Innovation is not a department

Innovation is not a department

Totally uncoordinated, but not coincidentally, both the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum USA 2020 and DEFx Nederland took place in recent days. Online because of corona but as always under the motto: “Inspire, Connect, Empower”. Innovation is not a department!

Both the Defence Entrepreneurs Forum and DEFx Nederland are grassroots organizations, loosely affiliated with, but not subordinate to, the Department of Defense. Members come from the MOD, government and private industry. There is also an active branch in Australia; DEFAUS, associated with Grounded Curiosity. It was the eight meeting in the US and the third meeting in the Netherlands. You can read the report of last year’s Dutch 2019 edition here

There are certainly differences between the US, Dutch and Australian branches, but members have one thing in common; a deep-felt desire to innovate and improve their respective defense organizations. Members are mostly millennials who don’t want to wait for 20 years ’to be in charge’.

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Innovatie in de lijn

Although the leadership of the Ministry of Defense definitely feels the need for change, the department is still organized along the lines of the classic machine bureaucracy. Every function in its own closely guarded organizational space. And remember: “don’t get involved, that’s my job!” In former times this may have worked for the classic technical innovation; Golden Triangle and all that, but not anymore. While the department writes policy, the adversary buys a drone attaches a hand grenade and uses it. Dealing with social innovation is even more difficult.

Military Social Innovation

Time for Military Social Innovation: Be open and visible; Set your own limits; Make sure others can participate; The process is your product; It can always be done clearer and simpler; Everything big is made up of lots of little parts; Life is always and everywhere; Take initiative; Go for solutions and results; Work is personal (Dutch people may have recognized the Ambtenaar2.0 principles).

Is there no role for the standing organization? Absolutely! Show your interest, facilitate, support, finance, let 1000 flowers bloom, but don’t fence them in.

Be the change

Be the change you want to see, make sure you become your own little innovation booster. Experiment, change, fail once in a while and succeed. Celebrate and share your successes. Innovation is not a department. You are the innovation.

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