Golden Bear 3: Mike Dingman on Fostering Innovation

Defense, Digital Transformation Technologies, Innovation at LMI

Project manager, Mike Dingman, has supported Capability Prototypes (CP) (formerly the Rapid Reaction Technology Office) for the Department of Defense (DoD) for almost 20 years. Mike leads CP’s Innovation Outreach program, broadening industry engagement to address capability gaps and advance the next generation of military technologies.

In this interview, Mike details CP’s Golden Bear 3 meeting for fostering innovation.


What was the purpose of Golden Bear 3?

CP sought discussion and exchange of ideas on various perspectives and approaches to innovation across the federal government and private sector. By examining the intersection of government and private-sector approaches to innovation, we can formulate best practices, lessons learned, and new thought processes about innovation.

Why did CP host Golden Bear 3?

CP hosts the Golden Bear series of meetings with venture capital firms and small non-traditional companies to uncover emerging technologies and innovative ideas to address DoD needs. Golden Bear 3 formed to address remarks from DoD Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks in the summer of 2021 about the need to develop an ecosystem for innovation to thrive in small teams at DoD.

Innovation helps operationalize the Joint Warfighting Concept and advance critical technologies for DoD, such as biotechnology, quantum science, future generation wireless technology, advanced materials, trusted artificial intelligence and autonomy, integrated network systems of systems, microelectronics, space technology, renewable energy generation and storage, advanced computing and software, human-machine interfaces, directed energy, hypersonics, and integrated sensing and cyber.

Who participated in Golden Bear 3?

Speakers from the federal government, the venture capital community, large companies (including Fortune 500 companies) and small technology companies highlighted the importance of innovation and best practices and strategies.

More than 100 government attendees, including representatives from across the joint staff, services, combatant commands, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (OUSD) (Research & Engineering), OUSD (Acquisition & Sustainment), and OSUD (Policy), participated in both virtual sessions, exchanging ideas for spreading innovative ideas in DoD, fostering a change of culture to encourage innovation, and ideating on how DoD organizations can better partner with commercial innovators.

What were some of the key takeaways from Golden Bear 3? 

  • Fail fast but don’t make a habit of it: being smart about taking risks and having a willingness to accept failure frees people to innovate.
  • A strong parallel exists between how venture capital firms assess market readiness for investments and how DoD uses prototyping to transition concepts to operational capabilities. This relationship underscores the importance of DoD engaging with venture capitalists to foster robust communication of needs and improve collaboration in technology research and development. DoD can be one of the markets venture capital firms use to assess readiness of their investments.
  • Small companies serve as a source of innovative and leading-edge technology. Although these companies can contribute to DoD’s mission success, they are often overwhelmed by the requirements of doing business with federal government partners, hindering DoD’s ability to capitalize on these innovative ideas and technology. Rather than just mentoring and coaching these companies on how to navigate the bureaucracy, DoD must improve access for smaller companies, including using language that non-DoD personnel can understand.
  • Innovative large companies can be a model for a large organization, such as DoD, to build a culture of innovation.
    • Make innovation everybody's responsibility—not only for a specific group or set of individuals. 
    • Unite cross-functional teams to drive solutions, building teams with diverse backgrounds and pulling together the best people with minimal bureaucracy. 
    • Let diversity generate good ideas. Enable input from all sources to foster innovation. 
    • Avoid the systematic tendency to invest in low-risk, incremental improvements, which can impede innovation.

The bottom line from Golden Bear 3 was that if DoD wants to innovate more, it needs to pay attention to how the private sector innovates and make it easier for innovative companies to do business with DoD.

The bottom line from Golden Bear 3 was that if DoD wants to innovate more, it needs to pay attention to how the private sector innovates and make it easier for innovative companies to do business with DoD.

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