We introduce an agile start-up mindset and flat hierarchies into the Bundeswehr to combine the best of both worlds and foster cultural change from within.
The Cyber Innovation Hub fosters cultural change in the Bundeswehr together with the troops.
Innovation only works when you break out of established structures and do things differently. Our aim is to develop new things and test them immediately to see if they work. Existing processes rarely facilitate that. We apply the tried-and-trusted methods and approaches that make start-ups around the world so agile and successful.
How we work
We rapidly put minimum viable products to the practical test, working directly with their future users, i.e., the soldiers and civilian personnel of the Bundeswehr. Learning from practical experiences, we adapt the products as required in multiple iteration cycles. We use commercially solutions, especially ones from the start-up sector.
This agile process allows us to trial new innovations rapidly. It is the opposite of what we call a ‘gold-plated solution’ in German: a technically ideal solution that usually exceeds requirements, involves laborious processes and overshoots the budget and schedule of the project.
We do not aim to make mistakes, but they are an inevitable part of any innovation. When you try new things, you cannot be certain in advance that it will work in practice. Some of our projects fail, so we bin then – failure is nothing to be afraid of. When an innovation turns out to be impractical at an early stage, we save time, money and a lot of effort that we would have put into its further development. Fail early, fail often, fail cheap is a common mantra in the start-up scene.
We foster cultural change in the Bundeswehr. Our troops are buzzing with new ideas, we just need to listen to them. That is why we train our soldiers to become intrapreneurs and promote a culture of innovation from within.
We do so by running innovation competitions, such as the „Innovation Challenge“ we organised with the Navy’s Einsatzflottille 1, and the „Smart Solutions Challenge“, which was a joint project with the Bundeswehr universities. Soldiers got to submit ideas for digital innovations and work with us on implementing them.
We work with a method called ‘Objectives & Key Results’ (OKRs). It is a management approach that Google has been using for 20 years. In this model, the teams get to define their own work priorities every quarter using clear objectives and key results. This makes their objectives unambiguous. Everything that does not contribute to achieving them is given a lower priority. With this enhanced focus, the teams can set their priorities effectively, and the resulting transparency encourages collaboration across silos. The approach makes sure that everyone works together instead of aimlessly doing their own thing.