Design Thinking! The Experience of 3M TANG

By: LTJG Tom Baker

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On the afternoon of Monday June 8th, I left the mighty BENFOLD and drove north to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, excited about a promising opportunity to collaborate, create, and solve.

It was a slow roll through the front gate – ID check sat – and after two wrong turns in an unfamiliar base, I found my way to the Miramar Officer’s Club. With slightly wrinkled slacks and polo shirt from my journey, I entered to find two brightly smiling faces at a table full of gizmos and documents. “Hi, welcome to 3M TANG!”.

I was christened with my colorful badge, complete with a “Mavericks” team button. Thoughts filled my head like, ‘what is this thing for!?’ and ‘What have I gotten myself into?’

Oh was I in for a surprise.

I was gestured to the right into a large room and what fell before my eyes was what an innovator at heart may compare to the large candy room that Willy Wonka reveals to the children during their factory tour. And so my voyage into wonderful world of TANG began.

This is 3M TANG – in detail: The Maintenance, Material, and Management (3M) Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation. From June 8th-11th, 30 hand-selected warfighters were chosen to help create ideas, concepts, and solutions for future 3M systems, displays, hardware, policy, and procedures. This three-day workshop that I was attending – the culmination of months of research and insight generation – was designed to make tangible improvement to what the Navy largely affirms to be an outdated and broken maintenance system.

The first TANG event was held in 2011 to address challenges associated with Submarine displays. ADM Richardson, then the Commander of Submarine Forces, called for positive change and away the first TANG went – in San Diego – to prototype some concepts. The teams, through iteration, went from foamcore prototypes at the event to working models within a handful of months, finally transitioning concepts onto Submarines through the APB process. Since that first event, the team has accomplished several TANGs tackling a variety of challenges – Executive TANG, Australian/US TANG and Surface ASW TANG just to name a few.

3M TANG - the most recent event for the team - and plenty more to come!

3M TANG – the most recent event for the team – and plenty more to come!

TANG has been relentlessly successful because their creative structures accomplish two otherwise rare practices. One, they place stakeholders, technology experts, and warfighters in one room. Normally, the creator & stakeholder are geographically separated from the sailor, so valuable lines of communication and feedback are delayed. Secondly, TANG manages to get everyone rowing in a unified direction! Objectives are clarified quickly, and the team keeps each other in check.

Groups of people talking closely, jotting down notes on large white posters, laughing, or gathered around booths holding, wearing, and interacting with some of the coolest tech I’ve ever seen. My nervousness dissipated as I saw familiar faces in the room ~ a family of supporters and creators that have held The Athena Project afloat since its earliest inception, joined together with the TANG team was incredibly welcoming and put me into a state of creative euphoria.

The first event – the Tech Expo – showcased some of the most respected companies standing side-by-side with organizations that I’ve never heard of – their ideas all equally-incredible. I spent the rest of day one playing with technology and interacting with the creators who I realize are wholly devoted to giving our Sailors their best.

The tech expo is geared toward “unlocking the realm of the possible” to inform the brainstorming efforts of the teams from around the fleet. Over the next three days, our teams would engage in the process of Design Thinking to brainstorm, prototype, and present our creations.

I hardly thought that the second day could be better than the first, but I was wrong. The TANG team, partnered with award-winning innovators at IDEO, identified 14 solutions to known 3M issues that emerged throughout the course of some exhaustive empathetic research around our fleet. So, one of the first primers we did was to provide feedback on those concepts. Through “I wish” and “I like” statements, along with questions and concerns, the room collectively penned sticky notes to accompany these concepts, an exercise designed to kick-start the brainstorming process.

After we finished the concept card exercise, I came to find out that the “Mavericks” button I’m wearing is a team name. And, after a rousing and supportive speech by the Commander of Naval Surface Forces, Vice Admiral Rowden, the room is fired up to create!

Design thinking chart

We kick off the Design Thinking Process with some brainstorming. The goals are to generate a lot of ideas in a little time, get different perspectives, and build some excitement! Each group member starts slapping sticky notes to these ideas with every thought under the sun. I noticed a little poster next to our white space.

