Disruptive Thinkers: The Gritty Truth of Junior Leader Innovation

Editor's Note:  You can also see BJ Armstrong's presentation at the Naval Warfare Development Command's Junior Leader Symposium here.

In May a discussion was started here at Small Wars Journal about junior leaders and the role that they can play in the innovative solutions needed for our success in the 21st century.  The opening salvo was written by LT Ben Kohlmann with his article “The Military Needs More Disruptive Thinkers,” and it was followed by SWJ Editor Pete Munson’s response “Disruptive Thinkers: Defining the Problem.”  I wrote about the subject at the USNI Blog with my article “Time to Think…and to Listen” and many more have followed here at Small Wars Journal.

On 6 June, I was invited to speak at Navy Warfare Development Command’s “Junior Leaders Innovation Symposium” in Norfolk, Virginia.  In a day-long event myself, Ben Kohlmann, and LT Rob McFall (a Surface Warfare Officer, author, and member of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Editorial Board) were given a chance to speak along with Flag Officers and academics.  NWDC put on a great event and a lot of good material was presented.  You can visit the website and find the slides that went with the presentations, as well as a lot of reading material like Ben Kohlmann’s article on Disruptive Thinkers from here at Small Wars Journal and Rob McFall’s call for tactical innovation at USNI Blog.

The following links are a series of blog posts based on the remarks that I delivered to a standing room only crowd of 230+ Junior Officers and Junior Enlisted which gathered at NWDC’s headquarters, and the 200+ that joined us online via DCO.  These are based on my prepared remarks, so if NWDC posts the video online you’ll surely find differences (I worked from notes rather than reading directly from the page) as well as some mistakes.  In the first post, “A Junior Officer and a Discovery” I relate the history of Lieutenant William Sowden Sims’ discovery of a new gunnery technique which revolutionized naval warfare, and how he developed the new tactics, techniques, and procedures needed to implement it.  The next post, “The Gritty Truth of Junior Leader Innovation,” we look at what Sims did after developing his idea in order to get the Navy to adopt it.  In the final post, “Expertise, Voice, Grit, and Listening…A Look at the Possible.” we look at what Admiral Sims learned about innovation to apply later in his career, and what we can observe from the history.

 A Junior Officer and a Discovery

The Gritty Truth of Junior Leader Innovation

Expertise, Voice, Grit, and Listening…A Look at the Possible

If you haven’t already, also consider checking out the podcast of Midrats Episode 127, where Pete Munson discusses “Disruption, Disfunction, and Leadership” for an hour.

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