Operationalizing Innovation

  • Colonel Wade S. Yamada

After a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military exits a period of adaptation and into an interwar period where innovation will be critical to drive future investments. In peacetime, the U.S. military faces a paradox where a demand signal is needed to inform future investments, yet innovation typically occurs in war. Innovation in peacetime is hindered by a Service’s dominant concept of war, Service bureaucracy, and politics influenced by the defense industrial base. This paper proposes a novel approach to creating innovation in peacetime and introduces the term operationalizing innovation. Operationalizing innovation requires a three-pronged approach that involves: 1) operational employment, 2) the pursuit of disruptive technologies, and 3) the promotion of capabilities competition. With an investment in force structure, this paper proposes the creation of a new organization, Task Force Innovate, whose sole focus is to challenge the current mix of capabilities through innovative concepts of war. Because of the low-cost footprint of Task Force Innovate and the freedom to experiment and explore, the concept of operationalizing innovation represents a viable approach to stimulating innovation in peacetime.