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CHIPS Articles: The Athena Project

The Athena Project
First-ever athenaTHINK event Jan. 28 in San Diego open to all Sailors
By Lt. Dave Nobles - January 21, 2015
The Athena Project is an initiative founded on the USS Benfold (DDG 65) to make the Navy better through ideas, unique solutions, and intellectual courage.

In essence, The Athena Project is all about idea generation. Every quarter, we give junior enlisted and young officers a day away from work, away from their traditional duties, to work on any idea they may have to make or improve a program, process or thing to make your ship, the Navy, or the San Diego waterfront better. They take the day to work their idea, to include actionable steps to make their idea happen. The only catch to the “day off” is that they have to give a 5-minute presentation on their idea at an informal, off-ship meet-up (with a 5-minute Q&A session after).

What follows is peer voting on the pitches based on idea quality, action-ability and presentation and to the winner goes the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage. The Sims winner then receives command backing for a small functional team to make their idea happen over the next quarter.

This is not a novel concept; businesses out there are doing things like this and gaining some positive results — fixes to bugs in programs, new products for increased revenue, and more. What Athena aims to do is harness that spirit from corporate America and bring it to the Navy. There is absolutely too much intellectual capital in our Navy that remains dormant. This is the way to go active!

We have hosted two Athena events onboard the Benfold and have gotten some pretty cool ideas and plans. Everything from an across-deck “Ensigns Teaching Ensigns” seminar to a method for localizing sound signals in restricted visibility, to improved shipboard warfare area reviews, even all the way to an alternate method to manage SWO accessions for Big Navy. The best thing, though, was that the Sailors LOVED it and they actually had FUN doing it.

Sailors tend to have a lot to gripe about in the way we do things — either as a ship, community or Navy — and this is a great chance to “scratch the itch” and try to make things better. There are a lot of great ideas out there and as long as your command is willing to invest a little time to extract them, great things can happen.

The Athena Project is laser-focused on building a cadre of junior Sailors and young officers that think differently, approach problems in a different way, and have the courage to stand up and say it.

Lt. Dave Nobles is the lead for the Athena Project and the USS Benfold weapons officer.

Visit Navy.mil for more information.

The Athena Project has hosted six Waterfront events in the San Diego area, as well as events in the Hampton Roads area and the Pacific Northwest. The environment is casual and open, and sometimes takes the feeling of Shark Tank-meets-TED Talks, focused on building the creative confidence of the fleet’s leaders of tomorrow.

Beyond the quarterly Waterfront pitch events, The Athena Project hosts a variety of innovative experiences. On January 28th, in partnership with Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific, the first-ever athenaTHINK event will include a design thinking workshop to encourage collaboration between Sailors and Scientists and teach structured brainstorming tools. Open to all Sailors, you can sign up here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/theathenaproject....

Connect with The Athena Project on Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenanavy or follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AthenaNavy. Interested in starting a movement of your own? Message us, or e-mail athenanavy@gmail.com! or athena@ddg65.navy.mil

November 2014. Chief Ralph Linkenhoker, from the USS John C. Stennis, kicked off the Athena Project event with some jaw-dropping numbers on how to save the Navy some cold, hard cash on deck and tile glue. Using a better applicator tool and military specification (MILSPEC) equivalent glue, this idea could cut the Navy’s cost by nearly 80 percent! He won the Admiral Sims’ award for Intellectual Courage. Next step, engaging the DoD supply system to add the alternative while submitting a Military Cash Awards Program package on the chief’s behalf.  Athena Project photo.
November 2014. Chief Ralph Linkenhoker, from the USS John C. Stennis, kicked off the Athena Project event with some jaw-dropping numbers on how to save the Navy some cold, hard cash on deck and tile glue. Using a better applicator tool and military specification (MILSPEC) equivalent glue, this idea could cut the Navy’s cost by nearly 80 percent! He won the Admiral Sims’ award for Intellectual Courage. Next step, engaging the DoD supply system to add the alternative while submitting a Military Cash Awards Program package on the chief’s behalf. Athena Project photo.

The design thinking calling card. Athena Project photo.
The design thinking calling card. Athena Project photo.
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