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Wild Blue Yonder on the Air - Ep. 4 - Colonel Michelle Ewy on "Cicadas, Diabolical Beetles, and Killer Flies: How To Get To Where Our Adversaries Cannot"

  • Published
  • By Colonel Michelle Ewy

Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Air University, the United States Air Force, the Department of Defense, or any other US government agency.

Dr. Mark Conversino: Good morning, everyone. So I want to welcome everybody this morning and thank you for taking the time to join us. You know, last August, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Brown, sent a message to his air staff directors, and this is a quote, "Focus on precise diagnoses of the problems we are trying to solve, clarifying, and understanding intent early in the process. Always provide me a bottom line up front and then present to me, your recommendation, the facts and assumptions, the options considered, the views of others and how you arrived at your recommendation. I expect you to put all relevant issues on the table for discussion knowing that there may be disagreement with that recommendation."

This is at the heart of what we do here at Air University. During their time here our students, whether virtually or in residence, drawn from across the Department of the Air Force, other services, the inter-agency, and of course our international partners apply their experience, enthusiasm and education to the most pressing problems facing us as a nation and as a global community, we have the extraordinary advantage of having this cross-section of ranks, career fields, backgrounds, all enhanced by a world class faculty and programming available to advance recommendations to pressing questions and send those students out better prepared to apply them as solutions in their next assignments.

It's now my great honor and privilege to introduce our keynote speaker, Colonel Michelle Ewy.

Colonel Ewy is the Acting Director and Detachment 14 Commander of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in Arlington, Virginia. In this role, she leads the management of the United States Air Force's global basic research investment. The Office of Scientific Research has a staff of 200 scientists, engineers and administrators in Arlington and foreign technology offices in London, Tokyo and Santiago, Chile. In this role, Colonel Ewy, ensures the success of a $500 million a year basic research investment portfolio, and the transition of resulting discoveries to other components of the Air Force research laboratory to defense industries and to other federal agencies. The office's annual investment in basic research is distributed among roughly 200 leading academic institutions worldwide, a 100 industry-based contracts, and more than 250 internal AFRL research efforts.

The Colonel received her Commission through Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps in August of 1995. And after her initial assignment as an Air Force chemist at the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence, she was selected to attend a civilian university under the AFIT Civilian Institution Program and earned her PhD in Chemistry from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She followed that on with an assignment at AFRL involved in investigating microbial contamination of aviation fuel, I was a maintainer, so all I knew was don't put the gas in the airplane, if it's contaminated. Colonel Ewy was then assigned as an instructor to the Air Force Academy in the chemistry department, and then followed that on as an IDE or intermediate developmental education fellow with the Argonne National Laboratory, as an Air Force National Technical laboratory fellow, I should note here as well, that concurrent with her tours both at AFRL and at the academy, she has served in two a 120 day rotations into the AOR and Al Udeid as the lab chief of the deployed aerospace fuels laboratory in support of Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Following that, she transitioned to the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and served there first as a program manager, then as a program element monitor at the Pentagon.

From there, she moved to Lackland, and I found this really interesting. She took command of the headquarters Air Force drug testing laboratory. So you can see her experience literally runs the gamut in this field, we were then fortunate enough to have her assigned here at Maxwell, where she served as the Director of the Department of research and publications at the Air Command and Staff College, following that she attended the Air War College for her senior developmental education, also here at Maxwell. And prior to her current assignment, Colonel Ewy was the military assistant to the chief scientist of the Air Force in Washington, DC. As I said at the outset, I can't think of a better person to kick this off this morning, and I want to thank her as well on behalf of Lieutenant General Hecker for taking time out of her schedule to spend this with us this morning.

Col.  Michelle Ewy: Thank you so much, Dr. Conversino. And I felt like I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Dr. Angelle Kachadoorian, who was my advisor and supported me through my professional studies paper in which included a lot of the research I'm gonna share with you today. Really, I have two objectives to share with you today, my first main objective is focusing on the theme of this research symposium, showcase that the future is now, is to provide some actionable tools focused on how you can support innovation and creativity both within yourselves and within your teams, but really the important piece is some actionable tools, not just talking about it.

