I was one of twelve members invited to a meeting with a top innovation consultant at the Pentagon. His mission was visiting cities in the USA meeting with innovation leaders and defense contract companies. Both my work in innovation at Microsoft and the University of Minnesota provided rich content for the discussion.
The Pentagon / DOD is interested in several key topics:
- What are the current challenges and improvements that need to be made to the defense contracting processes to speed innovation
- How can the federal government say more plugged into innovations across all market sectors
- What are future trends in innovation from a corporate, government, and academic perspectives.
The initial topic delved deeper into the challenges MN defense contractors are having in the current system. Much of the difficulty centered around funding programs not being efficient or timely enough to support the speed of business and innovation. Many of the processes and systems are not well integrated and communication and feedback is poor throughout the process.
The second topic I presented on the work of developing innovation ecosystems and the best practices we where finding looking at innovation center development around the globe. This model would provide both the portfolio level data of innovation by sector that could help map areas of federal programs to private sector advancements. It would also proved a platform in which federal programs could fund prioritized areas of innovation through the network of centers & services they provide.
The discussion also included dialogue around future trends. My role at Microsoft, as a strategy advisory, across so many companies and international projects provided me an opportunity to share many of the business and innovation practices I had scene in the past decade. There are many cultural differences that span how innovation in both the public and private sectors. Also is the nature of global business competition and the diversity of approaches and funding that other nations must explore in order to compete against today’s leading companies. One of the key aspects is the work we are doing in the area of co-opition and how that model of collective innovation both accelerates the scale of innovation through support of a larger ecosystem of services, but also the competitive advantage individual companies still can attain while participating in more collaborative models. Much of this discussion has factored into the designs of the future innovation centers and regional ecosystem models being current proposed for development in North America.
This was the beginning of a much larger dialogue that has continued with our initiatives as federal agencies.