Jul 8, 2021 | 4 min read

Conversation with Brian Maue

Podcast #147 Innovation @ Scale

 

Dr. Beam, transformed a Pentagon idea into a capability ranked #16 in the world as a Best Workplace for Innovators by Fast Company

In this week’s podcast, Ken Forster interviews Dr. Brian "Beam" Maue, the cofounder of AFWERX, a talented, nationwide team connecting innovators and creating accelerated technological and cultural agility for the 680,000 members of the United States Air Force.

Dr. Maue, or 'Beam' as he prefers to be called, is a decorated officer with a 21-year track record of mission-accomplishments ranging from ICBM launch officer and nuclear budget analyst to treaty officer and U.S. Air Force Academy assistant professor, including civil service duties developing new hypersonic and ICBM weapon options.

 

Some of the discussion points during this interview were:

  • What would you consider to be your digital thread?
  • What innovation history lessons did you model in AFWERX?
  • Tell us about your win -  'How a Government Startup Beat Amazon'
  • Few innovation programs have been as impactful as AFWERX- what did you do differently?
  • Do you think that innovation programs are temporal, or are there models to continuously scale innovation?
  • What are some of your favorite startups and why?

 

Wise closing words from Dr. Beam?

 

Nothing in this world can take the place of PERSISTENCE

Talent will not - Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not - Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb!

Education will not - The world is full of educated derelicts.

PERSISTENCE AND DETERMINATION alone are omnipotent.

The slogan ‘Press On!’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

 

If you're interested in connecting with Dr. Beam, check out his LinkedIn!

 

  

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View Transcript

Good day and welcome to episode 147 of our Momenta’s Digital Thread podcast series. Today, it is my distinct honor to welcome Dr. Brian ‘Beam’ Maue, the co-founder of AFWERX, a talented nationwide team connecting innovators and creating accelerated technological and cultural agility for the 680,000 members of the United States Air Force.

Dr. Maue or ‘Beam’ as he prefers to be called is a decorated officer with a 21-year track record of mission accomplishments, ranging from ICBM launch officer, a nuclear budget analyst, to treaty officer and US Air Force Academy, Assistant Professor, including simple service duties, developing new hypersonic and ICBM weapon options. Beam earned a doctoral degree at RAND and an MBA and BA in political science at Michigan State University.

Beam, welcome to our Digital Thread Podcast.

1:30

Oh, thank you, Ken. I'm excited to be here, thank you for the invitation and this opportunity to explore the Battlespace of Ideas. And over here, it is definitely a battle of competition of ideas, thoughts, and actions.

Oh, before we proceed, good sir, I do have to give the mandatory US Government disclaimer, that all of my perspectives shared on this podcast are mine alone. And I am not representing any Department of Defense or US Government organization today.

Excellent. So, in other words, I can neither confirm nor deny, right?

2:01

Indeed.

I appreciate the disclaimer and I do appreciate your candor and your excitement coming into this already leaning up to this idea, the Battlefield of Ideas, I love it. So, I always like to start these talking about one's Digital Thread, in other words, the one or more themes that define their innovation journey. What would you consider to be your digital thread?

2:23

For this, I guess I would say Ken, that I think my digital thread looks a bit more like a quantum probabilistic web of threads, actually three threads that come to mind most dominantly, my ancient evolutionary thread is firmly anchored in the year 1994. This is when I started ICBM launch operations and it was considered cutting edge to have a mouse with a trackball that could digitally run our weapon system! That was braggadociously called React, Rapid Execution, and Combat Targeting. So that was pretty interesting coming out of college and suddenly trackballs are everything in the digital weaponry fight.

Then my second theme or web would probably be technology and history threads, which I've had to understand from studying and practicing military influence for over 25 years. And I know when you hear things like military intelligence or military innovation, that sometimes comes across as an oxymoron, but it really is legitimate. And so that's why I'm so excited to be here today to help further advance our cause.

