An Open Letter to Innovation Hubs

Come on, guys. Let’s get it together and get together. We can be so much more.

I’ve been watching some of you for about 18 months and most of you very closely over the last 6 months. Yeah, you’re cool. Truly. I think all of you are doing incredible work, and it’s exciting just being in the same room as you. I love seeing people passionate about innovation and making a difference. It’s real fire-in-the-belly stuff.

But there’s an area I think we’re all failing in, and not in a failing-fast-learn-from-it-goodness kind of way that we all talk about when it comes to experimenting with something new. I can stay silent and watch time pass when we could be doing better, but there’s an urgency we all feel and I urge you that instead of multiplying our efforts, let’s make them exponential. We have the power to do that. We all have the power to do better and be better, and that power is in weaving together what we’ve been building this year.

I believe that we tend to have either an attitude of abundance where we share our knowledge and allow others to use that knowledge as a ladder to boost them to the Next Great Thing and therefore boost all of us…or we have an attitude of scarcity where we wrap our arms around ourselves and our specific knowledge and hold it close because we believe that doing so means we can remain relevant. Yes, we all want to be relevant, including me. Relevancespeaks to personal and professional reasons for existence, for purpose, for self-worth. It’s our value to the world as a whole, and it’s not only worth fighting for but worth figuring out how to arm ourselves better for that fight. However, we can be both relevant and share at the same time, and there is great power in that as well because we are molding the next generation of innovators.

Unfortunately, what we are doing in the midst of all these innovators in innovation hubs is gravitating back toward the silos we so desperately need to get away from. Maybe silos are just so ingrained that we can’t form a better structure or non-structure to reach greater heights. Maybe it’s just all that we know and we can’t help ourselves. But if we’re going to preach it to industry and various Program Offices, then we innovators and our innovation-centric organizations need to practice it ourselves.

What I think people in the field need to see is all these innovation hubs working together instead of competing with one another. Yes, competing. I’ve overheard that suggestion more than once, and it concerns me—whether it’s true or just has the appearance of truth. Let’s include the Labs and DAU in this mix because they are also extremely valuable as petri dishes for advancing Acquisition. Maybe what I’m hearing is wrong, and if it is, then let’s show it’s wrong. I see a growing number of hubs but not enough reaching across the aisle, or as I call it, networking across the galaxy. I can think of a few specific examples that have ventured outside of their own walls, so maybe we’re just so new in our brave new Acquisition world that it’s not become widespread yet.

I know that the public face of innovation hubs is that yes, we all collaborate. The private conversations admit we don’t, or not enough. The requests for my help in certain areas, time and again, tell me we don’t. There’s little to no cohesion, and that’s a missed opportunity.

In my opinion, here’s what we need, all of us, industry, Government, everyone:

  • We need to know who all the innovation hubs are and what they all do, the special sauce of each, so other hubs, Program Offices, vendors, etc have an idea of which hubs are doing what they need so they can learn from and work with those hubs.
  • We need to know what processes and procedures various hubs have set a precedence on, including documentation (redacted, if necessary) so other hubs can build on what’s already been done instead of wasting precious resources re-creating what tax dollar resources have already been spent.
  • We need to know what various hubs’ strengths are so other hubs can learn from someone smarter or figure out sooner how to defend a new process or cross-train with another hub.(Oooooh, what if a hub that’s good at one particular tool traded a key player with another hub that’s good at another tool for 2 weeks during a particular effort?)
  • We need some sort of conference, workshop, etc for 2-3 days so all hubs can present/share their best ideas/practices—and collect them into one resource available to all Acquisition folks in the Government. Even if it’s done as a webcast and each hub takes turns briefing. You could turn it into a roadshow or you could just record the whole thing so Contracting Officers and Program Managers sitting in their cubicles could watch it together and leverage these ideas.

What if all the hubs worked together to push us ahead, like never before? Use that network of strengths not to recreate the same tools but to lift each other up, herald our own special sauce, and build on each other’s work, in joyously productive collaboration?

What if we really went all out to show what bridges we can build across all of the Department of Defense, as an example to everyone not in an innovation hub?

What if no one ever needed to question competition vs collaboration again because we are so good at sharing information with other innovation teams?

c 2018 Lorna Tedder

Lorna Tedder


  • Rapid Acquisition Consultant
  • Recently retired Contracting Officer, unlimited AFMC warrant 1991-2018
  • Nationally recognized Innovation Thought Leader in Government acquisition
  • Rapid acquisition teacher, both FAR and non-FAR based contracting
  • Master brain-stormer and advisor to program offices across the DoD
  • Expert in developing junior and mid-level personnel to become innovators in Government acquisition
  • 3 decades of first-hand experience and success with Other Transactions, Oral Proposals, 10 USC 2373, Broad Agency Announcements, unique pricing arrangements, Price Based Acquisition, Award Without Discussion, streamlined source selections, multiple award IDIQs, UCAs, waivers, omnibus tool creation, Quick Reaction Capability teams, and strategic sourcing
  • Do you need help? Would you like me to spend a couple of days teaching your Government team how to use innovative contracting methods? Message me on LinkedIn or my contact page.
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