THE 7 RULES OF EFFECTIVE BRAINSTORMING

  1. Defer judgement
  2. Encourage wild ideas
  3. Build on the ideas of others
  4. Stay focused on the topic
  5. One conversation at a time
  6. Be visual
  7. Go for quantity

Some of the notes are features: “WIFI”, “Bluetooth”, “PERSONAL Profiles!”. Other stickies are more conceptual, or the “how” behind other stickies: “Hire coders”, “Partner with existing tablet creators”. Some of our mates are categorizing and connecting ideas as we go along. Everything is so fluid. During this process, I start learning how each of my new friends thinks. Those stickies and the conversations about them start to reveal personalities, and we fall naturally into our team roles.

Our mission, together, was to combine a couple of really interesting ideas that the team had collectively brainstormed and voted on. The PMS Recipe Card is a platform and ship specific set of digital maintenance instructions. PMS is planned similar to meal planning as it captures what tools, qualifications, hazardous materials, and training are necessary to carry out the plan. Our other idea, the Workcenter 3M Tablet, provides the ability to take these PMS Recipe cards anywhere in the ship, and even write and submit a job or feedback report.

Once we had the direction for our new concept, we dive into the room’s ‘arts and crafts’ section to get our ideas into the physical space. There were tables filled with large white papers, foamcore, glue guns and a table full of a crazy conglomerate of supplies (pipe cleaners, whiteboard markers, full-size candy bars… you get the idea).

Team Mavericks - having fun with Top Gun puns since 2015.

Team Mavericks – having fun with Top Gun puns since 2015.

Our team is now deep into prototyping. There is no better way to communicate a concept to our team with minimal investment. We can tear it apart, tweak it, or add on to it as soon as we see the need. I see some more guidance on the wall for this step in the process. Luckily I had some notes from a quick brainstorming and prototyping presentation by Dave Blakely from mach49 to remember the details:

PROTOTYPING

  1. Building to think. Prototypes are tools used both to validate ideas and to help us generate them. Prototypes force us to think about how someone would interact with our concept.
  2. Rough & rapid. Prototypes are exploratory, not precious. They should be built as quickly and cheaply as possible.
  3. Answering questions. It’s essential to know what question a prototype is being used to answer: whether it’s around desirability, usefulness, usability, viability, or feasibility.
The prototyping toolbox.

The prototyping toolbox.

I drag a piece of foamcore the size of a picnic table over to our corner of the room. My friends are at the table of supplies, gathering markers, scissors, more stickies (because we understand the need at this point), and even manage to return with a handful of chocolate chip cookies. We are really clicking at this point. We cut out a foam-core tablet larger than the bed of a full-size pickup truck. There are so many concepts to visualize that we start drawing out “screen shots” on large pieces of white paper. With some help from the TANG facilitators, we realize we can rotate these white papers through our tablet frame to visualize to an audience.

Some of us want to add more detail, others realize the tight timeline we are on and move quickly to the next screen. Again, our personalities revealed, roles refined. We met each other 40 minutes ago and operate like a well-oiled machine.

Eventually, we would present our prototypes and concepts to the entire TANG audience and receive the invaluable live feedback through “I like” and “I wish” statements, questions, and concerns. Earlier in the writing I spoke about the three teams of warfighters. Well, there’s a fourth team of Stakeholders – the technology holder, sponsoring companies and those who want to and CAN create positive change – who will be giving feedback on our ideas and also sharing their own ideas to positively impact the future of 3M in the fleet. Our prototyping and presentation processes start to reveal who they are.

Another half hour later, and the room comes alive in theatrics as we rehearse our presentation. We feel confident about our prototype. It’s time to receive feedback and refine! At this point I recall my mind being expanded yet exhausted. I was fulfilled by the roller coaster of turning a collection of several hundred thoughts into something I could hold in my hand, complete with a rehearsed delivery by a cohesive team. And the most exciting part of this design thinking process, was that all of this preparation is to create something intentionally non-permanent – ready for alteration, destruction, further creation, all by design. It’s easy to iterate on something that’s a rough prototype – much easier than when we’ve already dumped millions of dollars into a solution BEFORE gaining the warfighter feedback. The tendency is to NOT change things then. I walked away from the event excited about the fluidity and fragility of our idea’s future.