But then also my, I guess, auxiliary objective is to, because I am currently the Deputy Director of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, we have since gotten a director, which we're all thrilled about. I also wanted to highlight just a few examples of basic research that I think have the potential to really lead towards revolutionary innovation, and it kind of makes for a catchy title too. So with that, let's just have some fun and jump in. When an adversary plays the long game, time is on their side, they can move slowly, making incremental gains, taking such seemingly innocuous amounts of resources from such vast supplies no one even notices. We are too busy paying attention to the distraction of the day, or the crisis of the moment, unnoticed, they spread out and infiltrate and grow stronger, when an adversary plays the long game, they can go undetected for years, even when they are right underfoot. Until that moment, when we have no choice but to take notice, because no longer are they underfoot but rising up in front of us.


Please know that I'm in no way trying to make light of the concerns that we have, the rise of China or other potential adversaries, quite the contrary, rather the Cicada Brood X or Brood 10, which for the past three weeks have been emerging all throughout the eastern part of the United States, especially here in Northern Virginia. And after having spent 17 years growing into nymphs, the one in the middle that was crawling up the tree and then emerging to molt, you can see the shell on the left side of the screen, and then letting their wings dry and grow and fly off as an adult, this is just a tiny example of how easy it is for us to forget about or not pay attention to something or someone when they don't affect us on a daily basis, until they do, and they're right there.

It isn't enough to be vigilant and pay attention, it isn't enough to avoid the surprise attack, we need to do more than to be prepared, we must be the ones that bring the unexpected. The 2019 Air Force science and technology strategy calls out this charge on the very first page, rather than reacting to other's advances the Air Force will set an unmatched pace instead of looking at where potential adversaries are heading, the Air Force Science and technological enterprise will predict where adversaries cannot easily go and then ensure the Air Force gets there first, it isn't enough to be vigilant and pay attention, it isn't enough to avoid the surprise attack, we must be the ones that bring the unexpected, we must, as directed by our Air Force Chief of Staff, General Brown, accelerate change or lose.


In 1955, there was an RKO short film called "The Future Is Now", that highlighted some of the science and technologies being developed at our Department of Energy national labs. The title of this research showcased today is also "The Future Is Now", and what an excellent way to emphasize how the effects and work done today determine where we are going to be in the future. Seems obvious and simplistic when you say out loud, "The future is now", but if our goal is to make purposeful change, accelerated change, that postures us for revolutionary leaps rather than incremental improvements, we have to commit to action now. Acceleration is defined as the rate of change of velocity per unit of time. If we think back to maybe college physics a bit, the velocity of an object is the rate of change of its position with respect to a frame of reference and is a function of time. A constant velocity does result in change, but at a consistent pace. If you look at some of the photos shown here, some of the technologies highlighted in The Future Is Now film, we see robotic instrumentation, ammunitions guided by radio waves, a mock-up of a video phone.

Some of them don't look that different now than they did then. Perhaps, they were developed at a constant velocity. Looking backwards, sometimes it's hard to discern the rate at which change happens. However, their action did create the future we have now. There are times when we can point to events that led to a true acceleration in change. When looking backwards, we often point to an existential crisis as motivators for accelerated change. Wars are most often referenced, but there is no doubt that after this last year, as we've struggled through a global pandemic, we have seen remarkable advances accelerated. Necessity is the mother of invention we hear; an existential crisis certainly qualifies as necessity. But how do we accelerate change when not faced with immediate consequences? How do we make accelerated change become our long game? Innovation. But we can't just throw the term around and expect innovation and its benefits to manifest. We must purposefully pursue it.

We are all hearing the calls for innovation. Certainly in the military, in industry, and academia, definitely in science and technology. Everyone is looking to innovation to get ahead in whatever way that means to them. In the military, we're looking to innovation to help us get ahead of our potential adversaries, to find the advantage. Further, we need to figure out how not to just get ahead, but go where they cannot, but to do that is not trivial. To beat the zero-sum odds, to find that advantage, we must be willing to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, to uncover the unknown, discover the new and novel, and then do something useful with it. We have to innovate. But in order to innovate, we must first, individually, or collectively bring forth the creative ideas that the innovations will arise from. That means we need to be creative. When was the last time you had a creative a breakthrough? That aha moment. Be creative, like a light switch, just flip it on, just turn on your creativity. For some, that is a lot easier than others.

