Shaheen Shidfar | DEF Community

The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum includes brilliant and motivated civil servants, military members, academics, entrepreneurs, policymakers and technologists working in national security. This series highlights some of them in order to forge connections across networks in an ever-widening virtuous insurgency.

How did you first learn about the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum? I first heard about DEF from Patrick Wearn. Patrick is one of the many madmen I make sure to link up with at least once a month at TARDEC. He met some DEF members on our Acquisition Innovation Road Show and returned with tales of wonder.

What inspired you to join? I knew I was going to join when Patrick gave me the simple nod letting me know these were people I need to know. When someone you trust says join, you join.

Would you say that you’re an “entrepreneur” or an “innovator”? I don’t know about calling myself an entrepreneur, but I do love starting things. Most days I feel more like a gardener. I like growing and developing ideas, myself, individuals, groups, and systems. I just don’t feel good unless I’m improving myself and the systems around me. I also happen to be quite loud. So I advocate for good ideas no matter where they come from.

What has been your favorite part of the DEF Community so far? My favorite part of the DEF community is the passion and enthusiasm. Simply put, this group believes change is both possible and happening. It’s not very often you can share values and vision with complete strangers on Day 1.

More importantly, the most pragmatic part of DEF is that it offers a venue/mechanism to accomplish the first step in changing the world. The first step is connecting.

Ultimately, we seek for the human species to survive and thrive in the future ecosystem. The Unites States is not critical for the survival of humanity, but for the species to thrive we are vital. We are vital because we do not serve an elite faction, particular religious ideology, or a single totalitarian dictator. We serve an idea. The idea of our grand experiment of hope, which demonstrates that a society can continually improve the balance of the needs of the individual with the needs of the group even as things change. Protecting that idea and its interests falls to the National Security Apparatus, Intelligence Community, and Department of Defense. The DOD’s operational force, which I support, is where the rubber meets the road. They live in a constantly changing environment where there is no such thing as a day-to-day task. One day you’re a world culture expert, the next you’re a foot soldier, then you’re building a school, and after that you’re going through the breach.

We cannot control the stressors or threats the operational force faces. But we can engineer their ability to adapt. Therefore, I offer that the adaptive capacity of the DOD should be our highest order principle. To provide the capacity to adapt we need the ability to generate solutions in a time frame relevant to the need presented by the changing environment. To generate solutions in a time frame relevant to the need, we must understand the problem. To understand the problem we must have data and information in context from diverse and bountiful sources which is known as intelligence.

We cannot provide the right data and information to the right groups to create intelligence and common understanding until we connect. We cannot connect until we communicate through trusted relationships and venues to nurture them. DEF provides an excellent opportunity to begin the connection, which will allow the sharing of data and information from diverse and bountiful sources, which will make the system more intelligent than the individual elements is the system.

Once the system is more intelligent than its elements, then we can truly understand the problem. Without this logic path, our best hope is locally optimized problem solving, which is the system we know today as “stovepipes,” driven by rice bowl fiefdoms. If we truly understand the problem, we will be able to prioritize and generate solutions in an effective and efficient way - I am willing to bet we find out there are enough resources. This is also the only way we will come together to see and clear the roadblocks and barriers to solving our real issues. If we can come together to solve our root cause problems, we can provide the capacity for the force to adapt and protect the grand experiment where we balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the group.

In short, to change the world, start by joining DEF.

Who are your role models?

  1. HR McMaster. This man, more than any other, formed my understanding of human conflict and my global view. Especially the continuities of human conflict and the changing character of warfare, as well as considering all elements of national power.
  2. David Perkins. This man showed me the power of a road show for clear and continuous vision building. He is a world class leader and communicator.
  3. John Boyd. If you don’t know John Boyd, he developed the OODA loop, which is the single most useful model of how human beings interact with reality. Look him up.
  4. Joe Rogan. This guy is interesting. He became famous as an entertainer, comedian, the host of Fear Factor, and the lead commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Why I love this guy is simple. He uses his amazing platform to engage in 3 hour long-form conversations with people none of us will every get to meet or converse with, and he shares it with the world through a podcast. I’ve learned so much because this dude chose to share his access. He doesn’t edit the podcast or allow any PR handlers. Nobody can hide their true nature in a 3 hour long form venue.

What does innovation mean to you? To me innovation is useful novelty. But the development of innovation and capturing the lightning in a bottle of a new idea is the real work. Innovation only has an effect when we connect the world of people, with the world of technology and things, THROUGH the world of ideas and concepts. Actions form around ideas in the same way mass assembles around gravity. Similar to gravity, ideas are made of nothing but focus and arrange everything.

How do you approach learning new skills? I approach learning new skills by jumping in the biggest pool I can find. Then, once I’ve figured out how to swim, I find a bigger pool. I think the ocean might be next. That’s where we need each other. Nobody can swim the ocean alone. I also learn from those around me and always keep tabs on organizations practices and principles that are useful in other disciplines.

If you were limited to only a single selection for the rest of your life, what one song would you choose to play? If I had to choose one song, it would be No Handlebars by FloBots. Both the song and the video capture the dichotomy and dilemmas experienced by each of us on our journeys. We are each warrior and scholar. Each beast and menche. I believe most of us stop ourselves before we start because we are scared to see what we are capable of, both good and evil.

What do you hope to bring to the community? I hope to bring a clear voice to DEF that says “you are not alone.” That to steal from Thoreau, “for every 1000 hacking at the branches of evil, there is one of us hacking at the root.” We unite our logic, our resources, our unique capabilities and passions only when we hear the right story. The compelling vision worth applying our greatest nature towards hacking at the roots of evil. I know our story. I know who we are, and I say it in a loud, clear, and loving tone.

Why do you think people should be excited about DEF? People should be excited about DEF because it’s happening. DEF will allow you to connect to create the next generation of human organization and thought, enabled by new technology and a greater understanding of the universe. This train is moving. Be on the train or be on the tracks.

Shaheen Shidfar is a super-connector extraordinaire and Strategic Cohort Leader at the U.S. Army Tank and Automotive Research and Development Center. The Strategic Cohort serves to formulate an understanding of the future that approaches objective truth by acknowledging the subjectivity of a diverse group of professionals and warfighters. Shaheen spends every moment of his waking life working to connect the right ideas, with the right groups, using the right tools, in the right environments. He believes anyone can take four steps to their future: 1) Reach out. 2) Get connected. 3) Give. Take. 4) Change the world. He has an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University.

The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that inspires, connects and empowers people by convening events, forging partnerships and delivering tangible solutions. Our mission is to promote a culture of innovation in the U.S. national security community.

If you are a military member or veteran, government employee, entrepreneur focused on national security, or just find the idea of helping solve tough problems enticing, we’d love to have you join the DEF Community!

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Defense Entrepreneurs Forum

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We inspire, connect and empower people to promote a culture of innovation in the national security community. More at www.DEF.org. Follow @ Disruptive Thinkers.