub outside of the continental United States!

Rooting itself at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY), Japan, the opportunities to collaborate with Japanese and American sailors are tremendous.

The surface and submarine mariner of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces across Yokosuka Bay, an entrepreneurship professor from a local university, the talented civilian maintenance community, an aviation mechanic in Aircraft Carrier RONALD REAGAN…we will reach at every corner of civilian and military entrepreneurship to bring the same diverse conversation under one roof that has made every ATHENA so successful before us!

If you are in Japan, make plans now to join us on January 15th from 1245 – 1430 at the Commodore Matthew Perry General Mess “Tatami Room” on the Yokosuka Navy Base.

Any Military members or DoD Civilians interested in pitching ideas at this event can reach out on facebook or connect with us on the gmail account listed below!

Connect with 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 athenanavy@gmail.com!

 

Gearing Up for Waterfront Athena 8

By: LTJG Tom Baker

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We are excited to extend an invitation to Waterfront ATHENA 8 on Friday, August 28th at the Societe Brewing Tasting Room from 1200-1500!

Before I started writing this announcement, I read through the blog posts below from LCDR Drew Barker and ENS Daniel Stefanus. My takeaway in short: We are witnessing some very exciting and inspirational times!

Growth and transformation within ATHENA is accelerating. We are breaking new ground in the amount of support and interest received from our surrounding military and civilian communities. ATHENA 8 promises a showing of that growth and change.

The mighty BENFOLD, our original grassroots platform for The ATHENA Project, is preparing for a homeport shift to Yokosuka, Japan in early September. We will carry over a team of inspired hearts and minds, anxious to launch ATHENA Far East this fall. And certainly, in that effort we are thrilled to connect with anyone who might be inspired by the Project and would like to get involved – message us if you’re interested!

The San Diego team we depart from is nothing short of awesome! At ATHENA 8, BENFOLD will “pass the torch” to leaders from LCSRON 1 and USS ANCHORAGE.

As always, the stage is 100% open to any innovators in the San Diego area, regardless of community affiliation (or service affiliation for that matter, as we are thrilled to have our Marine Corps brethren geared to participate in ATHENA 8!). If you have a big idea that you want to share with our open and accepting network, get a hold of us and come on down to the event to share your idea with kindred spirits!

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The Athena Project returning to the awesome space that our friends at Societe Brewing Company have built on August 28th!

We hope you can share these exciting changes with us at Waterfront ATHENA 8. See you at Societe on August 28th!

 

Tom Baker is the First Lieutenant onboard the Ballistic Missile Defense Guided Missile Destroyer, USS BENFOLD (DDG 65). He is a graduate of Oregon State University in Entrepreneurship.

Connect with The Athena Project 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 athenanavy@gmail.com!

Getting Back To It!

By: LT Dave Nobles

WeAreBack

It’s been a cool month since our last event and The Athena Project is back!  During our time away, there’s been quite a lot of traction on several of our projects, both from the last event and our previous shindigs. Let’s take a quick moment to bring everyone up to speed by highlighting the progress on a few of the projects:

The Admiral Sims Winners! PartnerShips!

PartnerShips: The Admiral Sims Award-winning idea from Waterfront Athena 4 is well underway. Amidst a flurry of interest, we’ve had loads of innovators sign up for this networking program, designed to connect creative and industrious Sailors with scientists and engineers at various DoD and industry firms. The prototype Web site is almost off the ground and the PartnerShips team has been working diligently to pair up the folks who’ve already signed up. Once our first participants receive their introductory e-mails, the flood gates will open up for tours, updates and networking opportunities that will surely pave the way to the next batch of great ideas to make our Fleet better! Registration is still open and ongoing! If you’re interested in participating, either as a Sailor or as a Scientist, e-mail the team at navypartnerships@gmail.com.

BENFOLD University CLEP Courses:  Leveraging the strength of an awesome program and the supercharged intelligence of some enterprising Sailors, this idea from Waterfront Athena 3 is getting some serious legs. BENFOLD University is a program aboard USS BENFOLD (DDG 65) that gives Sailors a chance to teach their shipmates about any topic that they’re interested in – because learning is cool. Since it’s inception, there have been classes on photography, Spanish, welding, writing and Japanese, but a few enterprising Sailors have put together a curriculum to teach Algebra and Calculus to prepare their fellow surface warriors to take CLEP courses for college credit. The finely-tuned course will begin aboard the ship in April.

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CosmoGator: The second-place finisher at Waterfront Athena 3, CosmoGator is a candidate for funding from the Office of Naval Research in the new batch of programs from the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell.  The CosmoGator team is knee-deep in preparation for upcoming cavalcade of briefings to a series of ONR Subject Matter Experts, a cadre of Flag Officers and ultimately the CNO himself at the end of April all in an effort to bring automated celestial navigation to reality.  For newcomers to this blog or The Athena Project, CosmoGator will provide precision fix data to ships’ Inertial Navigation Systems by taking a snapshot of astronomical bodies in the sky and using a database of starts to accurately turn multiple lines of position into fixes that can enable ships to continue missions in the event of a GPS outage. The team has been working with NASA, SPAWAR and the Naval Observatory to transform vision into action.