When we finished our sharing session, with all the teams presenting their ideas to the crowd, the room was filled with an incredible energy. It was a good thing, too: Because we were about to do the whole process one more time!

I took with me the incredible lessons in a new approach to problem-solving. It brought me back to my undergraduate days when I had read about these processes occurring at IDEO and other forward-leaners. Being immersed in Design Thinking revitalized my sense of confidence in our ability to solve large and small scale challenges. I am passionately drawn to thinking about our underlying purpose at The Athena Project. This experience was a “how” that I believe our incredibly talented Sailors can and should be encouraged to utilize when approaching an increasingly dynamic set of challenges and future threats.

We can set our focus primarily toward innovations, solutions, and products, and I believe we will enjoy a few breakthroughs. OR, we can set our focus toward changing the way we think and approach our environment, and I believe we will enjoy both a culture of dynamic problem-solvers, AND a far greater byproduct of innovations, solutions, and products!

LTJG Tom Baker is the First Lieutenant and Public Affairs Officer onboard USS BENFOLD and the San Diego lead for The Athena Project. He’s a proud graduate of Oregon State University, earning his degree in Entrepreneurship.

Stay tuned for our official announcement of Waterfront Athena 8! If you’re in the Pacific Northwest and want to participate, reach out to the Athena team on Facebook, Twitter or e-mail!

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!

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Waterfront Athena 7 Roundup

By: ENS Tom Baker

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We hosted our seventh Waterfront Athena gathering at Mike Hess Brewery Tasting Room in San Diego’s North Park on Friday April 24th for another incredible presentation of talent from twelve of our Fleet sailors.

It was wonderful to see our reliable contingent of SPAWAR engineers, several professors from local universities, and local business colleagues from our excellent network!  To kick off the event, we were welcomed by VADM Philip Cullom, Deputy CNO for Fleet Readiness & Logistics, who delivered an encouraging message to over 70 attendees via Facetime from Washington!

A snapshot of our innovators:

*** The Waterfront Athena Seven Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage***

“P&D Line Optimization″ – STG2 Richard Coronado, USS BENFOLD

STG3 Richard Coronado

During Underway Replenishments, up to 15 sailors are employed specifically to handle the Phone and Distance (P&D) line, a critical navigation tool when two ships are separated by a mere 180 feet of water. The team on deck performs minuscule adjustments to keep the line between two ships tight for for up to two hours. Necessary for the team driving the ship on the bridge, the P&D team’s job is a taxing feat, unless you leverage existing technology…

STG2 Coronado envisions two prototypes – One mechanical, and one laser-based.

The first idea is a mechanical system that will be used to hold tension on the P&D line instead of 12 sailors. This method would require a shot line to be sent over to the refueling ship, and the P&D line to be hauled over as it currently is. However, it would be held under tension by a mechanical system instead of sailors.

As STG3 Coronado explains, “We would feed the P&D line around a pulley, attach it to a bungee, and attach that bungee to a climbing rope or similar that would be passed  through a climbing grigri (belaying device) or similar locking device that is anchored to a bit or other extremely strong fitting already in place on the forecastle.  This would require one or two extra fittings to be welded somewhere on the forecastle for the P&D line to be guided through. This would require one person to monitor the overall tension being held by the bungee cord, and adjust slack at the locking devices anchor point.”

Coronado’s alternative is to use a laser-type rangefinder that can be placed on the side of the ship to display the distance of the nearest object (the other ship). This information could then be transmitted to a display screen on the bridge that will give the conning officer a digital number indicating the actual distance between ships.

The crowd was certainly impressed with the detailed descriptions and multiple possibilities to improve our P&D line, and our Admiral Sims award winner was already caught topside trying to find a way to rig a prototype!

“Zebra Chips″ – OS1 Victoria Shearer , USS BENFOLD

  OS1 Victoria Shearer

Petty Officer Shearer developed her idea in response to frustration that she noticed as her ship navigates the Surface Navy’s training cycle. She noted specifically wasted man hours training Sailors to set enhanced material condition on the ship, Zebra, to mitigate against casualties such as flooding or fires in shipboard spaces.

