2048… The Magic Number

By LCDR Kristen Wheeler

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Being a mobile gaming app addict, I came across one particular addictive game a couple months ago. “2048”, published by Ketchapp in app stores in 2014, is ridiculously easy to grasp while still providing a difficult challenge. The rules are simple… move the blocks horizontally or vertically to combine adjacent, like numbers until you reach 2048. For example, a block with the number “2” can only be combined with another block with the number “2” that is beside, above, or below it. When you combine two “2” blocks… you make a “4” block. Then you can push two “4” blocks together to make an “8” block, and then two “8” blocks together to make a “16” block… and so on and so forth… until you finally have created an opportunity to push two “1024” blocks together for the win. It’s not as easy as you think.

So take a second a download it. It’s free. The rest of the article might make a little more sense after you’ve played the game. If you become addicted, it’s not my fault.

After playing an embarrassing number of hours on this game (mostly never at work), it occurred to me that this game illustrates a fantastic strategy when it comes to scale and collaboration with respect to the multitude of emergent innovation efforts happening throughout the Navy and Marine Corps.

Over the last year I’ve been keeping a list of all the different innovation related ideas, projects, efforts, cells, and groups (of various maturity, sizes, scope, focus, audience, legitimacy, credibility, support, and funding) that have sprouted up throughout the Department of the Navy (and beyond). We have Secretary of the Navy’s Strategy and Innovation Department, Task Force Innovation (TFI), Naval Innovation Advisory Council (NIAC), The Hatch, CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC), The Athena Project, Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF), DEFx, Tactical Advancement for Next Generation (TANG), Junior Enlisted Innovation Think Tank (JITT), Naval Innovation Network (NIN), MD5, MilSuite, Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), High Velocity Learning (HVL), TOOLKit, Cognitive Warrior Continuum, Illuminate, MMOWGLI, Junior Officer Symposium, Hacking 4 Defense, Hack the Sky, Hack the Machine, Innovation Certificate at NPS, USMC Wearable Challenge, PEO-EIS Innovation Cell, FabLabs, RoboDojo, Future Strategy Forum, Naval STEM, RDT&E Strategic Cell, and so much more.

In addition, there are a wide array of official and unofficial places that are publishing various innovation efforts which include (but certainly not limited to); SECNAV’s Strategy & Innovation, Athena Project, DEF, Atlantic Council, Naval Institute (website and Proceedings), Naval Science and Technology Future Force Magazine, War on the Rocks, Connecting the Dots, Military Writers Guild, CIMSEC, The Navalist, Defense One, and good ole Navy Times… just to name a few.

So what does this all of this have to do with “2048”? Over the last 14 months of watching super smart Sailors and DoN Civilians roll up their sleeves to implement their great idea, there is almost always that moment of defeat. The innovator stands at the edge of the cliff, overlooking a massive chasm, and wondering how on Earth they will ever be able to cross it and scale their idea into their biggest vision. “2048” could offer a solution to the ever growing multitude of emergent innovation efforts… we need to start combining.

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“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

What if groups that harvested Sailor’s ideas (2) were combined with research and development units (2) in an effort to build a true partnership (2+2) where Sailors ideas were systematically researched and funded each and every quarter (4)? Then what if one of the new innovation culture-based workshops (2) mated with an organizational metrics and collection team (2), thereby solidifying (2+2) as a quantifiable and adaptable learning program (4)? And then what if this new adaptable learning program (4), which exposed more Sailors to creative, cognitive, systems thinking mechanisms combined systematically researched Sailor’s ideas (4) to reinforce (4 +4) an inclusive systems approach to learning through real impact (8). There are a million other variables that we can continue to merge together.   The point is that when we combine our efforts, we become stronger. Dollars to ideas to education to collaboration opportunities to networks to organizational culture… what if we ask ourselves, how can I collaborate in such a way that both parties end up twice as strong in the end? And lest we forget the power of the media! By the time we are breaking barriers, we must share what we are doing so that others may gain insight and inspiration! A fusion of entertaining media (1024) and amazing advances brought about by radical collaboration (1024), only leads us to the ever coveted 2048.

Reflecting back on my time as a NIAC Fellow in FY16, one of the most valuable lessons I learned is that power and accomplishment comes from sustainable partnerships. No one can get their idea off the ground alone. It literally takes a village, or in our case, a Fleet. The only way we can scale and grow and instill the systemic culture changing behaviors (agility and adaptability being at the top of that list) in order to take ideas into meaningful realities is to combine efforts… and then perhaps 4096 will then be the new magic number.

 

Kristen Wheeler is the Executive Officer of the Navy Operational Support Center, San Jose. Before she was a NIAC Fellow, she founded The Athena Project’s Southeast chapter.

Athena Monterey 1.0 Roundup

By LCDR Kristen Wheeler

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Monterey, California -truly a mecca for Naval Innovation – held its first Athena Project Pitch Event back in August at the London Bridge Pub. In a room with a view overlooking historic Monterey bay, six presenters from both Naval Postgraduate School and Defense Language Institute took the stage and brought their big ideas out into the light of day. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and academics from a myriad of backgrounds filled the room not only with their presence, but also their enthusiasm and curiosity.

CDR Andy Newsome, who brilliantly brought two massive commands together and then organized Athena Monterey 1.0, emceed the event. Volunteers from the audience pulled names out of the cup for the order of the presenters… and then were subsequently awarded an Athena Monterey 1.0 custom-designed coin which was 3D-printed at NPS’s Maker Space, Robo Dojo. The presenters then each had 5 minutes to present their idea and then another 5 minutes to answer audience questions.

The evening proved to be electric as compelling insights unfolded one right after another both from the presenters and those who came to support. Here is a quick encapsulation of the concepts presented.

