Dinosaurs and Baseball -- a Lesson in Innovation and Heritage

  • Published
  • By Col. David Kumashiro
  • 62nd Airlift Wing commander
Congrats to the 2013 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox! Now, before I get inundated with calls from die-hard Cardinals fans (the hometown team for our very own Air Mobility Command at Scott AFB, Ill.), let me explain where I'm going here. The Red Sox latest championship reminded me of the 2011 movie "Moneyball." Without ruining too much of the plot, the film centers on how Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane rebuilds his team's roster using a controversial scouting approach based on analytical data. Although his efforts are met with ridicule and criticism by the traditional scouting establishment, his approach catches the attention of the owner of the Boston Red Sox, John Henry. Beane's Oakland A's team is so successful that Henry offers him the GM position for the Red Sox telling him, "...anybody who's not building a team right and rebuilding it using your model, they're dinosaurs."

Now, I want to emphasize that this was a quote from a movie, not real life, and I know there are a lot of things that go into making a world champion sports team. But the lesson here is less about the success of a team and more about the process by which you get there. Innovation and more importantly, the ability to create an environment where innovation and continuous process improvement thrives, are truly the hallmarks of a great and adaptive organization. The fact that the Boston Red Sox -- a proud organization with a storied history and a rich baseball heritage -- would embrace a novel approach to scouting provides a good lesson for all of us.

Our Air Force -- a proud organization with its own storied history and rich heritage -- has always prided itself on innovation. Our foundation in the technologies of modern Air Power has obviously aided us in this effort. Stealth platforms, remotely piloted aircraft, and a constellation of space-based satellites are just a few examples of our innovative technologies. But technology can only take us so far, particularly in these budget constrained times. Anyone in the market for the newest smartphone or tablet can attest that buying the latest technology comes at a cost.

More important than any leading-edge technology is the awesome innovation of our Airmen! Each and every day our Airmen come up with extraordinary ideas, programs, and processes that make us the absolute best Air Force in the world and truly set us apart from the age of dinosaurs. But an adaptive and innovative mindset requires an ever present sense of humility, creativity, and courage to ensure bold ideas can take root. All of us, from commanders to supervisors to the most junior Airmen in our ranks, must continue to nurture and cultivate a spirit of innovation -- innovation that is as much a part of our Air Force heritage as Fenway Park is to the Red Sox. Just don't be intimidated by obstacles like the "Green Monster" or other dinosaurs that might stand in the way.