Friday, July 12, 2013

How Navy RAD can teach us to think

I admit...I'm addicted to the Navy's Reducing Administrative Distractions (RAD) website. A look at the leaderboard totally rats me out.

What's interesting isn't so much that I'm at the top (I mean, come on, I run a BLOG about Navy Admin, what did you expect?), but in how the scoring at IdeaScale works.
First, I don't have the top idea (that would be Erin Lucas' idea of Too Many Databases For Sailors to Manage and Maintain). My top ranked idea doesn't even have half of the votes of Erin's (197 vs. 426, although maybe my devoted readers could help out with that?). I'd have to add up my top four ideas (Pretest all GMT, NDAWS dashboard for all awards, Eliminate miniature medals, and for purchasing supplies) to get the votes of Erin's idea.

I don't even have that many high ranking ideas. Out of my current list of 41, a full 12 of them have below 10 aggregate votes (sum of negative and positive votes), and four of those are in the negatives. In fact, I have one of the worst voted ideas (Eliminate Firearm Registration For On-Base Housing, which is -35 and still going down). So for ideas, I'm neither the worst nor the best.

IdeaScale doesn't care though. It rewards certain behaviors:

- It adds points for voting. The more voting you do, the more points you earn.
- It adds even more points for comments, which typically require you to either attack or defend a position.
- Finally, it wants you to generate ideas. It doesn't penalize you for bad ideas, but it does encourage you to put up new ideas. Any duplicate ideas are typically deleted by the moderators.

This sort of behavior is exactly what we need in the Navy, and sadly, what we are too often missing.

We need more ideas, not less, even if they are dumb, because they spur people to think. I entered an idea about eliminating 9 month baby wellness appointments, because they don't seem to do anything and cost the Navy time, money and paperwork. That went over terribly (it's at -12 and dropping fast). BUT, what I did see is a rash of medical-related ideas come out from other people after that. Even though apparently my idea wasn't so hot, I probably spurred others to suggest things they hadn't thought to bring out earlier.

We need people to care, not sit on the fence, and to voice their opinions. The person with the top idea hasn't scored a whole lot of points because he/she hasn't commented or voted on a lot of other ideas. I see too often in meetings when the floor is open for discussion that there is very little discussion because people are afraid to bring out opinions. It's almost like people are afraid of being punished for their opinions. This is terrible because then only a few people dominate the discussion, and their ideas win, whether or not they make any sense. I've seen this too often, and sometimes have had to silence more vocal members in order to get ideas from the quieter members in the group.

We need people to add value no matter what job they are in. I've been in submarines, air and cryptology, and have brought a lot of different thinking with me along the way. My ideas on Navy RAD are all over the place. Out of 41 ideas so far, I've touched on all sorts of subjects: medical, base housing, FITREPs, awards, Intelink, uniform skirts, supply, and GMT. The ideas are all over the place, but it gets lots of feedback from different folks, which will hopefully help when the moderators tabulate things for Admiral Richardson. I too often see a lot of folks walk into a new job or new area and are afraid to incorporate new ideas because they might fail. The whole point of the Navy moving people around is to take advantage of different peoples expertise. If you let yourself become pigeonholed into always doing things the same way, then we lose out on your expertise.

If you haven't logged into Navy RAD, you should do so soon. It's only around during the month of July, and if the Navy is going to take crowdsourcing seriously, they need to get a lot of good ideas in the first attempt, plus they need people voting so that the best ideas bubble up to the top. Go to, log in, and start voting.