Innovation incorporates lean methodologies (customer discovery, problem understanding, MVPs, Pivots), coupled with speed and urgency, and a culture where failure equals rapid learning. All of these are accomplished with minimal resources to deploy at scale products/services that are needed and wanted. We pointed out that Silicon Valley and Stanford have done this for 50 years. And China is outpacing us by adopting the very innovation methods we invented, integrating commercial technology with academic research, and delivering it to the Peoples Liberation Army.

Therein lies the focus of our Gordian Knot Center —connect STEM with policy education and leverage the synergies between the two to develop innovative leaders who understand technology and policy and can solve problems and deliver solutions at speed and scale.

 What We Presented
A key component of the Gordian Knot Center’s mission is to prepare and inspire future leaders to contribute meaningfully as part of the innovation work force. We combine the unique strengths of Stanford and its location in Silicon Valley to solve problems across the spectrum of activities that create and sustain national power. The range of resources and capabilities we bring to the fight from the center’s unique position include:

It was encouraging to hear the words.

However, from where we sit..

Create a new defense ecosystem encompassing startups, scaleups at the bleeding edge, prime contractors as integrators of advanced technology, federally funded R&D centers refocused on areas not covered by commercial tech (nuclear, hypersonics,…). Make it permanent by creating innovation doctrine/policy.

Acquire at Speed. Today, the average DoD major acquisition program takes 9-26 years to get a weapon in the hands of a warfighter. We need a requirements, budgeting and acquisition process that operates at commercial speed (18 months or less) which is 10x faster than DoD procurement cycles. Instead of writing requirements, DoD should rapidly assess solutions and engage warfighters in assessing and prototyping commercial solutions.

Integrate and incent the Venture Capital/Private Equity ecosystem to invest at scale. Ask funders what it would take to invest at scale – e.g. create massive tax holidays and incentives to get investment dollars in technology areas of national interest.

Recruit and develop leaders across the Defense Department prepared to meet contempory threats and reorganize around this new innovation ecosystem. The DoD has world-class people and organization for a world that in many ways no longer exists. The threats, speed of change and technologies we face in this century will require radically different mindsets and approaches than those we faced in the 20th century. Today’s senior DoD leaders must think and act differently than their predecessors of a decade ago. Leaders at every level must now understand the commercial ecosystem and how to move with the speed and urgency that China is setting.