Lastly, I think the digital innovation thread for me is most recent with regard to leading AFWERX innovations for the Air Force, co-founding it in 2017, and really running through it for the last three years. This has included AI challenges and other things that would be related to everything that momenta are doing. So, I am no digital Spiderman, but I have lived on the digital thread and web.

I love it! Usually, the answers come in very-very linear if you will. This is the first quantum answer I think anybody has provided back so multifaceted as it were. So, speaking to the military, first I should probably give a quick shout out to Lieutenant Colonel JJ Snow, your CTO at AFWERX for recommending you for this discussion. We featured her; I just want to say it was late last year in Episode 111. And we're so intrigued with the program and her stories that we jumped at the chance to bring you in when she mentioned it.

Really the theme I'd like to explore is certainly deep diving on AFWERX, but also how can we apply some of these learnings to corporate innovation, which honestly many times also seems like an oxymoron. So perhaps we'll start with a level of, what is the origin story for AFWERX?

4:39

Oh, great. So let me reciprocate by saying first, that the good Lieutenant Colonel JJ Snow, is a force for goodness, whether she's disguised in her more mild-mannered role as AFWERX as CTO, or when she's fully unleashed as a superhero for humanity, she is a good soul.

With regard to the AFWERX origins question, we were creating in the midst of urgency and uncertainty. If you look at the unclassified clippings from 2015 that started building this urgency, you can see it hypersonic nuclear weapons, artificial intelligence, surveillance of citizens, quantum computing capabilities, many nations are developing these capabilities and not always for peaceful uplifting purposes.

So, in the summer of 2017, our Air Force’s senior leaders issued a document that declared the Air Force’s most important strategic priorities. Priority #3 was, quote, ‘Drive innovation to secure our future’ end quote. This led to a Pentagon effort to solicit ideas and frameworks for the new innovation mission. Our name AFWERX didn't even exist yet actually. I volunteered to contribute my vision and approach, and I was selected to be part of the initial steering committee. And then in 2018, I was actually appointed; they asked me to become the primary AFWERX mission lead and take it as a unity of effort and go with it.

I think I Iike this phrase, ‘urgency and uncertainty,’ and I wonder if there's ever been a time in the history certainly of this great nation that, that hasn't been the case, but has it gotten any better since 2018? And I think now cybersecurity and a lot of the other things that we've talked about, so it almost seems like there's a perpetual need as a result for such innovation, which is a great point talking about this.

I should mention that you recently chronicled many of the lessons learned in a best-selling book, ‘The Experiment that Succeeded. How a Government Startup Beat Amazon, Leveraged Innovation History and Changed Air Force Culture.’ And I'm going to actually utilize elements of that title because I think it pretty well describes the conversation and many of the questions.

At this point, let's start off with this idea of leveraging innovation history. What innovation history lessons did you model in the creation and operation of AFWERX?

6:53

Whoo, this is a great question, Ken. And it may be the most important exploration for our gathering. I think I can put it together in three broad themes, ONE about experimenting and then TWO more specifically private sector and THREE military anecdotes. So broadly what you just talked about with regard to uncertainty and the unknown, if we're going to leverage history, how does AFWERX respond to that tasking? How do you drive innovation to secure our future when the future is unknown and uncertain?

And nowhere, financial-economic and even venture capitalists, in particular, could already offer an answer from their research. And it's very similar to what your listeners would have with regard to, how do you answer the personal investment question of, ‘How do you save for retirement when the future is uncertain and unknown?’

The traditional stock answer of a broad portfolio of investments to account for the unforeseen in the unknown stocks, bonds, real estates, collectibles, etc. this same approach to a broad portfolio of experiments to innovate, and whether it's for cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, or others, that's got to be the approach. That's got the highest again, probabilistic odds, and I know the quantum theme is out there, but there are no certainties, there are only probabilities in stacking the odds.

