Innovation –making life better

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michael Boswell
  • 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron

From as far back as the invention of the wheel to the computer, innovation has always been part of human nature. 

In today’s military, innovation slowly and steadily became an important part of how we do day-to-day business, from the junior Airmen to the senior leader. Our capacity to stay several steps ahead of our adversaries is vital to our ability to complete our mission. In order to do so, we must recognize the need to innovate. 

In order to be successful, innovation must be integrated into every Air Force discipline at all levels. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to encourage innovation and improve processes at every opportunity. 

Leaders at all levels should seek to remove barriers to innovation. I have often said the greatest threat to innovation is a leader. If a leader does not encourage and provide the resources to innovate, then any hope for improvements will never see the light of day.

Sometimes, barriers come in the form of our own peers. The most disheartening aspects of innovation are the laughs or pushback on the notion an idea will never work. Some of the most prolific inventors were mocked and ridiculed for their ideas. However, it was their “never give up” attitude that allowed us to enjoy many of our modern conveniences. 

Alexander Graham Bell was teased when he tried to sell his new invention known today as the telephone. 150 years later, it seems no one can imagine life without one. His persistence was the pivotal attribute to his innovation coming to fruition. 

The question we need to ask is, “Where are the Alexander Graham Bells of the Air Force working?” These individuals are walking our halls full of untapped ideas, ready to propel us beyond our existing capabilities. Are they in an environment to be successful in achieving tomorrow’s technological breakthroughs? 

The answer lies within leadership at all levels. It’s our responsibility to provide the vision and environment for innovation to take root and succeed. We’ve become such a risk-averse culture, we forget failure in an integral part of success. 

In every great leap forward, there will be setbacks. The trick is balancing the risk and failure, so it doesn’t impact mission readiness. 

A good friend once told me, “The more they laugh, the greater the opposition… the more likely your idea will make a difference.” If there’s anything I’ve learned as a leader, it’s there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to success. 

While innovation starts with a great idea, it only moves forward when Airmen have the heart and the courage to see it through. We groom the leaders of tomorrow’s Air Force – it’s time we put our faith in them and let them amaze us with their innovation. The Air Force is depending on it.