CyberWorx #Amped600AF 

C-TRAC, the Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization, has been working hard behind the scenes to support the great ideas being generated at the #AMPED600AF CyberWorx sprint.

Assisting CyberWorx at the US Air Force Academy by underpinning this ambitious project, C-TRAC has been helping to track down individuals and resources from industry leaders to subject matter experts, making sure that the top intellectual resources in play are well-supported and able to arrive at some great new ideas.

CyberWorx is likely very different than any brainstorming sessions the participants have attended in the past. As discussed in a previous blog Design Sprints: A Winning Idea, CyberWorx sprints incorporate a progressive structure called Design Thinking, designed to get at the heart of a problem. Hearing that empathy is the first step might make you think there is something a bit mushy about this, but not at all: in fact, the process is a very rigorous one that has produced some truly remarkable outcomes for CyberWorx in the past.

The current #AMPED600AF project – discovering how to best enable cyber and ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) operations to coordinate, combine and communicate even more closely for mission assurance – posed a unique challenge that CyberWorx had not previously experienced: the need to travel outside of the CyberWorx home in Colorado Springs while somehow exporting the design studio. C-TRAC charged forward by creating the wholly unique “CyberWorx In a Box,” a collection of necessary design sprint tools that supported the CyberWorx team while they worked their magic on the road.

When asked what excites her about supporting #AMPED600AF, C-TRAC Project Manager Amanda Dobias said, “This project is a large and important one that is near and dear to the lives of many Airmen in the US Air Force. The complexity of this integration requires the need to understand not only how to make technology work together, but how to integrate people to become more effective in a climate of unsureness. The officers and enlisted Airmen working on this problem are deeply involved in the project and bring so much insight into the barriers to integrating Air Force organizations, as well as vast ideas for optimizing the process.”

Ms. Dobias went on to say that Phase 1 of the sprint is complete and went very well. The physical space posed some design constraints, but the CyberWorx team held on to their agility and adjusted throughout the day. She has also heard significant positive feedback from the participants, including what a great introduction to CyberWorx the experience was, and excitement regarding the tools and direction provided by the design thinking process. When I asked about the mood, Ms. Dobias indicated that she saw quite a few serious faces in Phase 1, since the problem set was such a critical one and participants were very focused on determining the needs of the Airmen users that work in Cyber and ISR.

With Phase 1 complete, the participants from 12 various Air Force organizations/wings/squadrons were ultimately challenged to think bigger than the original goal of merging the 24th and 25th Air Forces (cyber and ISR). They were asked not to settle on any assumed answer and to consider innovative possibilities that could lend to integrating the two organizations in the most efficient – but not necessarily the most obvious – manner.

Phase 2 of this longer-than-usual sprint is anticipated to be December 4-8, with the location still to be determined. C-TRAC is actively seeking industry partners that have experience in active cyber defense industries, as well as experience in leading a merger. Interested applicants are asked to please apply here.

Colonel Jeffrey Collins, Director of Air Force CyberWorx, said in a recent column that the ultimate goal of using design thinking in the Air Force “is increasing our agility in decision-making and making our Airmen more creative and our Air Force more lethal and resilient for modern wars…. Our AF Secretary and Chief of Staff have challenged us, memorably, to not just think outside the box, but to ‘throw it away.’ Design thinking is a right approach for that.” It is ironic that C-TRAC was forced to invent “CyberWorx in a Box” to resolve the challenges presented by the creative design-thinking of CyberWorx’ throw-away-the-box mentality.