AFSC Commander touts importance of innovation to Air Force, community

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. —

Lt. Gen. Lee K. Levy II, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, recently spoke at the inaugural session of a distinguished speaker series hosted by the University of Oklahoma Michael F. Price College of Business.

The first session themed “Intersection of Innovation + Armed Services,” was held at the Gene Rainbolt Graduate School of Business at the OU Health Science Center June 28.

After an introduction by Price Dean Daniel Pullin, Levy spoke about the ways in which the Air Force embraces innovation, and the similarities with the business community.

Levy distinguished creation and innovation efforts stating, “Innovation is creation, implemented. I see innovation fail when organizations don’t know how to turn that eureka moment into a sustainable product in the marketplace that creates and generates value.”

Innovators, he said, can take those ideas and diffuse them across the organization to create value.

Levy said the architecture of innovation within a company and within departments should include humility, approachability and market credibility.

The hierarchy of an organization should be an inverted pyramid, with a base of “servant leaders,” valuing the number one Air Force Special Operations Truth, “People are more important than hardware.”

“Particularly for a high-tech business, you have to understand that, because people is where the creations come from…” Levy said.

Levy discussed military examples, siting specific cases where new parts required for KC-135 and B-52 airplanes were recreated by engineers at Tinker Air Force Base.

Leadership trusted the team, and the result was a reverse-engineering effort which led to both savings and a positive impact to the mission.

“What I wanted to leave you with is the knowledge that innovation is a way of life for us. There is a national implication for us, there is a security implication for us, but it requires a certain mindset…” Levy said.

“If you don’t look at the problem the right way, your people will struggle to drive ideas that offer solutions, create value and enhance the capabilities which bring success.”