JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- Innovation is a common buzzword in today’s Air Force, but the Airmen of Distributed Ground Station One are harnessing the power of a new Air Force platform that crowdsources ideas on how to improve day-to-day operations.
This platform, found at https://usaf.ideascalegov.com, leverages social media-style techniques to focus a community on a particular idea or problem. Users post ideas, and can vote and comment on them similar to how users engage via Facebook. This approach allows an organization to utilize collective knowledge and expertise in problem solving instead of relying on a select few on project teams.
The idea for the DGS-1 Campaign titled “May the Ideas Be With You!” came from an earlier Air Force campaign, the Air Force Spark Tank 2019 Challenge.
Senior Airman Aaron and Airman 1st Class Drew McFarland, cyber systems operators with the 10th Intelligence Squadron, designed and wrote a PowerShell script to help deal with classified information spills that reached the semi-final stage of the Spark Tank Challenge. PowerShell is a task-based command-line shell and scripting language. The software helps administrators rapidly automate tasks that manage operating systems and processes.
Based on that success, DGS-1 leadership launched their own campaign to focus on problems unique to the site and solvable at the unit level.
The campaign kicked off in mid-January with Commander’s Call briefs, emails, posters and slides on monitors throughout the building. With nearly 40 ideas submitted over the course of a month and more than 650 Airmen logged into the campaign to comment and vote on ideas, the overall response has been seemingly positive.
A variety of rewards and prizes incentivize participation in the campaign, such as day passes, commander’s coins, weeklong reserved parking spots and a paid lunch with group leadership. Another noteworthy aspect of the campaign is that it is not limited to active duty Airmen – Guard, Reserve, civilians and contractors are able to participate.
In the past, Airmen have had many great ideas, but lacked the means to share them effectively. AFWERX eliminates that hurdle by fostering a culture of innovation and allowing Airmen to see their ideas realized.
“The AFWERX campaign is a fantastic platform to generate ideas and improve work centers; this is one of the quickest forms of communication to gets ideas from junior airmen directly to top leadership,” said Capt. Kaylee, 497th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group chief of standards and evaluations. “It allows leaders to understand what is most desirable among the majority of personnel, similar to a Climate Survey, but without generic questions.”
The use of this tool opens up dialogue across ranks, up and down the chain of command and with separate units. It also utilizes the Air Force’s greatest asset, Airmen, to elicit new ideas and solve internal dilemmas.
“AFWERX gave me the ability to share my ideas across the group without being bogged down in processes or having to take time to personally gather opinions from each of my peers. Thanks to the idea program, my vision had the chance to be seen by group leadership, and will hopefully create an Air Force-wide program,” said Airman 1st Class Cole Sarvis, cyber systems operators with the 10th Intelligence Squadron.
This initiative is another way leadership is driving innovation, and developing and strengthen Airmen.
“Our human capital, Airmen, civilians and contractors, is the base of our competitive advantage. Leveraging this platform to hear directly from America’s best and brightest is an absolute must for our organization and the wing enterprise overall,” said Chief Master Sgt. Clifford Lawton, 497th ISRG superintendent. “Oftentimes, the solutions to many of our challenges and problems can be solved by those who experience those pain points or inconveniences on a daily basis. This approach allows us to optimize teaming to be more lethal and resilient as a warfighting force.”
The campaign completed its initial phase Feb. 27, and is now in the implementation phase.