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LT Todd Coursey (NPS) – Maker Box

Navy LT Todd Coursey, a heavyweight in the Navy’s additive manufacturing and Maker Space movement , started the evening off by capturing our attention by bringing in a box about twice the size of a large shoe box. His concept aimed at enabling senior officer and enlisted leadership exposure to advanced digital manufacturing and coding capabilities.   Todd said that this generation is growing up in an environment where digital capabilities have become democratized to the point where seven year olds in third world nations can be taught to create micro-controllers.  Curiosity piqued, he explained to the wide-eyed audience that this box is actually a portable additive manufacturing tool that has the potential to disrupt coding and digital manufacturing education easily and widely, opening up military and civilians to endless possibilities when coupled with a cohesive, creative, and cost-effective curriculum. By giving leaders a three to five day dose of the realm of the possible when it comes to current technology and how easy it is to employ.

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Maj. Nick AionaAka (NPS) – Leadership Reimagined

Nick AionaAka delivered Athena’s first Marine Corps pitch, bringing to the crowd a very relevant and timely idea that will flip collaboration and leadership shortfalls head over heels and into the future with wings. A big believer in organization culture as the root of all innovative commands, Nick offers that giving units or unrelated groups of DoD personnel take a tactical pause and step out of the forest so they can see the trees, could prove just the ticket to help us experience and discuss key pillars such as trust, communication, collaboration, connectedness, and other cultural nuances that are necessary for next generation ingenuity to thrive. But Nick also states that stepping out of the forest proverbially can happen by stepping in an actual forest. Getting back into nature and around a campfire are the best ways to remind ourselves that authentically connecting and learning from one another has a great deal of meaning when we are doing in our most simplest environments.

Peter Ateshian (NPS) – Femto Satellite Communications

NPS Professor Peter Ateshian left the audience in awe when he explained how Femto-Satellites could rewrite the books on how we communicate. With his son by his side, Peter brought a prototype of an actual size satellite… which was ridiculously small by the way… and passed it around the audience so we could truly understand just how disruptive and enhancing this technology could be. Not only can these miniature satellite carry a signal which provide timing and position, they work in our atmosphere, in space… and can float in the ocean. Lasting 6-8 weeks, the mini-sats cost a meager $30 a pop and the capabilities that can be provided are absolutely endless.

Cpt Sarah Martin (DLI) – Aptitude Targeting

Over from Defense Language School, Army CPT Sarah Martin followed up next and presented a solution set that could increase effective recruiting of amazing foreign language instructors – The “Unicorns.” Finding exceptional language instructors at DLI is no easy task… hunting needles in haystacks, especially for obscure languages. Sarah believes we can not only find a wider selection of instructor candidates to teach our Sailors, Soldiers, Airman and Marines, but they can be found with lesser manpower… simply by harnessing the power of social media. Using sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter… even Snapchat and Instagram can be used to reach specific audiences… namely language instructors in this case. By capitalizing on public demographic information that users provide to social media sites, DLI can include this into their marketing and recruiting strategies. Targeting ads through Facebook, for example, can cost very little… as much as $0.24 a click… sometimes event less. And without being invasive, it allows people who possess the skillsets needed to teach a language to find out about employment opportunities at DLI they might not have otherwise known about. Sarah’s idea wowed the audience as she was peppered with questions and idea riffs following her presentation.

CPO John-Mark Allen (DLI) – Realizing the Paperless Navy

Chief John-Mark Allen stirred the crowd by asking anew the question every person in the Department of Defense has pondered at some point… What ever happened to the notion of a paperless Navy? His question was has been asked for over 18 years now since it was first proposed in 1998. And though there are some places where we have gone paperless, for example using NSIPS to route leave documents, we still have no shortage of blue and red folders plaguing commands. Breaking the old paradigm requires a culture shift, and Chief Allen proposes posing an internal “tax” on paper and toner. By increasing the price of paper and toner, commands will be pushed to adopt to myriad of other solutions for electronically routing documents.

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LT Jesse Iwuji (NPS)– NASCAR Recruiting
**Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage**

Our last presenter, LT Jesse Iwuji, immediately captured the audiences undivided attention by taking the stage in his NASCAR racing gear. As it turns out, we have within our Navy ranks a bonafide NASCAR driver… and one of two African American drivers in the circuits. When he’s not the Director of Student Services at NPS, Jesse hits the track. Jesse proposed using his influence within the NASCAR racing fan base to promote and recruit for the Navy. Because he is the only active duty driver and a minority on the circuit, Jesse attracts the camera nearly every single race. He garners an average of $1.5 million dollars worth of airtime, which is actively promotes the Navy because he’s a proud Surface Warfare Officer. However, there is more potential. The Navy could easily capture an even bigger ROI by being the only service in history to sponsor a car driven not only by their own service member, but an active duty one at that. It’s a no brainer… which is why Jesse won the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage.

Plans for Athena Monterey 2.0 and updates on our presenters coming soon… so stay tuned!

Athena DC 1.0 Roundup

By LT George Yacus

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Hi everyone, Kilt here!  Long time listener, but first time contributor here on The Athena Project.

Athena DC 1.0 — what a success on so many frontsincluding the beautiful Potomac waterfront!

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Yes, I have to talk about location and timing!  

Riding on the evening coattails of the local 2016 SEA  AIR SPACE expo Monday night gave Athenians several great benefits for this inaugural session, including:

  • An absolutely marvelous conference center snuggled in Maryland’s growing National Harbor on the beautiful Potomac (with access to adult beverages during the session if desired)
  • A great showing of inquisitive participants from the Navy League’s Global Maritime Exposition, and
  • Closer access to the refreshing Navy leadership who live on the fringes of our nation’s capital.

