Daedalus Project cultivates divergent thinking

Team 4 from left to right: Timothy Sheahan, Jami Dailey, Martin Heimbeck, Jeffrey Mizell, Zachary Lewis, Coogan Preston, and Peter Wetzel.

Members of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Daedalus Team 4 deliver their outbrief presentation to AMRDEC leadership March 10.

The Daedalus Project is a five month program designed to cultivate and encourage out of the box thinking, problem solving and team building. Employees volunteer for the assignment and form a team that meets twice a week, six hours each day. The team is posed a vague and challenging topic statement and encouraged to explore a scenario relevant to the topic.

Team 4, consisting of seven team members, began meeting in Oct. 2016. Members of the group include Timothy Sheahan, Jami Dailey, Martin Heimbeck, Jeffrey Mizell, Zachary Lewis, Coogan Preston and Peter Wetzel. Their problem statement asked, “How much autonomy is enough: Balancing the fight in a net-centric manned-unmanned testing environment.”

“Every group that comes through Daedalus is unique,” said Dr. Stephanie Reitmeier, Daedalus creator and facilitator. She continues, “This group took a step back and asked, ‘What is the Achilles heel or limiting factors of our ability to fight in a net-centric teaming environment?’ Other teams have been very forward thinking. This team explored how we could improve existing technologies within three years, 2020, to address current weaknesses in specific testing environments. I was very impressed by their pragmatic approach.”

The group members selected had various technical backgrounds in order to limit biases and give voice to unique, nontraditional perspectives. They spent their time meeting with subject matter experts, researching data and communicating through open discussion, which was facilitated due to their open work space environment.

Associate Director of Missile Science and Technology and Daedalus champion, Dr. Michael Richman explained one of the team’s strongest tools is face to face communication. “We believe part of the reason Daedalus is so successful is because it encourages the free flow of ideas through dialogue and debate. Often times good ideas get overlooked or lost in the daily deluge of email traffic,” says Richman.

The group presented data, research and material they had gathered over the past five months to AMRDEC’s Senior Executive Service members at the briefing. Leadership praised their strengths and gave recommendations areas for growth in their proposed project. The group reports there is a potential patent based on the research from the program.

“When you take people that are not typically in leadership roles and you allow them to lead in a safe environment, it’s incredible to see how they step up to the challenge,” said Reitmeier.

“Daedalus is more than a think tank,” Reitmeier said, “AMRDEC’s Daedalus Project is designed to expand the members’ exposure across AMRDEC, as well as AMRDEC to the members of these teams. Because the workforce stays so busy, it’s difficult to break out of our daily routines and get beyond the coworkers and teams we see on a regular basis. While this can build expertise in a specific area, it creates limited exposure to other things you might be good at or have an interest in.”

Daedalus began at AMRDEC in 2014 and has completed four terms. Daedalus will begin accepting applications later in March for the May 2017 team.

“We’d love to see a greater number of applications this coming spring,” said Reitmeier, “It’s a great opportunity for the workforce and their employee development.”

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U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities for decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the Joint Warfighter and the Nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Material Command.

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