So, how do we approach this broad portfolio of stacking? In the private sector, what we heard when we started researching how we were going to innovate, we kept hearing the three phrased clichés; think big, start small, scale fast. Beautiful bumper sticker, but it left a very mysterious gap in between the phrase, start small - scale fast; what mysterious dark arts were occurring in between those two phrases. So over time, we modified it so that our senior leaders could also resonate with it a little better, and we expanded it to think big, start small, fail cheap, learn fast, win big at scale. And then there were some senior leaders being, ‘You're telling me AFWERX is going to fail deliberately?’ and be like, ‘No General, we're going to fail but necessarily.

And it's not wrong numbers game, don't look at the number of wins versus losses because as the venture capitalists can tell you, those fewer small number of big wins far outweigh that large number of losses, or it didn't quite work out, or failures depending on how you want to label it. So, thinking in terms of net benefit versus raw number wins and losses was also a big lesson that we learned from.

And then lastly, with the specific military innovations, this is the military, right? We have tales from the Iliad of the Trojan horse from ancient Greece. You've got the Romans and George Washington, they all show, hey it's not necessarily about the technology, but the strategy is pretty key. You don't have to be better if you've got a better strategy. Or you could be on the other side where you see Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and people are discussing how it was all about precision, stealth, and so technology is what makes the difference, no matter how good your strategy is.

Same thing for NATO and the Cold War, post-World War II, it's the nuclear asymmetric advantage that's keeping the Soviet tanks from coming across to fill the gap. So, we took all of those innovation lessons, and we put it into one big old model that we call the factors linking organizational will, and ultimately what it produced was this collaborative, broad portfolio approach of government business and research institutions.

Excellent, and I love the following acronym there which I know you'll you've outlined in your book, so definitely download, or buy the book. So, putting a focus on the next phase in your title, ‘How a Government Startup Beat Amazon.’ Tell us a bit about this, and what would you consider to be some of the other key wins to date in AFWERX.

 

 

10:43

Ah, this is a fun question because when we were first starting, one of our founding fathers was the second highest-ranking general in the Air Force at the time, Vice Chief of Staff General ‘Seve’ Stephen Wilson, during more than a few meetings with the General he would say his vision and give us aspirational goals. And then he would say something like, hey Beam, one day it would be great if some of the folks over at Amazon looked at AFWERX and said, ‘I wish we could be a little more like AFWERX.’

Now this was a standard the General was asking us to achieve, and it was also a compliment to Amazon. So, when the Fast Company rankings of 2020 came out and went public and we were number 16 and Amazon was number 18, it was I admit ego humorous aside a little bit satisfying to be just a smidge above Amazon and be able to return to the General and say, ‘Sir, they could be a little more like us!’

That's absolutely great.

11:36

With regard to some of the key wins, I think two lines of effort that really spring to the front, because they talk about AFWERX as being for the airmen and for our warriors. And the first one was if you've ever seen the TV show Shark Tank? We called it Shark Tank to spark an idea, and the idea was that our airmen would meet with our senior leaders as the host judge panel and some business leaders. And in fact, in 2019, Mark Cuban, the Mark Cuban of Shark Tank was one of our guest judges. So, we really got to do a full-on Shark Tank for the Air Force. But this has grown to tens of thousands of airmen and Air Force stakeholders watching this annual event. And so, this is a great one with regards to taking advantage and helping out our airmen.

And then number two, on the digital thread side of the house, one of the major priorities, not only for the Air Force, not only for the United States but for all democracies is coming up with a unified battle management system. The idea is to link up all our satellites, tanks, planes, ships into this common cloud and creating a common battlefield picture. And ideally, what we want is like from the fictional standards of Iron Man with Jarvis talking to Tony Stark. But right now, we would be pretty happy if we could go to Star Wars and have an R2-D2 that's chirping out some advice to us while we're playing real-time.