VADM Phil Cullom, Dr. Larry Schuette, Dr. Ralph Semmel, and Sharon Beermann-Curtin each took time out of their busy schedules–and maybe even missed a meeting or two–just so they could support our five Athena idea warriors as panelists.  What a testament to their commitment in making innovation a priority for action and engagement!

INTRODUCTION

The session kicked off with Dave Nobles as our jovial Master of Ceremonies, sharing the history of Athena–which has held about 20 events so far and has become a beacon of success for Naval innovation.  He also shared with us the concept behind  Athena’s snazzy new logo.

Indeed, as Dave said, The Athena Project has become the “Bat Signal” for Naval innovation success.  

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Only in this case, there is no “super hero” coming to the Navy’s rescue here in our nation’s capital city, which is normally known for legislative sausage-making, 15 year defense acquisition cycles, and risk-averse policy decisions from whom VADM Cullom likes to call “The Borg”.

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Acquisitions? Make it slow.

Instead, our heroes are diverse individuals just like you, who are not satisfied with assimilation into a sub par status quo!  Instead, you are folks who exhibit our Navy’s core values with intellectual honor, courage, and commitment.  You are willing to get an idea, run with it, and make it into a reality.

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INSPIRATION!

After Dave got us going, our five presenters and audience gained encouragement from the ideation powerhouse that is FRCMA (Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic).  

“Our command actually fosters innovation…from concept to culture.” said one of the guest speakers, ATC Williams from FRCMA, who was “blown away by communication between juniors and seniors” evident at his command, which has not one but two ideation think tanks that meet every other week, and also has systems in place where anyone can share their creative ideas.   

Chief Williams and the FRCMA team shared nearly a dozen ideas and processes they’ve developed and implemented in the realm of Navy innovation, which he describes as “taking what’s out there, and using it in a new and exciting way.”  

As a result, their work has spread from FRCs at Oceana and Norfolk to PAX River, New Orleans, and Washington.

But don’t let FRCMA’s success make you think that innovation comes easy, as we all know

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FOD Prevention? Make it glow.

ideation success takes leadership, hard work, and commitment.  Take for example LT Jason Shaw, who has spent ten years developing and then navigating funding and contract waters for his (literally) bright idea, which helps aviation maintenance personnel avoid FOD hazards (back to that theme in a second).  Or consider AD2 Shepard’s ongoing work to develop a better cranial that fits comfortably, doesn’t save up sweat, and requires fewer parts.

Our Athena idea warriors thus gained inspiration from those who have gone before us, knowing that their–and your–ideas, can literally the save the Navy time, money, and more importantly, save the lives of our fellow warfighters.

So regardless of whether or not our idea presenters’ concepts are implemented now, or even a decade from now as they battle “The Borg” or as some of us like to say, the “Frozen

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Innovation? Let it go.

 

Middle”, who just want to let good ideas go away, we’re thankful for all of our attendees’ presence, patience, and persistence, and we’re especially grateful to the Chains of Command that support ideators like them being able to attend!

 

 

DC 1.0 ATHENIANS

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Our Athenians and our Panel from Athena DC 1.0!  (U.S. Navy Photo by John F. Williams)

AT1 MICHAEL PECOTA OF FRCMA DET PAX RIVER: SONAR TRANSDUCER COVER

At the end of AT1 Michael Pecota’s presentation, I think our esteemed panelist ONR Research Director Dr. Larry Schuette put it best:

“Does anyone else think it’s crazy that we don’t already have it capped!?”

AT1 Pecota’s winning idea is a $10 3D printed solution to a $2,000,000 problem.  And that problem is one near and dear to every aircrew and aviation maintenanceman’s heart: FOD…Foreign Object Damage.  The MH-60R (our favorite sub-hunting organic maritime helo) carries a very complex $2M sonar transducer to detect and track lurking submarines.  Unfortunately, when debris makes its way into the transducer, it takes our aviation electronics technicians and maintenance personnel a full hour just to take the cover off and clean house inside the transducer.  By reducing FOD through prevention, AT1 Pecota’s sonar transducer cover can save the Navy upwards of 1708 man hours a year, equivalent to $76,000 back in the Pentagon’s budget.  Sounds great!  Unless you are an enemy submariner, am I right?  His simple solution for a sonar transducer cap earned him the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage.  

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AT1 Pecota receives the Admiral Sims Award from VADM Cullom. (U.S. Navy Photo by John F. Williams)

[Note, if you are an MH-60R bubba, looking to get one of these caps for your transducer, reach out and we’ll connect you with AT1 Pecota.  Let’s print these FOD-preventing bad-boys!]

LT JAMES LANDRETH OF NAVAL NUCLEAR POWER TRAINING UNIT, CHARLESTON SC: ADAPTIVE TESTING WITH MINERVA…THE ORACLE SUITE

Our second briefer carried the Athena torch with the mythology theme (woohoo!) LT James Landreth and his team pitched their innovative training/testing program “Minerva”, named after the Roman goddess of wisdom, art, Nuclear Power, school, etc.  

Their team sees wide possibilities with the Navy Computerized Adaptive Test system, enabling them to predict with 85% accuracy a student’s success, generate customized or individualized training regimes, provide command leadership data-supported feedback on training systems, and help students avoid test failure.  Nice!

LT DANIEL WALKER OF NAVAL SUPPLY SYSTEMS COMMAND: AUGMENTED REALITY BRIDGE

Collisions at sea.  They happen.  I wish they didn’t.  LT Walker wants to make them stop happening.  LT Dan wants every ship to keep their sea legs.

As a former CRIC-ster, he is the project lead for OCEAN AUGMENTED REALITY.  The idea is to take all the great sensors and information we have available on a bridge: map data, radar contact information, depth charts, etc., and synthesize it and present it to our watchstanders through augmented reality glasses to reduce collisions.  LT Walker’s project came in second place at Athena DC 1.0.  What an exciting challenge!