When it was time for those students online here to decide on your research topic, did you mull over the idea? Sorted through a multitude of the potential topics? Or did it just appear unexpected, developing, unseen, seemingly out of nowhere, emerging, ready to take flight? About five years ago, I was listening to the news while driving to work, and I heard a report on the radio about a research study looking into jazz improvisation. During the study, they put jazz musicians into functional magnetic resonance imaging or FMRI machines and asked them to play jazz. First, they played known pieces of music, and then they were asked to improvise. Charles Lim of NIH and Alan Brown of Johns Hopkins University found that when the musicians were improvising, the part of the brain believed to be responsible for high-level thinking and judgment was deactivated or had less blood flow, and the part of the brain that becomes active during daydreaming was activated, had greater blood flow. The researchers propose that the results indicated that in order to improvise and create novel musical combinations, the part of the musician's brain normally responsible for judgment had to be suppressed. That made me pause.

If in order to be really creative, individuals must quiet the judgment part of our brain, then in a military organization where rules and order are constantly underscored and shape the way we judge ideas and actions, was it possible for us to be truly innovative? In order for our military personnel to bring forth the creative ideas that will become the innovations we so strongly desire. Did that mean we too would have to suppress the judging part of our brain? Was that even realistic? That led me to digging into the topic of creativity, to include researching and then writing my Air War College Professional Studies paper on the subject. So today, my goal, I shared my objectives a little bit earlier, but my goal now is to share with you just a sliver of the neuroscience and organizational psychology research surrounding the field of creativity and innovation, as well as provide you with some practical ways based on that research to support your own creativity and to foster in the teams you will be leading. While much of what I'm going to share with you is part of my research paper, I've also added more recent research from building creative and innovative teams to include some specific research that I haven't shared before.

So let's get started with level setting our definitions. Sometimes you hear people use the term innovation and creativity interchangeably. More likely though, you just don't hear people talking about creativity, rather they focus on innovation. Yet, you cannot have the latter without the former. Innovation is the application of a creative idea into something that is useful or valuable. It is the manifestation of creativity. But before innovation, you must first have a creative idea. A creative idea embodies a new way of using something that already exists. Consider, for example, the New Caledonian crow that uses a twig to spear grubs from within a tree, as a new way of using something that already exists. But creative idea can also be the generation of a totally new idea or concept. In short, creativity is the process of making something strange seem familiar, and of making the familiar strange.

Whether you are part of the Department of the Defense, academia, or industry, we are all part of organizations that strive to be innovative. In order to be innovative, an organization has to meet four requirements laid out here. The organization has to, one, have individuals or teams that generate those creative ideas. Two, the organization must create an environment that is supportive of creativity. Three, the organization must then be open to finding value in those creative ideas. And it must follow through on implementation of that creative idea into the innovation. Today, we're going to focus primarily on the generation of a creative idea and a supportive organizational environment. And since it all starts with the creative thinking of an individual, in this case, either you or the individuals you lead, we're gonna spend most of our time looking at enabling creative thinking on an individual level. So let's jump in.

The diabolical ironclad beetle lives in the western North America, where it survives on tree fungus. It may seem like an odd choice for research funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research that supports the basic research mission for both the Air Force and the Space Force. But once you understand where it got its name, it makes a lot more sense. The diabolical ironclad beetle can take on a load of at least 39,000 times its body weight, before its exoskeleton starts to fracture. That would be like a 150-pound person being able to withstand the crush of 25 blue whales. That is a capability worth understanding the basic science behind. Dr. Kisailus of UC Irvine, through funding from AFOSR, discovered that the exoskeleton of the ironclad beetle is held together with laminated and interlocking sutures. These sutures give rise to that exceptional strength. And uncovering this sort of fundamental information can potentially provide the sparks for revolutionary innovations.