But in 2019 AFWERX was able to support this effort by having over a thousand people come together for our air battle management fusion gathering, and it had over a hundred vendors producing that had been vetted from hundreds of different options that had been offered. And I think the key one there was while I was walking down the vendor table rows, I came to one table and I just stopped by and I said, ‘Hey, what do you think of AFWERX?’ I'm like, ‘Hey, we're young, you can give me real feedback, it won't hurt my feelings.’ And they're like, ‘Beam, this has been a great two-day event.’ And I said, yeah, but what if you don't make it? What if you don't get a contract? What if you're not up on the final stage at the end of the day? And he was like, ‘Bean, look at my table. Do you see that stack of business cards? I was like, ‘Yeah.’ ‘That's 25, there are over 25 cards there, there is no way in two days I could have found 25 collaborative partners to work on my AI stuff. But here at your event, we've been able to find 25 folks just in vendor's row to start working on things. This has been incredible whether or not we win anything today.’

So, I think those were two great ways of showing that our airmen and our leaders are involved in innovation and that expansive collaborative environment with business and research institutions is also more active and more alive, and able to handle more of the unforeseen and the unknown.

It's almost like the AFWERX ecosystem in essence is what you really developed at the end of the day, and the results of any ecosystem at least, in coordinated factor is hopefully growth and innovation. And so, it's pretty cool what you guys were able to do with all of that.

Let's hit the next phrase in your title, ‘Changed Air Force culture’, did you set out originally in this to change the culture and how would you characterize that cultural shift?

14:40

We most definitely set out to make this change. It was in our mission statement when we would do our briefings, AFWERX was quote, ‘A fusion of capabilities who connect innovators and accelerate results to create Air Force cultural sad technological agility.’ So, we even knew we had to mention culture before the technology because if you don't get the former, the latter is never going to follow. So, the cultural shift of agility, with that we were talking about the speed with options, and that is a stark contrast to most of our technology development that is rigid command and control, no uncertainties allowed, we want to be sure everything happens, and that just does not provide the agility that we need. So, two examples to demonstrate.

When you were speaking of the ecosystem, Ken, here's a great one. Our Air Force has over 200 bases spread across the world, and we want to create a network of base-level innovation cells, and we would call them Spark Cells. And one of our major agility decisions early on was that we're not going to standardize them, we're not going to require them, if people want to volunteer and then they think that we offer a value-adding function they’ll come. And you know what? They did over the course of that probably two and a half years once we went public, we picked up over 60 base innovation cells that were added into our ecosystem. And we really modeled it after the United States and the Central Federal Government that we went with our constitution that was, ‘You know what, we're going to leave the states alone. We're going to leave in our influence on the States. We'll let them do their experiments and then everybody can adopt best practices.

So, we tried to keep it very light central touch from our central governments, or the headquarters Pentagon side of the house. So, there was centralized intent, but decentralized empowerment so that people could go out and tackle it. And our base innovation offices definitely did that.

And then another great program policy experiment that we tried with, was with our small business funds where previously the Air Force might put out an announcement that says, ‘Small businesses, we are seeking a widget with the following 40 to 60 characteristics.’ And then it would bludgeon small businesses with this requirements document. We shouldn't be surprised that we were only getting back 10 or 12, and at their peak, I believe 66 was the largest number of receipts that they ever received for a solicitation. We turned around and went with the agility approach of speed with options, and instead of saying, we need a widget with 40 to 60 items, we turned around and said, ‘Hey, people who are looking at this solicitation, do you have anything that would be useful to the Air Force with, oh, I don't know, artificial intelligence or air battle management system?

What do you know! Suddenly we started receiving… there were multiple times where we received over 1000 solicitations and so then we had to scramble and come up with enough judges, and that's this whole other governance thing. But yeah, definitely changing the approach of culture, to have that agility mindset. And Vice Chief Wilson was very big on agility, so I felt like we helped bring that together rather well for him.

Yes, absolutely. And it's interesting, I wonder if the emergence of the spark cells had something to do with Vice Chairman Wilson. interesting model and I like the way that you federated it, the States federal model that makes a lot of sense.