“We spend approximately 60 man hours per scenario for setting and verifying the proper setting of condition Zebra! My solution is a time-saving implementation,” Shearer said.

In her concept, an existing technology, called a piezoresistive pressurized chip, could execute in seconds what takes an entire ship almost an hour. When installed on hatches and scuttles, this chip allows an indication to read from the ship’s Central Control Station that the appropriate material condition has been set.  The device is approximately 0.2-0.3 mm, has been tested in temperatures of 170 degrees Fahrenheit, and pressure tested at 300 lbs. The chip is so minuscule that water and air tight integrity should not be a factor.

“Installing these chips on watertight devices throughout the Fleet will save thousands of man hours each month!” Shearer said.

“P2: Password Protector″ – ENS Claire Calkins, USS BENFOLD

ENS Claire Calkins

In the Navy, every Sailor must change their account passwords numerous times each year. When they are changed, they are expected to use 15+ characters, letters, and and assortment of symbols. As the Communication Officer onboard BENFOLD, ENS Calkins noticed that her Sailors were allocating countless hours each month to assist in the changing of passwords, so she devised a low cost, easy to use alternative to constantly changing passwords.

“My project objectives were: a user friendly application, never to manually change passwords, encryption, diverse in usability, and easily updated,” Calkins said.

The solution: (P2): Password Protector. The initiative would allow Sailors to log onto their computers with their CAC card and pin. Once they log on, the application will run seamlessly behind their profile, logging them on to all accounts they have added to the application. To modify their accounts, users would be able to open the application, which would look like a simplified Excel spreadsheet with each line consisting of four dropdowns: Application/Website Name, Periodicity of password change, Password Requirements, and Current Password. The application will have pre-programmed options for each dropdown. For example, Application/Website Name will be a dropdown with NIPR, SIPR, NTCSS, etc. The Password Requirement dropdown will consist of 3-5 requirements (users can click + to add more if needed) with options like number of characters, uppercase, lowercase, etc. Finally the Current Password block will be filled in with a randomly generated password that passes all of the password requirements set. The user will be able to add lines as they create more accounts.

The application will be created using simple script that pulls HTML or PHP from different applications/websites to assist in password reset as well as being encrypted to protect all passwords.

“At any point, a person may log into their normal websites and change their passwords. If users lose their CAC card there will be a backup function that asks security questions similar to a banking website, allowing the user to see all of their current passwords,” Calkins said. “My hope is to keep the user interface as clean and simple as possible so that Sailors will feel comfortable using it. Lastly, as the Navy is a very transient community, the application will have an export feature. Sailors will be able to export all of the data to a simple CD before heading to their next command. This ensures no time will be lost going to a new command!”

“Terminal System″ – EMFR Ryan Gough, USS BENFOLD

EMFR Ryan Gough

EMFR Gough, a new addition to the crew, expressed that he noticed a very specific challenge that many Sailors experience since he reported onboard: Mustering on time, especially in instances that a very rapid and accurate muster is required, such as a man overboard.

“We have to send investigators to find damage done from being hit by a enemy ship and not knowing exactly where we were hit, the simple fact is that it’s hard to find people on the ship or takes too long to find them,” Gough said.

His Terminal System would be a programmed, computer-based system that accounts, tracks, and monitors the personnel onboard the ship at all times during working hours.

The terminal itself would be about the size of a small box, like a punch in and out box for a normal hourly job.  It has a screen on it with a few arrows and enter buttons to select or deselect. It has the list of all personnel that report to the ship, and the location in which each terminal is located. What the list provides is the accountability of each personnel when they swipe their card and type in their password to get onboard.

Within each Sailors’s card is an RFID chip. It continuously transmits a frequency with a code at a certain distance. Each terminal has the software to see the signal that the RFID is transmitting and will be able to locate you depending where the terminal is. Gough envisioned additional uses for the system as well.

