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Air Force accelerates innovation into action with Project Holodeck

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

In his transformative guidance to the force, “Accelerate Change or Lose,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. provided the strategic imperative to improve innovation pipelines and speed up the service’s decision-making process.

As innovation continues apace across the Air Force, service leaders are focused on doing just that — empowering Airmen and accelerating the fielding and implementation of innovative ideas into tangible results.

“We are a service that believes in the power of ideas and the power of the innovators who generate those ideas,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff
Gen. David W. Allvin. “Initially, innovators harnessed airpower as a means to overcome the challenges of terrestrial and seafaring battles, and today’s innovators continue that legacy as battlefield lines morph in new and unexpected ways. To the maximum extent possible, we will continue to foster that innovative spirit by aligning Airmen with the resources and support necessary to bring forward game-changing ideas that sharpen our competitive edge.”

To provide this level of backing, the Office of the Vice Chief of Staff recently partnered with Productable Inc. to develop an innovation management platform that allows the Air Force to align the right people, processes and funding to drive innovation at scale.

The platform, which leverages a Software as a Service interface, elevates ideas and avoids innovation shortfalls by properly aligning people and resources, clarifying value proposition and design, linking innovators with experts, and directing time and money efficiently throughout the innovation process.

“The key to leveraging the power of these ideas is an environment that fosters a culture of willingness to take and support risk along with having the resources needed to move from problem identification to a solution that can be scaled enterprise-wide,” said Wm. Brou Gautier, director of Continuous Improvement and Innovation and Spark Tank capability lead for the Air Force. “The chief of staff’s message is clear. It’s time for all Airmen to pick up the pace and Project Holodeck will allow us to manage that pace for efficient leadership decision-making.”

During the first phase of the partnership, Headquarters Air Force will employ Project Holodeck’s transformation methodology to build a customized innovation program with the ultimate goal of scaling the process across the service.

The partnership with Productable Inc. includes two phases: (1) a prototyping contract with
AF CyberWorx, and (2) a development and pilot phase, known as Project Holodeck, funded by the Small Business Innovation Research program and SAF/MG, the department responsible for developing and implementing Air Force business transformation initiatives.

“Our goal in this partnership with the Air Force is to set intrapreneurs up with the right innovation process to scale solutions successfully while giving them access to the funding they need to move quickly,” said Rachel Kuhr Conn, founder and chief executive officer of Productable Inc. “We’re thrilled to be working with the U.S. Air Force in the name of national security and are confident that our innovation platform can accelerate the change it needs to win.”

The platform seeks to:

· Apply Innovation Intelligence by identifying best practices for solutions in development, analyzing performance data and ensuring money is applied to achieve the best portfolio outcome.

· Accelerate Decision-Making by guiding Airmen through development phases more efficiently, guiding experimental activities, generating status reports and making funding recommendations along the way.

· Develop Problem-Solvers by moving Airmen to quickly develop and test ideas based on Air Force priorities, leveraging innovation best practices, guiding them with the right process and recommending the right team for each project.

· Stretch Taxpayer Dollars with transparency and enterprise-wide visibility to ensure money and resources are applied to the most promising ideas that have sustainable support.

"More than 70 executive-level projects within Project Holodeck are now leveraging a methodology that drives deliberate maturation of concepts from ideation to fielded warfighter capability," Gautier said. "More impressively, we’re able to provide Air Force leaders with the tools needed to address systemic barriers to innovation that hold back our ability to innovate at the speed and scale necessary to meet combat and competition requirements."

Allvin said the platform provides a centralized project database that increases transparency for innovators and leadership to track the status of numerous initiatives during the various phases of consideration, development and execution.

“Intentionally, innovation is decentralized across the Air Force and intertwined throughout all of our units. Airmen are the service's greatest resource and are empowered to develop solutions to a wide spectrum of problems,” Allvin said. “However, our decentralized models sometimes create unintentional barriers to success. Project Holodeck will provide the transparency and accountability needed to overcome those roadblocks and move innovative ideas forward.”

The Air Force will continue to highlight Airmen who are driving innovation and accelerating change. Over the next few months, check in on the Empowered Airmen page to see the impact innovators are having across the Air Force.