So let's use the diabolical ironclad beetle as a little creative inspiration. For the next 30 seconds, I'm gonna ask you to do some brainstorming. For the next 30 seconds or so, brainstorm some ideas on what you could imagine doing with a material that could withstand 39,000 times its own weight, before it breaks. So on the count of three, I'll give you 30 seconds. Go ahead. One, two, ready, set, go.


So while all the people are brainstorming, I'm gonna add a little bit more science creativity research as a narrative, as we go. So we've all seen in the past year how being in a purely virtual or a hyper virtual environment, can in some ways be beneficial. So there's some really very recent research by Paulus et al., and published in the Frontiers in Psychology, that looks at how electronic brainstorming can actually help avoid something called production blocking. And that's when you're working as a team and you're coming up with new ideas, the fact that you've got to wait for someone next to you, or across the table, to actually say those ideas, slows you down. And often some of the best ideas are lost. And so by using tools like Zoom chat, or Whiteboard, or some of the many, many others that are out there, and allowing people to, as soon as the idea comes to their mind, get it out there and share it, helps avoid this idea of production blocking.

So there's a benefit from being in this virtual world. The exercise you just did was an example of divergent thinking. J. P. Guilford, considered to be the founder of the modern field of creativity research, wrote his seminal paper on creativity in 1950. He defined creativity as consistent of convergent thinking and divergent thinking. Convergent thinking is when you take multiple options and down select or converge to the best one, you weigh the options against understood criteria and choose the one that is considered to be the most useful or valuable. Divergent thinking is the generation of multiple novel ideas. The ideas are often unrelated, more original, and as such, considered to be statistically infrequent. Well, you need both divergent and convergent thinking to create ideas and then decide on the right one. The ability to think divergently consistently is considered to be a reliable indicator of creativity at large. J. P. Guilford developed the first test for divergent thinking during World War II. He was commissioned by the US Military to design a test to help identify which army corps pilots could respond in new and original ways during an aircraft equipment failure.

The exercise you just did when considering the different ways to use the iron-clad beetle material is an alternate use test and is a common way to test one's divergent thinking. And if you found that exercise a little bit difficult, you're not alone. In general, research has found that generating ideas through divergent thinking is more difficult than evaluating and selecting ideas through convergent thinking. So let's take a look at some of the neuroscience that helps explain why that might be the case. At the beginning of this talk, I shared a little bit about the jazz improvisation research that spurred me to look into military personnel and potential barriers to innovation. In that study, the two parts of the brain that were evaluated through functional MRI were the default neural network and the executive neural network. These are regions of the brain that have been associated with particular actions. The default network function primarily consists of the medial pre-frontal cortex.

So to get an idea of where this is, I want you to take your finger, place it on the bridge of your nose, now run it up to about where your hair line starts or used to start. And that is a rough approximation of the primary location of the default network in the brain. It's called the default network because it is activated when other parts of the brain are inactive, or by default it is on. It's active during mind wandering, day-dreaming or sleep. It is also found to be associated with effective response or feelings. It is deactivated during task accomplishment or an engagement by stimuli, and this can include visual stimuli. The default network is strongly implicated in divergent thinking and improvisation, but more on improvisation a little bit later. The executive network function is comprised primarily of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This time, to figure out where it is, place a finger on each of your temples and run them up about an inch or so past your hair line on both sides of your head.

That is a rough approximation of where the executive network is within the brain. It is called the executive network because it is associated with higher level thinking, analytical assessment, evaluation, and goal planning. It is active during information processing and integration of information. The executive network is strongly implicated in convergent thinking. It has the rule set that helps down-select those many divergent areas into the one right solution. So let's go ahead and synthesize the relationship between the divergent, convergent thinking and the default and executive networks to better understand the research, how the research shows divergent thinking is more difficult than convergent thinking. The default network is active during mind wandering and daydreaming. In his book Explaining Creativity, Keith Sawyer postulates that during mind wandering, the default network allows for a mini-incubation where new concepts are brought together giving rise to spontaneous creative insights. It supports divergent thinking and brings forth the novel and the strange.