“In the scenario of someone conducting maintenance in a space that does not have normal traffic, a person falls hitting their head and become unconscious. The terminal will see that you are in that space for quite some time, and send a signal to our watchstanders who can then attend to your injury,” Gough said.

The Terminal could also be used as an information node. If a Sailor has to leave the ship for any reason, all they would have to do is go to the nearest terminal, select “going ashore” and enter the times and possibly even reason they would be gone.

“Timely accountability, GQ , Man Overboard, etc… that’s what this system can improve given the proper attention!” Gough said.

“Equipment Imaging System″ – OSSN Jason Bardin, USS BENFOLD

OSSN Jason Bardin

OSSA Bardin’s concept, the Equipment Imaging System (EIS) is an updated, clarified, and interactive 3M Discrepancy Log.

EIS is to be completely digital, removing paper documentation of equipment all together while giving Work Center Supervisors (WCS) an even more efficient way of Identifying and Verifying PMS discrepancies. The system is to be comprised of a software integrated with SKED, just as Adobe Photoshop utilizes their Adobe Bridge Integration to quickly access and view media. When the WCS closes out the 13 Week Report, they encounter the issues of “See Check Notes” and then have to refer to the work centers Discrepancy Log for each check. Currently, the WCS must physically find the equipment to verify whether maintenance is properly being signed for.

With EIS, each division would be assigned a certain amount of cameras integrated with Wifi for Maintenance Personnel to utilize. When a maintenance person finds a discrepancy beyond their ability of correction, they simply take a snap shot of the error on the equipment, add a quick description, and the picture will sync to their personal Directory on EIS. The WCS simply has to open SKED, find the check and see the related image to verify proper usage of “See Check Notes”. EIS will be utilized with Spot Checks to eliminate any confusion of how/whether maintenance was done on the equipment. All images/videos can be stored externally and wirelessly on a separate removable hard drive eliminating the concern of slowing down any work centers computer.

“EIS is the future of maintenance as the Navy moves towards being faster and more efficient in every day to day work,” Bardin said.

“Outstanding Sweeper″ – FC2 Ryan Rackley, USS BENFOLD

FC2 Ryan Rackley

Petty Officer Rackley took aim at improving the age-old institution of “Sweepers” onboard Navy ships.  Her concept would consists of water tight-capable vents – about three inches long and one inch tall – at the bottom of the bulkheads next to the deck. The vents would allow Sailors to sweep all of the dust down onto the deck, and initialize the system to suck in all of the dust. The dust would travel to dust compartments that contain allergen-free hepa filters, to be cleaned out weekly or bi-weekly.

Rackley explained that the system would allow sailors to breathe cleaner air, by filtering it before circulation.

“The average sailor spends around 2,190 minutes per year sweeping,” Rackley said.  “The Outstanding Sweeper would ultimately provide more time for critical maintenance hours while adhering to procedural compliance.”

“Battle Lantern Upgrade″ – FC2 Larson , USS BENFOLD

FC2 Larson

On surface ships, there are emergency lighting rigs called battle lanterns, which allow for Sailors to transit the ship safely or see critical equipment in the event of a power outage or casualty. Petty Officer Larson, after spending several months assigned temporarily to the damage control maintenance shop onboard, developed an innovative idea to improve the devices.

Larson pitched an upgrade to the relay in the battle lantern to make the wires within the battle lantern a “quick” connect system.  He explained that this would eliminate the need to cut, strip, and splice wires together.

“Too many man hours are wasted hooking up a battle lantern the ‘old way,'” Larson said. “A quick connect system is efficient and the maintenance person will know that the wires are connected correctly and not worry about wires coming unhooked after splicing a wire together.”

Additionally, the excess wires could be held inside the empty space of the relay.  Larson’s reasoning for this was twofold: To eliminate the chances of battle lantern wires melting and shorting out causing more man hours to be wasted re-repairing a battle lantern and increased safety.

“If a wire does melt, this could cause a electrical fire in the battle lantern, so this will be a much safer system!” Larson said.

