“Innovation requires bringing together novel ideas and repurposing resources in order to fundamentally do things differently and to create beneficial outcomes,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus when he announced Jan. 22 the establishment of Task Force Innovation within the Department of the Navy.
“This involves using our greatest asset to its full potential – the intellectual capital of our remarkable workforce. I am confident that by working together, we will develop creative solutions to the most demanding challenges that lie ahead of us,” said Mabus.
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) brought the secretary’s words to life Jan. 28, 2015, during a workshop with local warfighters that focused on innovation, collaboration, and understanding.
The “Learn Warfighter Needs” workshop included SSC Pacific scientists and engineers and San Diego-based Sailors and Marines from USS Benfold (DDG 65), 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command.
“The purpose of this workshop is to give warfighters and technologists a chance to work together in a ‘Design-Thinking’ framework,” said Megan Kline, a SSC Pacific scientist and one of the workshop coordinators. “It’s important for us to understand the requirements of our end-users and their skills and abilities. That way, we can ensure that we are focused on viable and essential products. Ultimately, we hope to spark some ideas that will be developed into research projects for our military and civilian personnel.”
The one-day workshop consisted of overviews from participating groups about their respective commands, tours of SSC Pacific, and various sessions that included “Problem Identification,” “Ideation,” “Prototype” and an opportunity to develop quick plans and pitches, with the goal of developing ideas for effective products.
“It’s important for sailors and civilians to innovate and ensure that it’s not done in a vacuum, but rather a defined community of personnel” said Lt. Dave Nobles, a surface warfare officer stationed aboard USS Benfold and founder of The Athena Project, a grassroots innovation initiative focused on empowering Sailors, building their creative confidence, and solving complex problems with unique solutions. “When individuals are developing ideas for the warfighter they should be connecting with Sailors to understand how it will be used operationally. By combining our knowledge, skills and abilities we are able to develop a more informed concept and successful product.”
“The Athena project was founded aboard the USS Benfold in early 2013 with a basic premise, idea generation,” said Nobles. “Sailors take a day off from their usual duties to develop ideas to make the Navy or their command better, to scratch the
creative itch and create solutions to everyday challenges. That’s why it’s great to be participating in this event today. The workshop encourages collaboration between sailors and scientists and teaches structured brainstorming tools.”
The workshop is SSC Pacific’s second “Learn Warfighter Needs” event. The first effort resulted in idea pitches from Sailors and scientists that led to funding and active research. “We would like to broaden participation in future years so that we are building collaborative relationships across the Navy,” said Kline.
The premise for this workshop began in 2011 when SSC Pacific scientists and engineers gathered on a monthly basis to discuss science and technology challenges in the government research and development environment. In 2012, with funding from the Naval Innovative Science and Engineering program, a formal “Grassroots Science and Technology” program was established at the laboratory, providing SSC Pacific scientists and engineers with workshops, forums and communities of interest that focus on the development of effective and applicable capabilities for the warfighter.