The technology world is accelerating at faster and faster rates – a development that has major implications for the U.S. defense establishment.
Many of the best military-technology innovations of the past decade have stemmed from the intersection of operational insight and technical know-how catalyzed by active combat operations. Groundbreaking technologies such as DOD’s first wide-area electro-optical surveillance system, the Army’s Constant Hawk, and the first fully automated, tip-and-cue imaging system, the Persistent Threat Detection System, were the direct result of design-based approaches that capitalized on feedback from the tactical edge combined with inputs from the research and development community. The organizations best suited to produce such innovations are those where local interactions between multidisciplinary individuals and teams produce serendipity – the chance coalescing of ideas in new ways that create value. Serendipity by definition is a product of happenstance. It cannot be scaled in the manner of industrial, top-down approaches; however, innovation-minded organizations can engineer the conditions under which serendipity is most likely to occur. Building such an innovation environment requires the deployment of business processes, incentives, and tools that facilitate collaboration and information sharing.