LT TAKERU TAJIRI OF  LCS CREW 104: E-SIGNALMAN

This is the idea that made it difficult for me to get to sleep last night!

It doesn’t take an engineer to realize that our electromagnetic spectrum is becoming more and more crowded and contested.  Just ask LT Takeru Tajiri, a Poli-Sci major from the Juggernauts of LCS Crew 104 who wants to breathe new life into an old concept like Morse code by addressing how we communicate when all the radios are jammed, or when EMCON (emissions control) conditions have been established.  The idea is to shift over to the shorter wavelengths on the EM spectrum, using visible light, infrared and/or laser, to send communication data from ship to ship or aircraft, and potentially relay data via unmanned vehicles/balloons to go over the horizon.

I really want to see all the tinkerers out there in the Navy come together and rally around this one, because I just KNOW that some sailors (including midshipmen) out there can design and build this one in a weekend or two!  Who is with me?  Let’s do it!

HM2 JOSHUA CRANFORD OF ANNAPOLIS NAVAL HOSPITAL: PROJECT WATER ENGINE

Our final presenter of the evening had me chuckling as he started with a great pun about sourcing energy and electrical current from water in the form of hydrogen.

HM2 Joshua Cranford is ready for the Navy to lead the way in green energy!  Taking inspiration from the SECNAV’s Great Green Fleet initiative, HM2 wants to transition to H2… using hydrogen gas as a safer, climate friendly, and some day cost effective alternative fuel source to fossil fuels.  Citing many recent trends, including successful projects from the University of West Virginia, HM2 Cranford encouraged us to take the long look for sustainability in how we power our Fleet.  His presentation, while cut a little short due to timing, was still a gas!

CONCLUSION

Wow, what a night!  In the end VADM Cullom tied it all together by spotlighting the strategic link between deckplate ideation, and Design for Maritime Superiority released by the Chief of Naval Operations. Specifically, he cited the line of effort regarding High Velocity Learning.  He also explained that he wants to see Athena spread to every fleet concentration area.

“I have been in awe of what Athena has done…”

-VADM Phil Cullom (OPNAV N4)

We’re so thankful for our presenters for having the courage to share their ideas.  How exciting it is that we can have sailors from all across the US come and meet together to make positive change in our Navy.  Even though this was the first Athena event in DC, I’d say the “Bat Signal” is shining brightly here.  Again, we must thank the leadership who have helped empower deckplate thinkers.

In conclusion, for some, it has been a 10 year journey to get here!  And for others, it was just a few minutes of traffic around the DC Beltway.  But regardless of whether you are an idea creator or an idea catalyst, newcomer or serial thinker, wherever you are in the realm of Naval innovation, remember, as VADM Cullom said this evening about The Athena Project…

This is your forum!”

 

LT George Yacus is an MH-60S helo bubba, currently on shore duty to USNA at the Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence, where he provides communication and outreach for student academic support services, including training midshipmen in collaborative learning techniques, speed reading, time management, and more.  In his free time he connects with other creative thinkers around the Yard and Fleet, and he is always looking to find ways to introduce innovation communities to midshipmen, faculty, and staff, and especially the aviation community at USNA.

There are Athena events coming soon to fleet concentration areas around the globe, so if you’re in Mayport, San Diego, Yokosuka and Norfolk – get ready! If you’re interested in starting a movement of your own, find us on Facebook or Twitter (@athenanavy) or e-mail us at athenanavy@gmail.com!

Athena DC 1.0 – Right Around The Corner!

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We’re less than a week away from Athena DC 1.0 at Sea Air Space, and we’re excited to bring forth some tremendous ideas from around the fleet!

At 7:00 PM on Monday, May 16th in the Potomac Room C at the Gaylord National Convention Center, we’ll have six Sailors pitching their great ideas to make the Navy better in front of the assembled crowd as well as a panel of four esteemed thought leaders in the innovation space.

The panelists will provide a great perspective to each presenter, bringing forth their wealth of knowledge to give insightful feedback after each presentation. VADM Phil Cullom, OPNAV N4; Dr. Ralph Semmel, Director of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory; Dr. Larry Schuette, Director of Research at the Office of Naval Research; and Sharon Beermann-Curtin, Deputy Director of the Strategic Capabilities Office join our team for the night to help propel these projects further.

Our presenters, in alphabetical order, are HM2 Joshua Cranford of the Annapolis Naval Hospital, MA2 Edward Glospie of NSF Lakehurst at Fort Dix, LT James Landreth of the Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit in Charleston, AT1 Michael Pecota of FRCMA Detachment Patuxent River, LT Takeru Tajiri of LCS Crew 104, and LT Daniel Walker of Naval Supply Systems Command.

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The Gaylord National Convention Center – Ground Zero for Athena DC 1.0 on Monday. Come by! It’s FREE!

These six presenters were selected by the Athena National Council from an incredibly impressive group of submissions. For those not selected this time around, fear not: There will be loads of opportunities to get your great ideas on stage in the future.

In addition to our presenters, we’ll have a past Athenian at the event to share his innovation success story with the crowd. While the awesome things that people have done in the realm of Department of Defense innovation often inspire us, our team is especially excited to give the stage to LT Jason Shaw to share his stories with the group. LT Shaw, a participant at Athena East 1.0, will be sharing his story of innovation at his command and a funded project that he’s brought to life.

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The scene at Athena West 4.0 in San Diego. We’re excited to add new Athenians into our midst!

For those unfamiliar with The Athena Project, here’s how the event works: presenters will have five minutes to present their idea. After the pitch, the panel will provide brief feedback to the presenter, which will be followed by five minutes of question and answer from the crowd. Once the Q&A is complete, the crowd will vote on the concept, grading the idea on three criteria: Idea quality, Actionability, and Presentation. Once all our Athenians have pitched their concepts, our team will calculate votes in order to determine the winner of the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage, which earns the lucky presenter the power of the Athena network to turn their idea into reality.

