What is Innovation?
Today’s mission requires rapid deployment, mobile, and global solutions to bring support to the warfighter faster and more efficiently. Our challenge is to continue to find a balance between ushering change and fostering cultural adoption to new innovative concepts and capabilities.
Innovation is not simply new technology and not just anything that seems futuristic. Nor is innovation just process improvement by another name. Innovation is a specific method that allows the DLA workforce to behave in new, specific ways.
Innovation unlocks hidden potential. Therefore, it often harnesses the power of the crowd. Smartphones were innovative because they allowed users to talk, write messages, pay bills, and have access to the world’s knowledge base. Smartphone designers did not imagine all of these uses. Rather, the device provided a new canvas on which other artists could paint. Navigation applications were innovative because they connected the previously disparate knowledge that each car on the road contains about its immediate surroundings. For the first time, cars “spoke” to one another — crowdsourcing to reduce the real-world problem of traffic and vehicle accident reporting.
What does successful innovation look like inside DLA? It is when the crowd - the whole workforce, individual teams, etc. – builds something great and unexpected. This will likely come from efforts in automation, communication, collaboration and smart devices. What if we did not have to fill in the same information, over and over again, in new documents? What if warehouse workers could more efficiently navigate with the aid of virtual reality tools? These innovations are possible, maybe inevitable. We can, and should, work to bring innovation to the front as a mind-set. We will then provide solutions, to DLA and the warfighter that are flexible enough to use in creative ways to meet unexpected future mission needs.
Innovative companies that are highly successful employ powerful concepts, three of which are: Design Thinking, Iterative Approach, and Persuasion. In many of these companies, these concepts and associated methods are replacing more traditional approaches, such as continuous process improvement. They focus on quick production of an initial product and constant iteration of improvements to that product with direct involvement of customers. This allows an organization to preliminarily test an innovation quickly, with minimal investment in ideas that may not pan out.