“Air Squeegie″ – STG1 Mike Butcher, LCSRON N7 ASW

STG1 Mike Butcher IMG_20150429_132006488

Petty Officer Butcher explored the idea of an air powered squeegee for the towed sonar array on CRUDES ships. His basic idea is a 6″ semicircular ring of stainless tube with three air jets protruding from it at the 12, 4, and 8 o’clock positions and two mounting brackets on the sides to attach the device to existing hardware on the fairlead assembly of the ship. The purpose of this system would be to quickly and efficiently dry the towed array and its associated cable as it is retrieved. Butcher’s idea, as many are, was born out of frustration.

“The current method of drying the gear during recovery is 2-3 junior sailors with a bail of rags hand drying the cable/ array as it comes on board,” Butcher said. “This presents numerous problems including safety of personnel and excess corrosion in the space from wet rags being hung to dry as well as drainage during the recovery options. The air would strip the water from the gear and, if mounded correctly, would spray it back out the fairlead assembly and over the side.”

This device would decrease required manpower, increase safety and save the Navy money, as a one-time expense would eliminate the need for purchasing the large quantity of rags needed to support towed array operations during deployments.

“The Corps″ – SN Vu, USS BENFOLD, and his colleague Ben Iwan

SN Richard Vu

Since WWII, Naval Special Warfare has developed a well respected name worldwide with the SEAL Teams and SWCC Boat Teams, earned by Sailors who endure incredibly difficult and valuable training in arguably the hardest military training in the world.

“The training weeds out those who do not belong or those who are not yet ready for the job that follows,” Vu said.

Vu explained that a problem that needs to be addressed is that of those who do not make it through the programs. Most of these men are well educated, fit, motivated and hold onto a strong work ethic. These Sailors who drop from these programs are typically sent to the fleet in a job they do not want, creating retention and performance problems.

“Our idea was to create a new, similar, infantry rate for the Navy where Sailors take some of the marines jobs such as VBSS- or MEU-styled billets on amphibious ships, but are also able to a sailor’s job as firefighter or a line handler,” Vu said. “These Sailors who joined to be SEALs or SWCC, joined to see combat and die for their country in the most honorable way they saw fit and most could argue that many did not join for a paycheck either. With a new rate that gives them something to fill the gap that an undesignated deck seaman cannot fill, retention and motivation for these sailors will be much higher due to the simple fact that they are able to be placed in a job in which they would enjoy.”

“Needle Gun Improvement″ – BMSR Robert Dorsey, USS BENFOLD

BMSR Robert Dorsey

BMSR Dorsey, another new member of BENFOLD’s crew, birthed an idea on a topic that he has become very familiar with since reporting aboard:

“I want to reinvent the needle gun!” Dorsey said.

The needle gun is a simple pneumatic tool that uses compressed air to a piston which constantly pounds on a set of needles. Dorsey wanted to make the needle gun more versatile, creating interchangeable fittings with different types of needles to match different surfaces, while also making it a few inches smaller for those hard-to-reach spaces.

“This will save us time by just changing the fittings rather than leaving our work and getting another tool,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey also proposed changing the design of the trigger for increased grip and reduced hand fatigue. Some ideas he pitched for the interchangeable tips included a round tip for softer metals, a v-shaped tip for deep, layered rust and a chisel head for wide paint “busting.”

“I have done some research, but I have yet to find a pneumatic tool that uses the piston design with interchangeable fittings,” Dorsey said.

“Bomb Robot″ – IC3 Katie Rogers, USS BENFOLD

IC3 Katie Rogers

Rogers’ idea is a shipboard vehicular unit that could assist sailors in dangerous situations and save lives.  In her concept, the Bomb Robot would have the ability to navigate the ship with gecko treads on triangular wheel bearings and shipboard schematics loaded for smart movement.

The robot would be equipped with a 360 degree camera for viewing hard to reach places, a thermal sensor for high-temperature of flame-filled environments, and chemical detection paper for CBR or toxic environments.

“It could detect and identify harmful substances,” Rogers said. “The unique robot is hardwired vice wireless controlled, allowing it to be used during a “HERO” environment. This robot is about reducing the risk of human error and injury while quickly transiting our ship to locate threats.”

