Rethinking Innovation - USAFE units get 'mad'

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  • By Capt. Tom Barger
  • USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs
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Innovation Madness kicks off March 10 for the second installment of USAFE-AFAFRICA's unique awards program meant to stimulate a culture of innovation around the command.

The second annual competition will award six monetary prizes.  The wing declared most innovative will receive $175,000 to be used toward unfunded mission requirements.  The runner-up will receive $50,000.

"This year we are adding more prize categories and recognizing more units for their innovations and creativity," said Maj. Phyllis Kent, Deputy Chief of the command's Innovation and Transformation Office.

Other prizes include a $7,000 award for the top mission improvement innovation, and three $6,000 prizes for the unit with the best money savings innovation, the best time savings innovation, and the wing with the most Facebook likes for its innovation madness video by the end of the competition.  You can visit to "like" your favorite video.  Last year the videos were watched more than 250,000 times.

The diversified prizes differ from last year's "winner takes all" model.  The command's Innovation and Transformation Council hopes that the various prizes will incentivize more Airmen to think innovation year-round, day to day.

"As our innovative culture expands, Airmen will be more inclined to enact innovative thinking through self-examination and creativity, ultimately enhancing mission effectiveness while saving resources," said Kent.

The inaugural 2015 Innovation Madness awarded $250,000 to the Mighty 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.  Headquarters staff were able to validate a minimum of $28 million and 115,000 man-hours in savings throughout the command.  When compared, a check for $250,000 for a $28 million check in return made for a wise investment.

"We challenge the wings to submit their innovations throughout the year and during March we match them against each other in a bracket-style format, letting our team of expert judges decide who will advance to the next round and, ultimately, earn the title: Innovation Madness Champion," described Kent.

Last year's competition saw a 500% increase in innovations submitted by the wings during the course of the competition as compared to the previous year.

The ultimate goal of the competition is to foster a spirit of innovation by creating a friendly competition between the wings, said Kent.  "Throughout the year, wings work hard to create and implement innovations that will save money, minutes and manpower while executing their mission," Kent said.

The competition recognizes this innovative spirit and intends to share the "madness" with the rest of the Air Force in hopes of spreading good ideas and innovative culture even further than the USAFE-AFAFRICA theatre, Kent said.

March 17 and 24, the winning wings will be announced.  The overall Innovation Madness champion will be announced March 31, 2016.