Can crowds help the U.S. Military stay agile?
U.S. Special Operations Forces are known for their agility. However with expanding activity in the digitally-connected world, remaining agile means being open to new approaches.
SOFWERX was established to promote agile acquisition, incubation, and rapid prototyping through the use of crowds to address soldier safety and defense related issues. SOFTWERX’s mission is to source bright ideas from all over the world to enable Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to remain agile and stay ahead of global threats.
Physically housed inside two 10,000 square foot buildings and a 4,000 square foot garage in Tampa, FL, the platform plays host to both on-site, curated crowd activities and a virtual community of problem solvers (students, veterans, entrepreneurs, SOCOM Operators, and industry representatives). SOFWERX hackathons and meetups challenge the community to develop solutions using only open source software or commercially available products. SOFWERX also tests ideas and improvements for emerging technologies such as a potential hoverboard prototype spotted on YouTube.
This approach is helping to shed the image of the military working in isolation to solve “secretive” problems, and spurring innovation by engaging the crowd. But it is also raises questions, like can this quick and agile platform scale across the U.S. military?
Jin is the program director and senior researcher at the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH).
Herman (“Dutch”) is a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and professor of public sector management at Harvard Kennedy School.
Mitch is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School.
Kerry is the Director of the Case and Research Writing Group at Harvard Business School.
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