Where Science Meets Muse

Need Innovation Inspiration? Step Aboard the USS Benfold

Posted by Plish on June 20, 2009

There is a common perception that the military is all about procedures, about doing things by the book, doing things the way they’ve always been done; you simply don’t make waves.

Waves are something Navy Commander D. Michael Abrashoff lives with, thrives upon, and even fosters.

This Fast Company Articleis well worth reading in its entirety.  In it Commander Abrashoff shares what he and his crew have done to make the USS Benfold a flagship of innovation. 

Some key points:

  • “All I ever wanted to do in the navy was to command a ship. I don’t care if I ever get promoted again. And that attitude has enabled me to do the right things for my people instead of doing the right things for my career. In the process, I ended up with the best ship in the navy — and I got the best evaluation of my career. The unintended benefit? My promotion is guaranteed!” – Commander Abrashoff
  • When Abrashoff took command: “I pulled the string on everything we did, and I asked the people responsible for — or affected by — each department or program, ‘Is there a better way to do things?’ “
  • Always be concerned about morale
  • Retaining your people in tough times is not an option but a necessity.  Commander Abrashoff has 100% retention for his career enlisted people (54% is the average)
  • Get answers to the following questions from each new member of your team: Why did they join the team? What’s their family situation like? What are their goals while they’re on the team — and beyond? How can I help them chart a course through life?
  • Ask each person to answer the following three questions: What do you like most about your workplace? What do you like least? What would you change if you could? Take their answers seriously and work to improve.
  • A culture of trust must be the operating norm
  • Treat people with respect and dignity; take care of them
  • People need to feel good about what they do
  • Use technology to help solve problems
  • People need to be owners of what they do

In short, when leaders empower their people on the grassroots level, the results will be nothing short of amazing.


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