So, look, you clearly did well, as you mentioned a few minutes ago in 2020, Fast Company ranked AFWERX as the 16th out of 865 global organizations for the best workplace for innovators. I guess in saying that it does seem a bit ironic to refer to something with such impactful change as an experiment, as you referred to it earlier! So, does this imply that innovation programs by their very nature are temporal, or are there models to continuously scale innovation?

18:31

So, in bringing together our 60,000 members over those three years into that ecosystem that you were discussing, I’ve got to say, Ken, again, leveraging innovation history, we stand upon the shoulders of giants, particularly from the enlightenment who said, we're going to experiment, we're going to test hypotheses; we're going to advance knowledge and then we'll grow from that.

So, there's a timeless element of experimentation, but there's also the experiments of the day that are temporal. So, you have this nice yin-yang balance going on between these two concepts. Similarly, within the experiment that's succeeded, we layout that flow model, factors linking organization that helps you bring it all together from a culture and structure standpoint, as well as processes. And then unifying that with the broader mission and strategy with regard to the environment that you're operating in.

Because we really felt like upfront, if we could have that wide open, supportive ecosystem, even if it's an experiment, and this is an experiment compared to the command and control structures of the military, if we could have that wide-open flow ecosystem for our team, then ultimately we were looking for a Maslow-like self-actualization opportunity where we took care of everything so that people could then go out and be their best. And look at how they excelled. And our organization was happy, fulfilled, effective clearly from external validation. So, it really was an experiment compared to the rigid command and control that we had, and it did seem to succeed.

Let's take some of the lessons and apply them now to this idea of, I'll say corporate innovation, so the Venn of startups and large institutions. Of course, in your case, that was a large government as the case, but I've seen a lot of numbers or corporates and things like startup accelerators as an example, we tend to operate a little bit. They're usually from a venture capital perspective, we're helping in terms of digital transformations if you will, but I've seen that to be a pretty tenuous space. And so, I'm curious, I don't see many of those corporates pushing innovation have been successful in the sense that it's sustainable innovation. What did you guys do differently that made you successful and helped you sustain that to a point?

20:48

Oh, that is a great question. Every innovator probably faces a different environment. So, I don't want to do a direct comparison because of all the individual differences between private sector or government environments.

But I think there are three ingredients that any leader of an organization could focus on and then see the productive results come from it so quickly. Those would be one, AFWERX, we had an incredible intrinsically motivated workforce that was open to learning right through experimentation.

Number two. We definitely had a powerful mission and sense of purpose that made our place more than transactional, you do work, and you receive pay, kind of relationship.

And number three, again, the empowered environment that allowed people to go out there and if they failed it wasn't the end of their career. It was like, okay, what can we learn from it, and how can we advance?

So, if I could just expand a bit more. Again, for the US so this was a military organization, even if we had civilians such as myself now, who were retired veterans in support as well. And the military as a service, a calling a vocation. So, if you're the leader of an organization, the question is what kind of calling are you offering to your members that makes them so excited to want to innovate and advance humanity, or defend democracy as one of our signature callings was? And similarly, to be a learning experiment, like we canceled programs, we tried stuff, we had five to 12 capabilities, depending on when you met AFWERX, and some things didn't work out.

So, I'm sure you Ken, right, what have you have done with all of your podcasts? Hundreds of podcasts later advancing knowledge, I'm sure you've modified something that didn't work out for you. So being able to be that learning organization within a motivated group that has a calling, that's important. And again, asymmetric advantage and the reason I appreciate, like you said, I'm enthusiastic to be here with you and Momenta on this because democracies differ from dictatorships in compelling ways. The dictatorship can reach faster unity of effort, which can be scary if you're talking about AI research or quantum computing and cyber encryption, decoding breaking that through the quantum capabilities.

But what democracies have and what you and Momenta are supporting today is, we have that battlespace and competition of thoughts, ideas, and action. And so, if we can create collaborations from competitively driven businesses, research institutions, and other allied nations, then democracies can stay on top. So, a powerful mission with a sense of purpose was pretty critical at number two.

