• Course focuses on innovative solutions

  • Eleven graduate from final pilot of innovative leader course.

    • email print
  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Eleven military and civilian leaders graduated from the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies’ two-week Innovative Leader Course Aug. 24 at the Training and Doctrine Command G2 building in the Old U.S. Disciplinary Barracks.
    It was the third and final pilot of the course. The first pilot was completed in December 2017 at Fort Leavenworth and the second pilot was completed in May for TRADOC staff at Fort Eustis, Va.
    “(The course) was designed to develop the skills and dispositions in Army leaders to excel in dynamic and uncertain environments,” said Steve Hall, UFMCS chief operations officer.
    The genesis of the course was fostered 20 years ago when retired Marine Lt. Col. Rob McClary, UFMCS seminar leader, was a tank company commander. While training in the desert his first week as commander, McClary wanted to see how the company breached an obstacle including crossing a bridge. The first tank had a mine plow on the front to remove mines from the company’s route. However, as the company tried to execute the task, McClary knew something wasn’t right when the crew began to turn the tank to back it over the bridge.
    “That’s really dangerous,” McClary said. “A, you’re turning your back into the enemy where you don’t have any armored protection and B, the driver sits in the hole so he can’t even see where he’s going.”
    The problem was the mine plow was getting caught under the bridge. When McClary asked his subordinate leaders if there was another solution, they said there was not. McClary wasn’t convinced and he gathered the company and offered a four-day pass to the person who could come up with the answer. That person turned out to be a lance corporal, who instructed the driver of the tank to leave the tongue down, push dirt up to the bridge and then bring the mine plow back through.
    “The first road wheel of the tank hits the berm of dirt, rocks it back and the plow clears the bridge perfectly the first time,” McClary said.
    Come to find out the lance corporal was from the upper peninsula of Michigan and that is how the Marine and his friends got their snow mobiles up on trailers.
    “It never left me that the idea was in our organization,” McClary said. “In our collective minds, we had the solution, but the solutions never made it to the leaders; the leaders never asked the junior.
    “We had this collective mindset that all good ideas come from the top down; that the caliber of an idea is somehow related to the rank of the person who came up with it,” he said. “Clearly that isn’t the case.”
    Page 2 of 3 - McClary recalled this experience when then-Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Commanding General Lt. Gen. Robert Brown assigned a human dimension taskforce to figure out the social, cognitive and physical requirements of leaders.
    “I was picked to be the lead of the research team supporting innovation taskforce,” McClary said. “(Brown) asked me to write a paper on creativity and innovation for the Army. As I explored it, I realized it wasn’t just my personal experience out there. The Army had an issue.
    “If you read the new Army vision, all of the officers need to be innovative,” he said. “(UFMCS) can help with this because what the school already taught, red-teaming, that’s a good first start. That’s what gave us the ability to be agile and say, let’s invent a new course.”
    After a year and a half of planning and development, the first pilot course was conducted.
    Throughout the two-week course, participants learned about the barriers to innovation, innovative climate, the creative person, the innovation process, the creative thought process, the systems model of creativity, the dimensions of innovation and the critical innovation roles, and how each of the topics thread together.
    However, at the prime level, the course focuses on three key areas, McClary said. First, the creative person.
    “What is it that makes people creative? What gives them creative potential and in what ways can we foster that?” McClary asked. “Part of it is nature, part of it is nurture. Everybody has some creative potential, but they would express it differently in different settings.”
    Second, the creative process.
    “How do creative ideas get generated?” McClary asked. “There’re ways that we can set our own organizational process to increase the chances that someone will have a true creative insight.”
    Third, the creative climate.
    “What about the organizational climate can increase creativity or decrease it?” McClary asked. “An example of that is my experience with the mine plow. The creative idea was present. It didn’t make it to the leadership because the climate wasn’t right.
    “To be innovative you have to be able to understand what are the key things that you need to keep doing, but what are the other ways you could do it to do better,” he said.
    Participants had positive feedback on the course.
    Capt. Daniel Zeller, battalion S3 operations officer, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., said he was surprised to find similarities between the different military branches and government agencies.
    “We all have similar issues in our organizations where we’re looking to innovate,” Zeller said. “We have issues with communication between superiors and subordinates. We all have the issues of limited time and resources.
    Page 3 of 3 - “So, coming together, realizing the similarities and differences, is really helping us solve a lot of these problems, or at least come up with a theory behind solving them so we can go afterwards and execute.”
    Michelle Clark, civilian workforce development program manager, U.S. Army Cadet Command, Fort Knox, Ky., said she thinks the Army is moving toward innovation for one reason.
    “Our enemy is (moving toward innovation),” Clark said. “History has taught us if we do the same thing over and over again, the results are going to be predictable. Being less predictable and being able to consider other aspects is a wonderful aspect of a good strategy.
    “Therefore, (the Army) needs to move to innovation if they want to be more strategic in how they approach problems,” she said.
    Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alexander Stewart, training manager, 12th Air Force, Davis-Monthan Airforce Base, Ariz., said he thinks it’s important for more leaders to attend the course.
    “There is not a lot of focus on innovation. There is a lot of focus on maintaining status quo and doing what works, which is fine until processes don’t work and things need to evolve,” Stewart said. “I feel there is a stigma with innovation that it’s very hard to attain and that conditions need to be right, and I don’t feel that is the case anymore. Just about anybody can be innovative under the correct circumstances.
    “Our leaders recognize that in order to stay the partner of choice with our allies and have an edge over our adversaries, innovation is critical,” he said.
    Clark said she thinks it is just as important for civilian leaders as it is military leaders to learn about innovation.
    “We need to look at ourselves from the perspective of self-reflection. Just because we have processes that work, how can we make them more dynamic and fluid,” Clark said. “Keep our civilian workforce relevant by teaching them to be dynamic in their thinking. So, getting this course even early on, down to the union levels, will force and build that so as people start to retire, we still have a strong sense of thinkers that are able to consider other thoughts.”
    The Innovative Leader Course is open to all civilian and military personnel in leadership positions. For more information about the course and upcoming sessions, contact Hall at 684-3857.
  • Comment or view comments