“Innovation and Failure: Navigating the ‘Fail Fast’ Approach with AUiX”
Innovation and failure often go hand in hand. However, failing fast is hard—like training to be a Jedi: it takes discipline, perseverance, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes. But let’s be real, most of us are more like Jar Jar Binks than Luke Skywalker—we stumble through “innovation” until we get it right, or fail. What if there was a force like the Jedi Order, dedicated to passing on the lessons learned from their failures to help Airmen innovators navigate the treacherous landscapes of funding, contracting, networking, and partnerships? With AUiX, it is possible to tap into this force while mitigating risks on the dark side.


LtCol TJ Ablay
May 15, 2023
Read More in Innovation

Established in April 2021, AUiX is where Air University students, faculty, staff, and partners can explore new ideas, collaborate with others, and innovate in support of national security. Speed is the name of the game in the world of innovation. Thus, “fail fast” remains a prevailing concept bolstered by the belief that rapid iteration allows success to be achieved…faster. And, when Airmen find themselves in hostile environments, faster is necessary.

The “fail fast” approach used in organizations like this is not without its challenges. As an entity that prides itself in failing fast to reach desired outcomes, AUiX serves as a guide, coach, and mentor to connect AU students, faculty, and staff with partners in the DoD, academia, and industry to realize ideas quickly.

By working together, AUiX creates game-changing advancements with immediate warfighting utility. In the Air Force, collaboration and effective communication are key and critical to achieving mission success. Collaboration is essential as it brings together diverse perspectives and expertise to problem-solve from multiple angles in the development of comprehensive solutions. Without clear communication channels, even the most well-planned project can encounter turbulence and crash. Thus, AUiX fosters a culture of open communication to ensure mission success. With AUiX’s help, innovators can navigate the complex innovation landscape more like a Jedi and achieve breakthroughs that benefit the Air Force and the nation.

Moving from Failure to Success: How AUiX Helps its Customers with Innovation

Let’s explore some practical tips that AUiX has smuggled from a galaxy far, far away to help its Airmen Innovators wield the Force of innovation.

1. Sponsorship: Projects require sponsorship at the right level to guide bureaucracy and keep the project moving. Simply put, if no one cares, the idea dies. Before committing time and resources on an idea, customers, stakeholders, and a sponsor must buy into the idea and capability.

2. Create an elevator pitch: An effective elevator pitch generates interest and excitement, and attracts resources for military innovation. By clearly and compellingly conveying the unique features and benefits of an idea, it can help innovators secure support and resources. It’s important for an elevator pitch to be short and concise to quickly communicate the idea’s value.

3. Create a project brief: A clear mission brief is essential for success because it provides a sense of direction. It helps ensure that everyone understands the objectives and goals of the project and can work together in a coordinated and effective manner.

4. Address Sticking Points: AUiX is not a program management office. By steering clear of managing individual projects, AUiX avoids the pitfalls of inefficiency and redundancy. Instead, it focuses on providing value-added benefits to Airmen by helping them overcome innovation hurdles, including securing funding, contracting, manpower/skills, and networking.

5. Expertise in Pain Points: AUiX is uniquely focused on helping Airmen overcome innovation roadblocks, such as funding, contracting, networking, partnerships, and manpower/skillsets. Unlike accelerators that may focus on specific innovation silos, AUiX retains experts in various areas to ensure that innovators receive the support they need to succeed—regardless of the project.

6. Park the idea (for now): If the idea owner doesn’t have the capacity, the project will likely stall. AUiX will move the project to the “parking lot” until the areas mentioned above (funding, contracting, network, partnerships, manpower/skillsets, etc.) are addressed. Sometimes, a project is put on hold to allow for the throughput of other feasible and viable ideas. Taking the time to address these areas today can lead to faster progress tomorrow.

7. Strategy Alignment: Ideas must align w/ upper echelon strategy, or the concept losses traction and fails. AUiX does not waste time/capacity on non-value-added ideas. The idea must be traced to the NSS, NDS, NMS, or a local mission set toward improving military effectiveness and increasing national security.

8. Translate ideas to paperwork: AUiX must help translate ideas into a requirements document (e.g., Statement of Work/Objectives) for the Airmen. This action streamlines the contracting process significantly.

9. Funding: AUiX uses BBPs and pitch videos to help secure funding and sponsorships for projects.

10. Relationships: AUiX places great emphasis on fostering continuous relationships with local FM and Resource Advisors (RA) teams to ensure swift funds obligation.

11. Contracting Quiver full of Arrows: AUiX takes an innovative approach to contracting by continuously scouring the DOD contracting ecosystem and gaining access to multiple contracting vehicles. This enables the accelerator to place requirements on contracts quickly and efficiently, taking AU students and faculty ideas “one step beyond” and ensuring that they have the resources they need to succeed.

12. Partnerships: AUiX also prioritizes building and maintaining networks to support innovation. This involves actively pursuing and formalizing partnerships with industry, academia, and other government entities. Innovation cannot happen in isolation, and by engaging with external partners, AUiX can more quickly match new ideas with the necessary capabilities to bring them to fruition.

13. Managing team skillsets: Proper AUiX manpower and skillsets are managed towards scaling innovation efforts (e.g., competing values framework). AUiX ensures its team of diverse personnel help create (do things first), collaborate (do things together), compete (do things fast), and control (do things right).

14. Effective and Efficient: AUiX tracks metrics that align with speed for constant improvement. AUiX tracks, monitors, and looks for ways of (1) generating & formalizing requirements faster, and (2) obligating funds. These metrics are tracked for continuous process improvement to increase speed.

Recognizing and learning from failure is crucial, but it’s just the first step in the innovation journey. After recognizing failure, it’s important to take action to move forward and achieve success. AUiX is helping its customers, Air University’s students, faculty, and staff, navigate the ever-changing global landscape and turn setbacks into opportunities for growth and improvement. By learning from AUiX’s example, other innovators can take these lessons and apply them to their own projects, whether they are working in the private sector, government, or military.

With a balanced approach to innovation and learning, AUiX is helping Air University contribute to national security, global power competition, and the profession of arms — with hopes to inspire others in doing the same.

In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.” AUiX is embodying this Jedi philosophy by not just trying to innovate but actively doing so. May the force of innovation be with you!


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