Can Innovation be Replicated?

A few months after the birth of our first i.Lab, we began working with outside organizations and sharing our lessons learned. One of the first questions we were asked was “can you send us your innovation checklist?” We really didn’t have a checklist at the time and actually thought that writing a checklist went against the whole idea of innovation. After some time with a whiteboard, the best we could come up with was:

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After some trial and error we started to realize the questions that were left unanswered from such a simplistic checklist. We also didn’t like the term “checklist” because we felt it denoted a set process that was rigid and immovable. Instead, we decided to build a more fluid process and settled on the term “road map”. We felt that the “Next Step” road map was an easier way to take our local lessons learned and provide a list of actionable steps for leaders to begin with.

You can find a copy of this road map in the Hacking Unit Education brief located on our Products page.

Innovation Road Map




Locally, we had great success with building sandboxes for our Airmen to prototype and then creating workflows for getting the prototypes to highest level possible. The Air Force has already developed the Spark Tank initiative to get ideas directly to the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein however, this process can only handle a few initiatives per year. The Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Stephen Wilson, AFWERX and many MAJCOMs have also created separate challenges and we have created our own processes at the Group, Wing and installation levels. These efforts are starting to come together as a cohesive ecosystem and are attempting to champion ideas from Airmen at all levels.


Goldfein has stated that the Air Force has to prepare for the future fight and described this future as a “war of cognition” and the Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson has discussed this topic as the “Air Force we need”. Both of these messages focus on readying our force for the fight of the future and explains how this future will be defined by access to data and all units operating at the speed of relevance.

Our team coupled these speeches with our lessons learned and created the below infographic to describe our current process for developing the “Airmen we need”. This infographic focuses on leaderships role in getting ready for this future force.

- Leaders BUILD sandboxes so Airmen can LEARN new core competencies
- Leaders NETWORK with academia and industry so Airmen can ENGAGE with new technology and expertise
- Leaders CREATE opportunities so Airmen can IMMERSE themselves in experiential learning
- Leaders CHAMPION projects and ideas so Airmen can DISRUPT new domains

War of Cognition