And then number three for the environment; Ken, when was the last time that you jumped on your web search engine and you said, ‘Image, North Korea, South Korea at night. Because there you have one of those natural experiments about environment and governance, right? You have a population that was relatively similar, that was suddenly divided into two unique governance structures. 70 years later, how do they look?

Or a West Berlin, East Berlin, Cold War. And when the wall came down, they found in general West Berlin was about three times more prosperous than East Berlin. So, governance matters, and we really focused on how we can leverage that environment the most, is our third item.

So motivated workforce, powerful mission, and empowerment supporting environment, I would say are the big three that we were able to be very deliberate on throughout our opening three startup years.

I love how you simplify that and realize at the same time, how still difficult many times I've seen corporate innovation to be in all of that. So, your book is probably really timely in that regard, and being able to apply those same principles to a large multinational corporation, trying to think of how to change their own culture, is very timely in that regard.

Maybe a little bit of a cheater question here, we're avid investors in digital industries. I'm going to put you on the spot for a second and ask if you have any favorite startups that maybe we should be looking at.

24:43

I suffer from the flaw of being much more historically oriented versus future-focused and moving forward. So, I think I would have to draw out and zoom out of orbit a little bit and take the bigger strategic view of, what are the principles I would look at going forward. Because again, it would depend on my environment.

When you think about favorite startups, I think about Singapore, right. The founding father of Singapore and I'm going to say his name wrong I'm sure, Lee Kuan Yew who used to talk about, it wasn't fire, no it wasn't the wheel, not steam, not electricity, but for him and Singapore, the technology of air conditioning, which I realize isn't digital. But air conditioning was the most important invention for them and made them one of the richest countries per capita because it made development possible in the tropics. And so, the question or the reference I might have is what are those technologies that make that again, expanding development, which is what AFWERX did, an ecosystem of expanding development.

And I think about what's happened within COVID and the virtual meeting areas and virtual collaboration tools because clearly, it's not just the tropics now. You can work from home. So, there's something really important about being able to expand and reach out to more talent, because the more talent that you can reach out to that isn't geographically isolated from you, and therefore they're eligible to work with you, how incredible could that be for your corporation?

And then if I can just give some old school shoutouts, because they're both gone now, but a Word Perfect, when I first encountered that in college, I thought that stuff was magical. But the bigger principle was again, how can you share data and information? And similarly, when Netscape Navigator appeared and suddenly the internet had useful exchanges to it in the nineties, again, mind-blowing stuff!

And I think the big thing, the lesson we could take from that is both of these suffered creative destructions from Microsoft. And there's a powerful lesson about not getting lazy or thinking you've got it because you were first on the hunt, so how do you defend your advantage?

And then lastly, I think there's a big vision lesson to be learned with regard to big data. I would put honorable mentions out to any company that is advancing digital supply chain. The way that Walmart first took advantage of those barcodes on packages for inventory management, how it made supply and demand so optimal for consumers, that they chose Walmart over other retail retailers, and the amount of destruction that occurred for other retailers because Walmart was better able to do its supply chain. What is Amazon doing, and all the others as well?

So, I would say I'm more historical with the big principles that have changed society, and digital really can. I'm a big fan because it is a rising tide that lifts all boats.

Clearly. And especially when you consider the application of AI or machine learning to that as well, we're seeing it completely transform whole industries and even rethink how those industries operate, especially with intelligence at the edge, which I know we could do a whole other podcast on in this.

By the way, having spent a lot of time in Atlanta, I can relate to the comment about air conditioning too, so!

27:56

I bet you can!

Especially around July and August.

27:59

Hotlanta!

Yes, oh, baby. So, knowing that you've accomplished your initial mission with AFWERX, what's next for the program?

28:08

So, when AFWERX, just as we were hitting a final stride during our startup years, with that ranking and everything during the summer of 2020, we had some senior leaders who said, ‘This is pretty incredible. We've been trying some other innovation stuff over here. If you guys are okay with it, we're going to combine it all. And AFWERX 1.0 is going to be four or five organizations, but we'd like to use the AFWERX name because of the brand you've built, the image the quality that's associated with it.