For all the fellow innovators in the region, admission to Sea Air Space, as well as Athena DC 1.0 is free, so we hope to have a great turnout to support the three officers and three enlisted Sailors that have demonstrated the intellectual courage to share their big ideas. Remember: No uniforms necessary – this is a casual event that’s open to all!

Looking forward to a great time on Monday night! See you there!

Announcing ATHENA DC 1.0!

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Athena has just Leveled Up!

Welcome to the next level of grassroots innovation, where we join forces with internal champions and external contributors in our most meaningful way yet.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to engage in the cutting edge of integration between generations of movers and shakers in the Military and the most advanced industrial and academic support.  

Athena is seeking energetic, inspired, and forward-leaning intrapreneurs on a quest for organizational change to pitch at our  inaugural Athena DC event, in partnership with the Navy League, at the 2016 Sea Air Space Exposition.  

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Bringing together the wisdom and empowerment senior leadership, diverse talent of thought leaders from industry and acedemia, and a cadre of deckplate innovators, this will be an event you won’t want to miss.  Presenters will have the opportunity to pitch their concepts for improving the military and National Security to a panel of senior leaders as well as a diverse audience that brings together best of the government, academic, and commercial worlds.  Like all of our events, the format will be informal and fun: no uniforms required, amongst great company, and with an atmosphere electric with possibilities.

All we need is you. If you have a big idea to make your command, the Navy, the Military, or the Department of Defense better, we want to hear it! Submit your proposed concepts to Athena via e-mail or social media for selection to pitch at this groundbreaking event! Our goal is to deliver 6-8 powerful pitches to the assembled crowd, with a laser focus on turning these concepts to reality.

In our past events, we’ve had many ideas begin the path to transition, receiving in excess of $1M in funding to deliver game-changing concepts to the fleet. Most recently, two Athena pitches received $100K in funding apiece to transition solutions to the fleet. Come throw your hat in the ring and make the Navy better!

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Our proud Athenians well represented at the West Coast Innovation Jam. Which Athena DC presenter will pursue funding at our first East Coast Innovation Jam?

This event will showcase your big ideas, but will also tell the story of several success stories. You’ll be able to hear from, and meet with the young innovators that are currently prototyping solutions to send to the Fleet and increase our Navy’s capabilities.

Join us at 7pm on Monday, May 16th at the Gaylord Center.  The event is free and open to all at the Sea Air Space Exposition and the DC area! Check the Sea Air Space event list / website for the specific room.  Don’t miss it!   

Come join the movement! Let’s work together to make our Military a force of the future!

 

Innovation Jam Roundup

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By Dave Nobles

Wednesday’s Innovation Jam onboard USS ESSEX (LHD 2) was an important and monumental moment for Naval Innovation.

The event was sponsored by a number of organizations, including Commander Pacific Fleet, SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. The support of such senior leadership for Deckplate Innovation made the event a resounding success, demonstrated in spades through awarding not one but two Sailors $100,000 to fund their concepts through prototyping and transition.

That’s the important part. Ideas born out of frustration, perseverance, and a quest to make the Navy better have been funded. However, the significance of the Innovation Jam is beyond the funding.

During the Innovation Jam, the assembled crowd of Sailors and government civilians listened to senior uniformed leadership within the Navy, like the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift; The Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Readiness and Logistics, Vice Admiral Phil Cullom and the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens. The three military speakers kicked off the event with a volley of support for The Athena Project, Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation (TANG), The Hatch, The Bridge, and other efforts to bring about positive change.  Each message resonated with the entrepreneurial and intraprenurial philosophies.

The voices of those senior leaders, combined with civilian thought leaders such as Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, the first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Microsoft and founder of Intellectual Ventures and Dr. Maura Sullivan, the Department of the Navy’s Chief of Strategy and Innovation, all echoed the a consistent theme:

Innovation is about taking risks.

The sponsorship, collaborative support and allocation of resources serves as a beacon of thoughtful risk taking by senior leadership in the Navy. And, funding two Sailor concepts serves as inspiration to empower all Sailors at all levels to share their own ideas and as a clear signal from the Navy’s top brass that they’re not only listening but that they’re also ready to act.

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Sailors and engineers work together to reframe their concepts during athenaTHINK at SSC Pacific

Over two days in San Diego, six Sailors who presented ideas through innovation initiatives such as The Athena Project, TANG, and The Hatch, were given the opportunity to interface with scientists and engineers at SSC Pacific and ONR to reframe and refine their concepts at an athenaTHINK event before presenting their ideas at the Innovation Jam to a panel of experts, who would decide a winner.

On the panel Dr. Myhrvold and Dr. Sullivan were joined by Dr. Stephen Russell of SSC Pacific, Mr. Scott DiLisio of OPNAV N4, Dr. Robert Smith of ONR, Mr. Arman Hovakemian of Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Corona Division, ETCM Gary Burghart of SSC Pacific and the Commanding Officer of the host ship, USS ESSEX, CAPT Brian Quin.

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The panelists evaluating the pitches onboard USS ESSEX (LHD 2)

The panel heard the six pitches and, after deliberation, Dr. Russell announced the results:

First Place: LTJG Rob McClenning, USS GRIDLEY (DDG 101)

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LTJG McClenning and Dr. Russell

LTJG McClenning presented his concept which he originally pitched at Athena West 3.0 called the Unified Gunnery System (UGS). The system would provide ballistic helmets equipped with augmented reality visors to the Sailors manning machine guns topside on a warship, and command and control via tablet in the pilot house. Commands given on the touch screen would provide indications to the gunners displaying orders, bearing lines and more. The system would be wired to prevent cyber attacks. The augmented reality capability of the system would mitigate potential catastrophic results of misheard orders due to the loud fire of the guns, and improve accuracy and situational awareness. LTJG McClenning received $500 for his concept, and $100K to develop the idea in collaboration with SSC Pacific.