Software Systems Integration: Another project from Waterfront Athena 4 was a vision to integrate typical Sailor functions like maintenance, replacement part ordering and training into one intuitive system on a mobile device. This type of idea has been kicked around various circles for some time, and was a running theme of a few projects at the last event. Well, our friends at Lockheed Martin share the vision for the functional alignment and integration of these systems and have reached out to the Athena team to begin work toward a solution to the frustrating problems plaguing Sailors on the deckplates. A meeting is scheduled next month to discuss the way forward.

ODIN: The winning idea from Waterfront Athena 3 is alive and well. The sharp Fire Controlmen who presented the idea and the geniuses at SPAWAR have been volleying optical information back and forth over the last quarter and are nearing completion of a prototype database and algorithm to leverage the data from EO devices for surface ship recognition and classification. The team is planning another session to synthesize the data and push the project along later this month.

Tankless Water Heaters: This idea from Waterfront Athena 4 caught the immediate attention of representatives from iENCON that were in attendance. Currently, water is heated onboard ships within two 430-gallon tanks, which is a huge drain on energy usage. In this project’s vision, water would be heated on-demand, by way of heating mechanisms within the piping, before the water gets to the end user. The first stage in getting a project like this running is measurement of actual energy consumption, and the team has acquired Fluke meters with a data logger from SPAWAR to gain the data necessary to move toward the development of the new heaters. The team plans to meter the two electronic heaters for the tanks and the two hot water pumps to conduct a life cycle analysis to determine the simple payback. Building on the data already obtained from other DDGs, the team has determined that the cost to operate the current heaters is upwards of $150K and that the new system will save the Navy over $100K per ship, per year.

And that’s just a few of the many ideas that are in various stages of development right now. Other popular ideas are gaining headway as well, like the employment of MILES technology for Navy training and the outfitting of crew-served weapons gunners with Heads-Up Displays. The cool part about all of that, is that despite the fact that these ideas didn’t win the Sims Award at their events, the driven Sailors that pitched them are still committed to making them happen. Kind of like how a singer doesn’t have to win American Idol to grab a record deal, if an idea from a Waterfront Athena Event is good enough and it’s champion is passionate enough, the Navy can still get better.

The future is going to hold some pretty cool stuff for Athena, too: From Design Thinking workshops to field trips and join-ups to focused ideation efforts called Athena Spears, The Athena Project will be growing beyond the quarterly waterfront sessions into a something much bigger, all while staying true to the vision of creating a cadre of creative thinkers focused on making a stronger Fleet for tomorrow.

More to follow on the Future of The Athena Project soon… Stay tuned!

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

Like us on Facebook and follow @AthenaNavy on Twitter! Interested in creating an Athena Project of your own? Message us!

Artistry… from the Sea

By: LT Dave Nobles

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I was on a flight not too long ago when something stood out to me. Rather, some one.

It was just your run-of-the-mill Southwest Airlines flight from San Diego to Chicago, about a week before the rush of holiday travel with people clamoring to get home to family to enjoy a heaping helping of Thanksgiving turkey.

But this flight turned out to be exceptional, and the one who shattered the humdrum, monotonous chore of air travel was an energetic flight attendant. I can see how it would be easy for any flight attendant to slap on a fake smile, give a half-hearted, robotic safety brief, toss passengers some peanuts and tell them “buh bye” as they depart the aircraft on the way to their final destinations.

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Very easy to feel like you’re in an SNL skit on a flight.

But not this flight attendant. Her charisma was magnetic – contagious even. She joked with passengers, delighted everyone on the announcing system, gave an entertaining and informative safety brief and appeared to genuinely care about the passengers. She even sang the song, “Sweet Home Chicago” as we landed in the Windy City. All around, her effort made the flight enjoyable and memorable (at the very least, she made me forget about the painful “cattle call” seating experience!).

The great companies – The ones with endearing products that delight the consumer – have this same tendency to treat their work as art. Just like that memorable flight attendant. From Apple’s focus on getting even the smallest detail right to Stone Brewing Company creating amazing craft brews while having a blast to Whole Foods’ commitment to healthy selections and friendly service, those organizations that treat their work as art succeed. The effort is evident in the product.

In the Navy, our product is readiness. In a grander sense, what we deliver to our customers (American people) is freedom, but we do that by ensuring that our ships, submarines and aircraft are ready – Ready to operate forward, ready to deter aggression, and ready to win a fight if necessary.

The tough part is that readiness is difficult to quantify, and that sometimes impacts the motivation of our Sailors. The best measure of our readiness to complete the mission when challenged is often the final grade of an inspection. Over time, this has the potential to negatively impact Sailors’ performance – the grand question of purpose.

Was she focused on the bottom line for the airline? Profits and losses? Nope. She just wanted to be better. It was inspiring. It was working like an artist.