So, there's now a new AFWERX 2.0, and I was promoted over to the Air Force, Strategic Studies Group. But AFWERX 2.0 includes now additional efforts such as. technologies that may not be in demand yet but could be. There was concern that we missed out on the drone market because we didn't have enough military foresight for it. But instead, now we're trying to help foster let's say, flying cars or airborne logistics that you could perform and things like that. So, I would say AFWERX has part of its core, but it's also expanded. So, AFWERX 2.0 is a little bit different, but it definitely vectors in the same direction of these large collaborations and making the most of what our democracies have to offer. So that's pretty cool.

For myself. my year with strategic studies is coming to a conclusion at the end of July and I'm actually looking for what's the next right position, and it's not necessarily in government. We again, still don't have anything like an Innovations Tsar! And I'm not sure that we would necessarily want one versus having our decentralized empowered groups that are out there working. At the moment Ken, I have started reaching out to different areas in the private sector, and I'm looking to see if there are consulting opportunities with regard to strategy, innovation or culture, because I think I have some value to add there.

Excellent. And again, I think your availability is quite timely, especially for those organizations that are facing some form of digital, if you will, transformation, which is pretty much all of them if you will.

As far as the Innovations Tzar goes, my general philosophy is anybody who has innovation in their title has about a three-year shelf life, 18 months to three years, Government, depending on which administration you're in. So, it's about a four-year cycle there, so!

Very, very well said yes.

I've had it before at a corporation, somebody said, yeah, you got the shirt now there’s a big target on the back.

One thing I always like to ask is, where do you find your personal inspiration?

30:33

I suppose as a young military cadet early on reading from Sun Tuz the one that really stuck with me there, there's a phrase about you should try and be formless because if you never come to a rigid structure, then the enemies cannot conspire against you. They can't find the chink in your armor because it's not obvious. So just like we define AFWERX as a fusion of capabilities versus a digital technology group, because there were times when we were working on helmets, we kept ourselves open. So, I've tried to always keep an open mind of being fluid and staying agile.

And then I always keep handy, from president former President Calvin Coolidge, who gave his speech on persistence, and Coolidge fun because he went by the nickname, Silent Cal, and people would challenge him to see how much they could get him to talk to. And I remember the story about the person who was seated next to President Coolidge at a dinner party, and he said, ‘I made a bet with my friend today that I could get more than two words out of you,’ and again, President Coolidge just turns to him and looks at him and says, ‘You lose’, so I think a lot about President Coolidge!

So, if I can just quickly rattle off his 110 words or so, Coolidge said, ‘Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not, nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts, persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.’

So, I also encountered that in college, and then it was during Bootcamp that I encountered Rudyard Kipling's ‘If’, and if you put those three together, Sun Tzu, Rudyard, and the President you'll probably have a good idea of what's in my mind every day.

Well said, King of Tenacity, absolutely love it. So, Beam thank you for spending this time with us today.

32:34

Ken, thank you on two levels. Number one, the chance to share a little bit about AFWERX innovation, our amazing people, and the successful, innovative culture we have. But again, number two, what you and Momenta are doing to advance the diversity and competition of ideas and action, you're an excellent example of the asymmetric advantage that democracies in the free world need to draw upon so that we can keep being our best selves, enjoying our liberties and ultimately pursuing a fulfilling life. So, thank you for what you do.

Oh, and thank you for the recognition. I don't think anybody's quite said thank you that way before, and it made me sit up even straighter!

So, this is Dr. Brian ‘Beam’ Maue, the co-founder of AFWERX and practitioner of innovation at scale. By the way, his book, ‘The Experiment that Succeeded’ that offers the framework and insights into how that innovation scaled, is available at Amazon.

So, thank you for listening, and please join us next week for our next Momenta digital thread podcast. Thank you and have a great day.

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