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Large Group Collaboration: U.S. Department of Defense

FacilitatePro helps branches of the U.S. military collaborate in the development of joint warfare concepts

“The software enabled all of us to be participants yet not interrupt the exchange between the heavy hitters up front. No one was inhibited from making contributions.” —Subject Matter Expert U.S. Dept. of Defense

Just as industry has had to adopt more open innovation models for research and development of new products, the U.S. military is experiencing a similar paradigm shift as it seeks develop the kinds of joint forces and capabilities that will adapt quickly to new challenges and unexpected circumstances. Large and small scale military “discovery” experiments and wargames conducted by several branches of the Department of Defense are bringing together key decision makers and subject matter experts from around the globe to develop the concepts, doctrine, and training that will form the U.S. Military of the 21st century and beyond.

Looking for new ways to structure an experiment that fosters innovation as well as critical thinking, these military organizations selected FacilitatePro to enable large scale collaboration and concept development.

In this new way of thinking, collaboration technology has a key role to play. FacilitatePro offers a way to capture ideas from a large and potentially diverse knowledge base across branches of the military, other agencies, contractors and universities. It enables collaborative group processes that optimize innovative thinking, such as anonymous parallel brainstorming, asynchronous facilitation, mind mapping, and multi-criteria voting.

A look at a DOD experiment Discovery experiments present innovative systems, concepts, organizational structures, or technologies in an observable and documented setting. These experiments aim to produce and use new ideas to identify potential benefits, as well as the most effective conditions under which to employ these innovations; discovery experiments often weed out unworkable ideas and lay the foundation for more rigorous testing, assessment, and refinement. FacilitatePro is used to bring specialists from all branches of the US military together with international experts to brainstorm ideas and develop innovative approaches to future operations. Anonymity provides for an open exchange of ideas among senior military representatives and "young turks", who usually just sit and listen. Categorization and prioritization tools allowed for immediate evaluation of possibilities against defined criteria. Complete electronic documentation allowed for further analysis and rapid preparation of reports and recommendations.

You never know where the next great idea will come from "The most significant contribution of FacilitatePro has been to give voice to the 140+ participants who would normally be only observers," was the summation of one DoD facilitator. "The result we see is a dramatic increase in the amount of expertise and ideas contributed to the discussion. The outcome we expect, after our analysts have processed the data and cross-referenced the results with those of prior experiments, is innovation in joint warfare concepts." Participant feedback survey results show that the collaboration tools significantly enhance the effectiveness of and participation in this innovation exercise.

military survey

Figure 1: Results of Using FacilitatePro

In future iterations, experiments will begin to host multinational distributed events, enabling experts from around the world to contribute ideas in a focused virtual e-meeting environment. Benefits will include a significant reduction in the costs associated with hosting a large group event as well as a rapid turnaround of ideas and more timely innovation.


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