“Waste to Energy Engine″ – QM1 Walls, USS BENFOLD

QM1 Walls

Petty Officer Walls found frustration in the Navy generating thousands of pounds of trash every day. While he found movements to start recycling, and mandates to do so in several overseas bases, he expressed that they would only lessen the environmental impact and there is little to no incentive for the individual sailor to participate.

“There is a technology that is able to take that waste and use it to generate energy,” Walls said. “This is energy that, if we could translate it onto our ships, would significantly decrease the amount of fuel required by our shipboard generators to create electricity for our ships.  And if the technology can’t be translated onto our ships, we could still put it to use on our bases, and benefit from the energy there; possibly even be able to provide energy for our surrounding communities, while saving millions of dollars in trash processing and landfill fees.”

Walls saw opportunity in Sweden’s waste-to-energy engine.

“Sweden has been able to refine the process of converting waste to energy that they have been able to effectively eliminate residual waste and the need for landfills in their country,” Walls said. “They are so efficient with it that their neighbors in Norway are currently paying Sweden to take their trash and use it- an arrangement that is gaining Sweden millions of dollars every year in addition to providing fuel for the industry that is providing energy to Swedish citizens.”

The byproducts of the process (dioxins and heavy metals) are hazardous, but the Navy already has procedures in place to handle hazardous materials like these.

“We should adopt this technology and develop a naval engine that eats our trash!” Walls said.

Onward With Valor

Stay tuned as we experience an exciting summer of growth and change! As we continue to expand Athena within San Diego over the summer, the mighty BENFOLD will make it’s transition to Japan, bringing ATHENA to a new corner of the world.

ENS Tom Baker is the First Lieutenant onboard USS BENFOLD and the San Diego lead for The Athena Project. He’s a proud graduate of Oregon State University, earning his degree in Entrepreneurship.

Don’t forget! Athena Northwest 3.0 is right around the corner! If you’re in the Pacific Northwest and want to participate, reach out to the Athena team on Facebook, Twitter or e-mail!

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!

Work, Basketball and the Manager With A Dream.

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By: LT Clarence Harris

Marshay Gorman was the manager of my high school basketball team. I know what you’re thinking: Why is a former Naval Academy fullback babbling about the manager of my high school basketball squad in this innovation blog? Well, I’ll tell you…

Marshay handled all the team’s equipment during my freshman and sophomore years. Coach would always fuss about him shooting during the Junior Varsity and Varsity practices. He also had a tendency to dribble the ball at the most inopportune times and regularly got an earful of Coach as a result. Marshay loved the game, though. Inside that manager was a vision of greatness.

Day in and day out for two years Marshay would dribble and shoot hours before the team hit the court and he’d do it again hours after the late practices were over. Before and after games he practiced his tail off and continued to dream of becoming a part of the team and proving not only to himself but to everyone that believed and him that he could do it.

Greatness doesn’t come easy and making something happen against heavy odds is even harder. But then there was Marshay. During tryouts at the beginning of our junior season, the once-manager hit the court and shocked everyone. He had some serious game.  The coaches saw it too and Marshay made the team. Even though he was fighting for an already-taken position, he become a starter quickly and went on to become the conference’s leading scorer. It was awesome to see all of his desire and determination come to life before all of our eyes.

We all often reflected on the vision that he had and the drive that he possessed to get to that point. He was humble and determined to make a positive contribution to our team and make us better than we were without him. We all know what he had gone through to get to this point and welcomed him with open arms. All those nonbelievers became believers and rooted him…US on!

Marshay was hungry. He not only had the desire to, but knew that he could help our basketball team in winning and becoming better as a whole. He know that he would have to work when others were resting he know that it would not be easy. He knew that if he simply told our coach that he wanted to play on the team and contribute that the coach wouldn’t entertain the idea. The guy had dreams. Dreaming about hitting that game winner was easy for Marshay – he loved the game of basketball.

What he had to do was do.  And doing isn’t always easy.  It’s work.

Ok, so what does any of this have to do with innovation, The Athena Project, or making our organization better? If you ask me I will quickly tell you that there are a lot of Marshay Gormans amongst us. People who have the dream, the vision, and are willing to put in the work to make a contribution to our Navy team. To make a change for the better.