Second Place: LT Bill Hughes, OPNAV N96

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LT Hughes and Dr. Russell

LT Hughes flew in from Washington, DC to pitch his concept, also from Athena West 3.0. The idea, CosmoGator, aims to automate celestial navigation through installed, gyro-stabilized camera mounts and small-scale atomic clocks to provide redundant Position, Navigation and Timing data to shipboard navigation and weapons systems. LT Hughes’ concept would continually update inertial navigation systems to enable continued operations in the event of GPS denial. Previously, this concept had been explored by the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell. LT Hughes received $300 and in a surprise move, OPNAV N4 funded his idea with $100K as well.

Third Place: GMC Kyle Zimmerman, Afloat Training Group Middle Pacific

GMC Zimmerman’s concept, originally presented at Athena West 4.0, intends to bring virtual reality to the Combat Information Center. Through the use of commercially available headsets, GMC Zimmerman proposed streaming a live optical feed of a ship’s operating environment to watchstanders to increase situational awareness and provide increased capability in responding to casualties such as Search and Rescue. GMZ Zimmerman received $200 for his idea.

Honorable Mention: LCDR Bobby Hsu, Commander, Task Force 34

LCDR Hsu pitched an idea from Theater Anti-Submarine Warfare (TASW) TANG for a consolidated information database for the litany of data required to effectively manage the TASW mission. The concept, Automated Response for Theater Information or ARTI, would leverage voice recognition software like the kind found in the Amazon Echo or Apple’s Siri, to enable watchstanders and commanders alike rapid access to critical information.

Honorable Mention: LT Clay Greunke, SSC Pacific

LT Greunke presented a concept that he began developing during his time at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and pitched at Athena West 9.0. His concept leverages virtual reality to more effectively train Landing Signals Officers (LSO) by recreating the simulator experience of an entire building in a laptop and Oculus headset. LT Greunke demonstrated his prototype for the panelists and described a vision for the LSO VR Trainer, called ‘SEA FOG,’ as the first piece of an architecture of virtual reality tools to improve training in a number of communities and services.

Honorable Mention: OSC Erik Rick, Naval Beach Group ONE

OSC Rick first presented his idea for a combined site to host all required computer based training on The Hatch, though he acknowledged that the concept had been a highly visible entry on The Hatch, as well as in previous crowd-sourcing initiatives such as Reducing Administrative Distractions (RAD), BrightWork and MilSuite. His concept is to make universal access tags for civilians, reserve and active duty personnel to enable easy tracking of completed training as well as required training. In his proposal, the host site would combine the requirements of the numerous sites currently hosting training requirements and deliver an App Store-like interface to simplify the experience for users.

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All of our presenters and panelists. America.

Not enough can be said for the courage that all of the presenters demonstrated to take the stage in an nerve-wracking setting and present their ideas. In another good news story, the panelists and the assembled crowd provided feedback to all the presenters, which will assist in the further development of all six concepts.

With the success of the Innovation Jam in the rear view mirror, the process now begins to build on the ideas that received funding. We’ll continue to provide updates of the future successes of the two funded concepts right here on the blog.

This milestone for Naval Innovation is nothing short of monumental. Many can relate to a near exhaustion with the rhetoric surrounding innovation: Agility, fast failure, big ideas, consolidating disparate efforts, getting technology to the warfighters, and certainly partnering partnerships with non-traditional players.  When actions are weighed against rhetoric, it is action that wins, taking the initiative, assuming the initiative to act and moving the needle.  And Wednesday, we saw that happen.

This inaugural Innovation Jam will not be a one-time thing. As stated by VADM Cullom in his Keynote Address the event will be coming to every fleet concentration area in the future. Here at The Athena Project, we’ll continue to push initiatives like the Innovation Jam to inspire the creative confidence to present ideas and aid in any way possible to turn concepts into reality.

And, for those wondering how they might get involved in an events like this, support your local Athena chapter, submit your ideas to The Hatch and participate in workshops like TANG! Participation in these, and any innovation initiative will make you eligible for your regional Innovation Jam!

The future looks bright indeed not only for innovation but for action.

And we’re damn proud to be a part of that.

 

Dave Nobles is a member of the Design Thinking Corps at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the founder of The Athena Project. He is also a Navy Reservist with the Office of Naval Research.

 

Project Pulse: The Rustbuster

By: LTJG Tom Baker

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BMSN Robert Dorsey explains his innovations for the next generation needle gun.

What an incredible update for one of our Waterfront ATHENA 7 innovators!

BMSN Robert Dorsey’s “Rustbuster” innovation recently caught the attention of Scientists from Commander, Naval Surface Forces SES! With CNSF granting specific funding for further research and prototypes, Susie Alderson and her team of advisers recently visited Dorsey onboard USS BENFOLD to take a look at his idea in action!

Dan Green, Director of SPAWAR’s Joint Advanced Manufacturing Region Southwest and the Secretary of the Navy’s Innovation Implementation Lead for Katalyst 21 was one of many advisers who met with Dorsey.

“This was our first DoN Katalyst-21 event and I am very pleased with the engagement so far”, says Dan. “From an Innovation lifecycle perspective, the DoN Katalyst-21 concept supports rapid prototyping and risk reduction phases that follow the generation of good ideas.  Our mission is to support the “incubation”  of Fleet Innovation by connecting sailor-generated ideas with a means to digitally or physically prototype and grow ideas into possible solutions.”

This is promising opportunity for the San Diego ATHENA community!

