Crowdsourcing to Solve Tough Navy Problems

By Allyson Versprille

The Navy is using crowdsourcing among its ranks as a way to solve some of its toughest problems.

This collaborative approach is a key component of the service’s new strategy under Task Force Innovation, a group established by the secretary of the Navy in January 2015 comprising subject matter experts from across the service. They will pose an existing problem to service members, who can then recommend solutions.

“This is a very hierarchal organization and crowdsourcing has been a shown way to be able to flatten the organization for ideation,” said Maura Sullivan, chief of strategy and innovation for the Navy.

Throughout the summer the sea service plans to roll out several crowdsourcing platforms that will build off each other culminating with the launch of the naval innovation network, an online portal that will serve as the backbone for information sharing, Sullivan said. The network is part of a larger push for innovation in the service, she added.

The crowdsourcing platform, referred to as the “Hatch,” is the first step in that series of summer programs, which the Navy will introduce in “four to six week sprints,” Sullivan said in an interview with National Defense.

The Navy began a rudimentary crowdsourcing initiative with a small subset of service officials through Task Force Innovation, but the Hatch is the first platform that will be open to the larger fleet.

“For any crowdsourcing endeavor to be successful, there has to be a good feedback loop,” Sullivan said. This is a mechanism that will allow the Navy to get innovative ideas routed to the correct level and appropriate sponsors faster than has been done in the past.

“We want to use it … to nurture the seeds of innovation across the fleet, rather than to try and do anything centralized,” she said. The Navy hopes to use the platform to generate solutions to problems such as reducing administrative distractions and developing a system that allows the service to invest in tools with long-term return on investment that are otherwise difficult to access, Sullivan said.

While the Hatch will be restricted exclusively to the Navy and Marine Corps, the Navy will continue to use its Massive Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet portal for open crowdsourcing. The message-based game was initially launched in 2011 by the Office of Naval Research to address piracy concerns. Anyone can access the portal, which is run by the Naval Postgraduate School, and it has been used to gather feedback on a number of topics ranging from additive manufacturing to big data analytics. When solving a particular problem, gamers are asked to share their ideas, professional knowledge and practical experience.

Topics: Cyber, Infotech

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