The tough part about it is that we can’t forget that this change may not happen in a week, a month or even a year. But we can’t give up. Having a vision is one thing, but putting in the work to make it happen is something else altogether. Sometimes things get rough, but we have to continue to believe in our ideas and not be deterred by any naysayers. We have to ‘Marshay Up’ – Work Hard. Work Late. Work Before. Work After. Do whatever it takes to make your vision come to life. Your contribution is needed and welcomed. And you will be backed up by everyone that understands the time, energy, and focus is essential to making a change for the better. And you to will be rooted on to the finish.

You just have to pick up the ball and start dribbling.

You can like Athena on Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenanavy or follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy.

LT Harris is a Surface Warfare Officer assigned to USS BENFOLD (DDG 65) as Combat Systems Officer.

 

Sights Set On Symbiotic Solutions.

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By: LT Dave Nobles

I mentioned yesterday that I’ve always found relating business world concepts to the Navy to be challenging and rewarding. In fact, it’s 100% the primary driver of The Athena Project.

Several companies today have initiatives that encourage growth of their employees as people, harnessing the power of their human capital and riding that wave all the way to the shores of Awesometown. Companies like 3M, Google, IDEO, FedEx (and the list goes on and on) supercharge their ridiculously talented professionals through the concept of time off for intellectual development. What they find is that their employees are generally happier and more productive. Some corporations encourage their employees to study anything – Even if it doesn’t relate to the jobs they were hired for.

Athena strives to make that type of initiative for the Navy work. Too many of our hyper-intelligent Sailors are academically discouraged by the nature of their work.  It would be folly not to at least provide a channel in which they could unleash that dormant talent and brainpower. Just one lesson among many that the Navy can and should adopt from successful giants of industry.

That said, there is much that the business world can learn from the military as well. When I was studying for my MBA at Penn State, I participated in a great residency assignment that brought my entire cohort together to run a business simulation. We formed groups of about 10 and became companies competing in the perfume and aftershave industry. Over the course of the next week, we had four years’ worth of quarterly decision periods in which we steered the company in terms of financial leverage, marketing, pricing, quality assurance and a litany of other metrics.

I had the great fortune of being selected as Chief Executive Officer of one of the six groups of students in the simulation.  What I found during my time as “Team Alchemy” CEO was that the lion’s share of students who were in the group – brilliant people who had been working for quite some time in the business world – had never, EVER been led. And, many of them didn’t know how to lead, either.

It was at about this point that I realized the extent of my brainwashing, courtesy of the military. Leading is easy to me because of the great experience that I’ve had in the Navy. I immediately went into that mode and rounded up my team to perform to the best of their abilities.

Together, we built an open environment in the team where anyone could express their ideas and thoughts and work toward the end goal: Winning. We had fun, we gained a metric ton of knowledge about how competition really works, and… We won!

That little case study in leadership taught me that the corporate world has as much to learn from the military as we from it. There are countless lessons on leadership and management that can be distilled from the experience of servicemembers just as there are a bevy of productivity, human resources, project management, and innovation lessons that the services can glean from years of business experience.

At the Defense Entrepreneurship Forum this past weekend in Chicago, and on its blog, Esteban Castellanos, an Air Force reservist, presented the idea of short externships for promising leaders. A phenomenal idea, and a great way to educate our promising young leaders on business world concepts. There are also programs like the Secretary of Defense Corporate Fellowship Program that aim to do the same for senior leaders.

How do we give back, though? Certainly forums like LT Ben Kohlmann’s DEF that foster networking and relationships are an excellent medium. Another would be to host ideation sessions between businesses and military leaders. Perhaps a leadership retreat where groups of leaders in businesses and various military communities could share ideas and solve problems would be a path for mutual growth. The possibilities are endless, but the bridges need to be built.

Interaction between the business world and military has the potential to yield some positive results on both sides. How might we best cultivate that symbiotic relationship?

 

You can like Athena on Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenanavy or follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy.

Photo by FC2(SW) Shawn Truesdale

LT Nobles is a Surface Warfare Officer assigned to USS BENFOLD (DDG 65) as Weapons Officer.