BMSA Dorsey led the team through his divisional spaces, explaining the issues faced with current Needle Guns and illustrating the areas where current tools onboard cannot fully tackle preservation challenges.

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 expressed 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.

Pete Schmitz of Intel Corporation was fulled immersed in Dorsey’s walkthrough. Utilizing revolutionary 3-D image mapping technology on a tablet, Pete was able to photograph the difficult equipment and spaces that Dorsey highlighted. Using specialized software, the CNSF team will combine those 3-D images with Dorsey’s prototype ideas to develop several solutions for prototype.

The design team at CNSF is currently working these prototypes and intends to return their results to Mr. Dorsey in the coming weeks!

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!

Big Ideas Live In Unlikely Places – 5 Tips For Cross-Pollination

By: Dave NoblesBee-Insect-Robots-For-Cross-Pollination-14

In 1913, the Ford Motor Company introduced a revolutionary innovation that changed the shape of the automotive industry forever – the moving assembly belt. The innovation helped Ford produce more of it’s Model T, which was sweeping the nation at the time, transforming the automobile from a novel curiosity to an accessible tool that would change the world.

While the great innovator and businessman Henry Ford is credited with this innovation, the true source of this great innovation was from an entirely different domain – the meat packing industry.

An early assembly line at Ford, courtesy ford.com

An early assembly line at Ford, courtesy ford.com

Ford, and more appropriately Ford’s brilliant team of engineers that did the majority of the design work for the auto manufacturer’s Detroit plant, looked to slaughterhouse practices used in Chicago in the late 19th Century for inspiration in an industry that had little more to do with meat than driving it to the market. Despite that fact, Ford’s team had the wisdom to keep their minds open to finding ideas in unlikely places. The team’s open-mindedness led to revolutionary changes that have impacted the lives of everyone on the planet to this day.

That’s the power of cross-pollination.

Cross-pollination is the discovery of new ideas and unique solutions to challenges through inspiration from unlikely sources. That source could be anything from exploring a new hobby that inspires a change in your frame of reference to the application of a new or interesting product to a problem you are facing. Or you could simply consider a diverse viewpoint from someone who thinks a little different than you.

Kelley's book is a great resource for building innovative teams and solving tough challenges.

Kelley’s book is a great resource for building innovative teams and solving tough challenges.

Many books, blogs and articles have discussed the benefits of cross pollination and recombinant innovation. Most notably, in the 10 Faces Of Innovation, Tom Kelley says that cross-pollinators (one of the titular 10 faces) have an uncanny ability to stir up new and interesting ideas by looking broader, into unexpected worlds that may not even seem relevant to the problem you may be facing. While that may sounds like one would need a particular set of skills, a la Liam Neeson in Taken, but truthfully anyone can be a cross-pollinator.

I have a very particular set of skills. I will find you, and I will innovate.

I have a very particular set of skills. I will find you, and I will innovate.

Case studies on cross pollination and recombinant innovation are everywhere – In the video rental industry, Redbox gained a competitive advantage through harvesting inspiration from vending machines and their closest competitor, Netflix, leveraged inspiration from the Postal Service after CEO Reed Hastings was frustrated by paying a $40 late fee to a traditional video rental provider.

In the Navy, look no further than the Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation (TANG) team, who hosted a design thinking event in San Diego recently that Tom Baker talked about on this blog. An idea emerged from an early event that the team hosted to replace the $128,000 joystick submariners use to control periscopes with an intuitive (and cheap) $28 Xbox controller. That concept has made its way onto new Virginia Class submarines and even earned an excellent hashtag at a Fast Company conference in San Francisco last year – #SuperMarioSubmarine.

We’ve also had many examples of cross-pollination in some of our past Athena pitches. The Environmental Acoustic Recognition System (EARS), Rob McClenning’s winning idea from Athena Two, was an conceived by looking at Army technologies; and Bill Hughes’ celestial navigation system proposal CosmoGator was devised after downloading a Star Finder app for iPhone – just to name a few.

LT Bill Huges pitching CosmoGator at Athena 3. He started the pitch by holding his iPhone in the air and asking "if I can automate celestial navigation on this, why not on my ship?"

LT Bill Huges pitching CosmoGator at Athena 3. He started the pitch by holding his iPhone in the air and asking “if I can automate celestial navigation on this, why not on my ship?”

While cross-pollination is a great skill that can yield some great ideas, some of us may not know where to start. There are actually loads of ways that you can bring the benefits of cross-pollination and recombinant innovation into your daily routine. Here are some ways that you can become a cross-pollinator at your job:

Be Engaged – A critical prerequisite to cross-pollination is starting with the right mindset. To truly remove your internal governor and enable the benefits of cross-pollination into your routine full throttle, you have to be engaged and observant. If you’re not engaged in your current surroundings, and observing the small nuances in the way things work, then you may miss an opportunity to affect positive change.

Spark Your Intellectual Curiosity – A genuine desire to learn about new things would be another prerequisite. If you don’t have an inherent curiosity to learn new things, then the rest of the tips below, and cross-pollination in general, may not make sense or even appeal to you. To be able to take new concepts onboard and apply them when the time is right, then your desire to learn must be genuine.

Use Metaphors – Allowing different perspectives, or describing things in a different way can enable viewing a problem from a different angle, which could bring with it some unlikely and powerful solutions. In the past few months on design thinking projects that I’ve worked here at Johns Hopkins APL, I’ve likened technical leadership paths to Dungeons and Dragons and personnel evaluations to the popular Madden series of sports video games. While those ideas certainly were not the answer, they sparked a discussion and eventual solutions that the group may not have considered using traditional descriptors. Try it in your everyday ideation – you may be surprised by what you and your team come up with!

