Far too often, conversations about how to drive innovation turn into a deliberation on this technology or that type of tech feature when what they really need to be about is people.
No amount of cutting-edge technology will bring about change on its own. Instead we need to be connecting the right people to the right problems, giving them the right tools and teaching them to solve these challenges and build an ecosystem of like-minded people around them.
How we can get there was the focus of a conversation I had last week with Graham Plaster on his podcast. Among the topics Graham and I spoke about were the shortfalls in training and retaining talent within the military, and opportunities to build a culture around mission-driven entrepreneurship that would give America and its allies the kind of technological edge that makes or breaks modern conflict.
While the Department of Defense has a lot of bright young men and women with a passion for entrepreneurial problem-solving, there is no profession in the military that connects the output of innovation to the input of warfighting. We lack the professional jobs, the pathways, and the doctrine for it.
And with no place to go, these innovators get frustrated and leave the service, taking the skills we need so badly with them. The kind of talent we are bleeding can’t be grown overnight. It takes years to train and build up innovative thinkers who devise solutions to problems we don’t even know exist yet.
Graham and I discussed how to get the people we need connected; how we can get the operators and entrepreneurs to understand how a successful Innovation Pipeline works; and how to get the people who are not entrepreneurs – contracting officers, operations officers, finance people – to understand when the innovators and entrepreneurs show up, what they can do to help them.
At BMNT, we’re really working hard on the people side of this. For example, our Innovation Navigators Course and new book, Creating Innovation Navigators (available on Amazon later this month), offer a blueprint for how to teach senior-level people to create and sustain innovation ecosystems as long-term professions.
Thanks to Graham for giving me the opportunity to discuss this topic. Tune in here to hear the full interview, or skip to these time stamps:
11:25: The Rapid Equipping Force’s influence on the lives of Soldiers
18:10: Innovation on the battlefield in Ukraine
26:00: How Hacking 4 Defense came to be
32:00: BMNT’s growth and expansion
46:15: Creating mission-driven entrepreneurs of the future