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MD5 Boot Camp inspires Airmen-driven innovation

By Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins | JBER Public Affairs | Feb. 20, 2019

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —

During an intensive workshop recently hosted by the 673d Air Base Wing, 40 innovators were given the opportunity to join the largest collaborative community of national security visionaries in the world.

From Feb. 4 to 7, service members and civilian employees from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base attended an “MD5 Boot Camp.”

“MD5’s mission is to build the largest collaborative community of national security innovators in the world,” said Matt Gratias, MD5 Pacific Regional Director. “We help Department of Defense customers respond to unmet, operational needs from our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civil servants.”

The DoD and the University of California, Berkeley, partnered to offer this workshop, which focused on generating new ideas, nurturing talent and finding novel applications of technology.

“Because of the course’s interactive lecture series and unique design, attendees are able to strategize viable solutions addressing one of the commander’s top priorities in less than four days,” Gratias said. “These are the same concepts and methods being taught at leading technical and business schools across the country.”

Participants in this workshop focused on the commander’s local priority of improving gate efficiency.

“Our presenters incorporated some common mistakes of intellectual processing which compelled us to take all the steps necessary to not only weigh out the problem, but think concretely and abstractly about who is affected by it,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Justin Forsgren, a participant and 673d Security Forces Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of operations. “I think so often we are pressed to come up with bandage-style fixes, producing temporary results. This week, having subject matter experts divided throughout all of the working groups allowed us to collaborate and reach solutions while exposing all of us to a higher level of learning.”

By the end of the first day, attendees were encouraged to not focus on having a solution to the problem, but rather to challenge themselves on changing the process of arriving at the solution. Strategic thinking and creativity were also a part of the lessons, pushing individuals to think about gate users in abstract and concrete ways. Day two included specific lessons outlining what innovation looks like, what teaming should consist of, and learning how to apply diverse traits and individual learning styles to address actual customer needs. To address the base’s gate security and efficiency needs, students were taught how to take simple ideas that were forming and turn them into a set of problem and solution questions to ask themselves. On the third and fourth day, participants began each morning with a challenge area, asking a question opening with, “how might we…?” At the end of every day, individuals affected by the gate issues or solutions were interviewed, contributing data to the next day’s processes.

“Because we combine all of these methods, it allows commanders to capitalize on the talent in their organization and receive an initial framework of how a solution might be viable outside the classroom,” Gratias said. “Participants can then use the tools gleaned through the process of information gathered, turn it into a viable product with the ability to capture and present their ideas.”

The course concluded with seven teams pitching potential solutions to the commander and a leadership team. During this time, commanders and the evaluation panel have the option to ask questions of the UC Berkley team and the DoD MD5 representative and dig a little deeper into the ideas produced by the boot camp.

“Our mission is to create new communities of innovators that solve national security problems,” Gratias said. “As an education portfolio program, MD5 Boot Camp has trained more than 200 service men and women in advanced problem framing and hypothesis generation/testing. This training serves to not only find viable solutions to an immediate problem area of the command sponsor, but to also provide the skills necessary to solve concurrent and future problems within our participant’s home organization.

After hearing the compelling presentations, U.S. Air Force Col. Patricia A. Csànk, Commander of the 673d ABW, funded three of the projects on the spot and requested further teaming on the others in hopes for potential future funding.

“Armored with new processing methods, participants now have a way of pressing problems within their own organizations,” Gratias said. “This empowers them to move their ideas generated from the boot camp into actual and workable outcomes, ultimately reaching the warfighter.”

For more information about MD5 visit, MD5.net.

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