Yoda says use metaphors

Yoda says use metaphors

Stretch Your Aperture – Being open to new experiences and schools of thought is key. An easy way to achieve a wider perspective is by simply using some of the social media tools widely available right now. Twitter is great because you can customize your own feed. Start by following some different accounts – adding a few artists, marine biologists, or toy manufacturers to your list might cause something unexpected to pop onto your feed as you’re scrolling and may ignite an a-ha! moment for you. Taking that a bold step further, try joining an interest group that you know nothing about. Sign up for a class – from improv to crocheting to coding – learning a new skill will introduce you to new perspectives as well as new people. And if all else fails, talk to a stranger while you’re waiting in line at Starbucks. You never know what you might learn.

Ideate And Share – While your big idea is in its formative stages, share it out early. Pull together a diverse group and capitalize on the diversity of thought it provides. The military is renowned for having members from all over the country and even the world working side by side. With every different individual background comes a different and fresh perspective that could propel the development of a solution that you would have never thought of on your own.

In our daily jobs, we can all have tendencies to keep our heads down and operate only within our bubbles to solve everyday challenges. There certainly are problems that we can face and solve by only seeking inspiration within our immediate surroundings. In fact, this is an appropriate method for specific problems that may only have a few specialized solutions. However, if we rely solely upon our personal work silos for inspiration, we could find ourselves solving problems that don’t need to be solved.

So, how might you harness the power of inspiration from unlikely sources? What challenge might you solve by looking in unexpected places? What new idea might you cook up by cross-pollinating from an unrelated field?

If you try it, you might be surprised what you find.

 

Dave Nobles is a member of the Design Thinking Corps at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the founder of The Athena Project.

In the San Diego or Norfolk areas? Well, join us for Athena 8 in San Diego on August 28th and Athena East 2.0 in Norfolk in October! Have an idea you want to present? Message us!

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!

Gearing Up for Waterfront Athena 8

By: LTJG Tom Baker

passing-gold-baton

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!

Now Introducing athenaLINK!

By: LCDR Drew Barker

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The most effective incubators tie burgeoning entrepreneurs with great mentors and guides to help them develop their business concepts, expand their network, and provide encouragement. Fortunately, the military has a number of senior level leaders who are very supportive of Service Members who are willing to take risks to improve the service they love.

We feel that if someone has the intellectual courage to develop an idea, polish a pitch, stand in the scrutiny of peers, superiors, junior personnel, as well as community members, and then continue to champion an idea then they deserve the opportunity to connect with someone who could serve as a mentor and an accelerator for the development of their idea.

And that, in essence, is what athenaLINK is all about! But, we need your help.

We’re looking for senior leaders in the military, government organizations and laboratories, University Affiliated Research Centers, industry and beyond. We need leaders who have experience in the field to help our junior presenters refine their big ideas as they work to find paths to turn the concepts into reality!

An incubative sponsor could be thought of as an egg warmer – helping keep an idea hot until it hatches. Or, since we occasionally quip that ATHENA is like Shark Tank meets TED Talks, the perfect leader to be involved would essentially be one of the Sharks in the Shark Tank – one of the seasoned leaders who can navigate the murky waters of military bureaucracy, avoid the shoals, achieve results and who is hungry to sink their teeth into an idea that will pay dividends for the military.

How will athenaLINK be managed? With the two words that describe the essence of the ATHENA undertaking – organically and simply. We need to tie incubative sponsors to the idea champions – Sailors who’ve bravely and passionately pitched their idea – and provide a simple agreement outlined below:

Incubative sponsors agree that for a specific idea champion they will provide:

  • 3-6 months service as an active coach, guide, advisor, and encouraging supporter to help get the idea off the ground.
  • Focused instruction and assistance in developing a personal network to advance the idea.
  • Probing questions and intentional critical thinking aimed at resolving obstacles and potential conflicts.
  • A personal commitment to help the willing achieve measurable results.

Meanwhile idea champions agree to:

  • Continue in the pursuit of implanting their idea with their greatest effort, seeking measurable improvements.
  • Take the initiative in communicating with their sponsor on a regular basis.
  • Accept feedback and criticism with an open mind and willingness to challenge their own assumptions.
It takes a team to grow an idea

It takes a team to grow an idea

Now to make the connections happen. Whether as a seasoned leader and agent of positive change you consider yourself a sponsor, egg-warmer, or shark, take a look at the list of ideas in the concept catalog and see if one matches an area of interest for you and consider sponsoring that person. Email us here: athenanavy@gmail.com and we will connect you! If you are an idea champion and are looking for an incubative sponsor, feel free to reach back to us or reach out to someone you would like to connect with and give them a little explanation of what this program is about, share the points of agreement mentioned above, and ask them to join you in making a positive difference. Lastly keep us informed of your progress so we can share it with everyone to inspire others to step out in courage.

Finally, as we roll out this new program here is a quick refresher on a couple of our other programs.

athenaTHINK: Learn methods of design thinking, systems thinking, creativity and more generally critical thinking through a workshop aimed at conjuring new ideas and approaches to pertinent problems and strategies.

athenaSPEARs: Bring the network together to solve a specific problem, leveraging talent in a hack-a-thon environment and exercising skills developed through athenaTHINK.

Of course, if you’re interested in getting involved in either of those initiatives, don’t hesitate to shoot us a note!

athenaLINK is a great opportunity to get involved with the ATHENA Network and we’d love to hear from you! We’re excited for the future of ATHENA and hope you join us as we grow the wave of creativity in the fleet!

 

LCDR Drew Barker is an E-6B pilot returning to the TACAMO community as a member of the VQ-4 Shadows. 

Get involved with Athena in San Diego at Societe Brewing Company on August 28th and in the Norfolk area this fall! Stay tuned for more grassroots projects!

Have questions or interest in hosting an event? Connect with us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/athenanavy, follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy, or e-mail us at athenanavy@gmail.com!