The illuminate Thinkshop is a Sailor-to-Sailor training series sponsored by U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFF). Co-created by USFF Sailors, Lt. John Hawley and Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Richard Walsh, the illuminate Thinkshop provides an interactive and creative way to bring the workforce together to discover innovative solutions to issues that impact mission, culture and quality of work.
Vice Adm. Richard Breckenridge, deputy commander, USFF, a sponsor and key supporter of the Thinkshops, encourages participants to "challenge norms, learn faster and improve daily!" The teaching methodology includes skits, improvisation, group exercises and open discussions inspired by world-renowned leadership and innovation experts.
The two sessions trained more than 50 SPAWAR Sailors and civilians, and allowed SPAWAR to work in a collaborative environment with employees from the Southwest Regional Maintenance Center (SWRMC).
Lt. Jessica Fuller, assigned to the SPAWAR Office of the Chief Engineer (5.0), served as a facilitator for the event.
"When I first heard about the U.S. Fleet Forces illuminate Thinkshop from colleagues, I knew that this was something that SPAWAR needed to take part in," said Fuller. "Rear Adm. Ronald Fritzemeier, the chief engineer, gave four goals for SPAWAR employees to focus on during the training: respect, collaboration, communication and transparency. Illuminate allowed Sailors and civilians alike to come together and brainstorm real, innovative solutions."
Yeoman 2nd Class Maria Barron, assigned to SPAWAR's military management office and illuminate Thinkshop facilitator, stated that she learned through the different activities how failure can be helpful and even necessary when discovering new ideas at work.
Vice Adm. Herman Shelanski, naval inspector general, stopped by one of the illuminate Thinkshop sessions and had a chance to take part in an activity with participants, including Barron.
"It was great that the Admiral stopped by to participate," said Barron. "I'm glad that there are really no true winners or losers in the 'game' of innovation. The activities allowed participants to understand the significance of teamwork and how we need to support each other in order to grow as an organization. The Admiral stated that the Thinkshop provides an out-of-the-box way of looking at collaboration with shipmates."
At the conclusion of the illuminate Thinkshops, SPAWAR employees provided presentations, or "pitches," to a panel of executives highlighting the outcome of an 180-minute design thinking exercise, showcasing initiatives that SPAWAR could adopt to improve respect, collaboration, communication and transparency throughout the command.
Capt. Dan Colpo, SPAWAR 5.0 military deputy, chaired the executive panel and was thoroughly impressed with participants' motivation to make SPAWAR the best place to work.
"This is the second Thinkshop SPAWAR has conducted with our friends and partners at SWRMC, [but the first] one with greater SPAWAR participation," said Colpo. "While it would have been reasonable to expect an academic exercise on the final day to showcase what was learned, I was surprised to find several actionable recommendations coming from the focus groups. Simple suggestions can have an immediate impact on the workplace and culture. Now that we have the tools, we need to make [the tools and concepts] part of our routine."
Colpo also challenged participants to be the first to organize a Thinkshop in the workplace in order to share the techniques and methods learned with coworkers.
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) is the Navy acquisition command which develops, delivers, and sustains advanced information warfare capabilities for warfighters. SPAWAR, along with its system centers, space field activity, and its partnership with three program executive offices provides the hardware and software needed to execute Navy missions. With over 10,000 active-duty military and civilian professionals located around the world and close to the fleet, SPAWAR is at the forefront of research, engineering, and acquisition, keeping forces connected around the globe.