In the case of my flight, the genuine artistry of this amazing flight attendant resulted in a better flight. You could see it on every face on that airplane. For Sailors in the Navy, working like an artist is about being passionate and creative. It’s about finding ways to make things better and about killing the phrase “that’s the way it’s always been done.”

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Imagine a ship full of linchpins!

Entire books and blogs preach the practice of working like an artist. In the book Linchpin, Seth Godin offers a stream of quotables on the topic. He claims that rather than seeking a better job or boss, we need to all get in touch with what it means to feel passionate about our work, because people with passion look for ways to make things happen.

What can we do to make things happen, especially at junior levels? Look for ways that your ship, submarine, squadron or command can get better. Have the confidence to let your voice be heard, and the perseverance to see your ideas through. Spoiler alert: it’s going to be hard work. But, if we have courageous patience, we might actually get something done!

After all, like Godin said, “Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion.”

So, let’s all be passionate about what we do. Let’s work like artists and sing “Sweet Home Chicago” all the way to a better Fleet.

 

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!

One Ear For You, the Other For the Band.

By: Todd Richmond, Ph.D.

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Sometimes people get locked into certain ways of thinking, or look to the same places for inspiration or ideas.  Often the best lessons for your work can come from totally unrelated areas of your life like sports or music. 5-time Grammy winning bassist Victor Wooten tells a story about one of his first studio sessions in Nashville. He was a young, hot-shot bass player with amazing chops.

Victor was recording with the Memphis Horns, and at the end of the session he came out elated. He had nailed the material, and was playing at the top of his game. But much to his chagrin, one of the leaders of the Memphis Horns pulled him aside afterwards and said, “you know Victor, one ear is for you – the other ear is for the band.”

Victor knew exactly what he meant, and took that phrase with him on every gig since then. It doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do. Invariably tasks as accomplished by groups, and if you’re not “listening” to others, your individual skills will not be enough to carry the day. I learned a variation on this directly from Victor when I was attending one of his Bass/Nature camps in Tennessee. Our group was working on improvisation, and while he and Anthony Wellington played a rhythm figure, students, one by one, took turns playing a solo.

When it came time for my turn, I played some of what I thought were my “best licks”, and was largely error-free. At that point Victor stopped, smiled, and said, “you know Todd, you had some really interesting things to say. Unfortunately you weren’t talking about the same subject as Anthony and me.” That hit me like a lightning bolt, and while part of me wanted to find a hole to crawl into and hide, the other part of me “got it.” I was listening to myself with both ears. Point taken. Another thought that I take to every gig.

The beauty of these stories is that the underlying lesson applies everywhere in your life – especially in the workplace. Have you ever sat in a meeting where you were thinking so hard about what you wanted to say (in order to sound smart), that you didn’t really listen to anyone else? (I have). How about being so focused on what you want or need that you don’t hear reasons from others on why you may want to course-correct? These are all symptoms of the underlying problem of keeping both ears for yourself.

I’ll give you a related situation that happened with one of our projects some time back. We were about 2 weeks away from showing a beta version of a game for training dismounted counter-IED concepts. I was the project lead, and my team had been working very hard in order to hit a crazy deadline (3 months from project start to first delivery). We had a play-test and things went reasonably well from a technical perspective. The code was fairly stable and there were no major bugs. But at the end of the play test, I wasn’t happy. The team gathered to debrief and we went around the room with everyone (programmers, QA, artists, management, etc) giving their plusses and minuses. Then it came to me since I get the last word. I knew my team had really pushed and I wanted to give them the kudos they deserved. But sadly, after doing the play test I knew that the game just wasn’t where it needed to be.

Projects often come to these types of situations. And there are different ways to deal with it. I chose my words carefully, and said, “instructional games ideally need to do two things – they have to train and they should be fun. Right now we have a game that is neither.” I could see the blood drain out of the faces of the team. It sucks to work hard and hear that it isn’t good enough. Now some would have just dropped that grenade and walked out of the room, leaving the team to figure out how to fix it. And sometimes you need to do that. But my “ear” for the team told me that if I was going to tear it down, then I needed to lead them to build it back up. So I went up to the white board and we went through what worked, what didn’t, and how we were going to rethink the problem. After an hour of that we had a new plan of attack and the team was energized to crank out the next version.

So along with keeping an “ear for the band,” this episode resonated with another line I learned from Victor – “feel the groove before you play.” There are a number of different ways to run a project, lead a group, or play a song. But every situation has an inherent “groove.” And it can change from day to day even with the same people involved. So before you speak or make a decision, try and find the groove of the room and the group. It is more art than science, but it turns out if you’re doing the listening thing, the groove generally follows.

If this resonated with you (and even if it didn’t), there are more “aha moments” to be found in Victor’s book, “The Music Lesson.” If ever there was a book that was about far more than its title indicated, this is it.

By day, Todd Richmond is the Director of Advanced Prototypes and Transition at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. By night he is a bass player in a number of bands (www.nostatic.com), is a photographer/filmmaker, and waxes philosophic on the nature of analog and digital. He welcomes comments, feedback, and people disagreeing with him. After all, if we all agreed, we wouldn’t learn anything new.

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