Arne Dietrich in his 2004 journal article, the cognitive neuroscience of creativity used Kekulé's day-dream of whirling snakes biting their own tails giving him the idea for structure of the benzene ring as an example of such spontaneous creative insight. On the other hand, the executive network acts in many ways as a gatekeeper, as the area associated with higher level thinking, goals, values, and judgments based upon previous experiences. Dietrich states that the executive network further integrates already highly processed information and formulates plans and strategies for the appropriate behavior given a situation. Therefore the creative ideas brought forth by the default network through divergent thinking, only the ones that align well with the value system and the goals of the executive network will make it through.

So armed with a better understanding of convergent and divergent thinking and their relationships to the default and executive neural networks, let's synopsize some potential barriers to creative idea generation through divergent thinking, or in other words, why is divergent thinking so hard? First, finding still moments to let the mind wander and allow the default network to synthesize new and novel ideas is not trivial. Particularly, in this last year during the pandemic, I'm sure for all of you on the line, our days and nights and calendars have been packed. It is almost laughable to imagine having time to sit and just day-dream.

So if the default network brings forward new and novel ideas, they may be too crazy or uncomfortable for the executive network to allow to come forward. How many times have you considered a new idea and then didn't verbalize it because it seemed unrealistic, or you were worried about it seeming stupid? The executive network made an evaluation and determined the idea or putting forth the idea did not align with your values or goals. So in addition to personal goals and values shaping the constraints of an individual's executive network, the organizational culture one lives in or works in will likely shape it as well. For example, as often is the case in the military, if an individual has strongly embraced the organizational culture, the values of that organization will constrain their evaluation of ideas. Contrarily, if an individual is raised, trained, or works in a culture that is more accepting of novel ideas, then more creative ideas may be brought forward.

Let's start to consider the things that organizations and us as individuals can do to support the divergent thinking that has the potential to lead to innovation and accelerate change. In addition to vocalizing that creative ideas are welcome, and innovation is wanted, organizations should hire and support leaders that support creativity. Transformational leaders, those that share power, transfer responsibility and autonomy raise the performance of their followers. They increase intrinsic or internal motivation, which in turn has been shown to increase creativity. Sang et al., published a study just last year in 2020 on how leadership support to openness to experience supports creativity in employees. Openness to experience is defined as open-minded, curious, imaginative, and un-traditional. Supporting an open-minded organizational culture and having employees embrace it should be supportive of a more lenient executive network gatekeeper and therefore allows more novel creative ideas to come forward.

Not surprising, close monitoring or what most of us just call micro-managing decreases creativity in personnel. Also not surprising, recent research just reported by Korse et al., suggests that groups made up of individuals with high motivation to learn and process information, who are excited about learning, and also have a willingness to prioritize group outcomes over individual outcomes, lead to the highest levels of creativity in groups. Then considering how to scale creativity from a single individual to teams, it should make sense that how leaders form those teams makes a difference to the creative-ness of the solutions those teams bring forward. Diversity of perspective for team members brings diversity to the team's divergent thinking. Therefore, heterogeneous teams made up of personnel with multiple backgrounds and perspectives produce more diverse ideas. I think that's pretty common knowledge. At least we accept that as common knowledge. However, research has also shown that heterogeneous teams can be more prone to conflict and therefore take longer to converge on solutions. The leaders need to give those teams more time.

And even with a diverse teams, if they were working in a restrictive culture that doesn't support novelty, divergent ideas will likely be suppressed, and group-think will prevail. Keith Sawyer in Explaining Creativity pointed out research shows an interesting dichotomy when it comes to the best type of team to put to work on a problem. So it's not just the teams. It's the problem as well. If the problem is well-defined, then groups of homogeneous expertise tend to find more creative solutions. But if the problem is poorly-defined, then teams with heterogeneous expertise find more creative solutions, which supports one of the reasons, and we are big believers of this at AFOSR, why multi-disciplinary research often provide such breakthroughs.

As individuals, hopefully sitting listening, you've started to think through some of the ways that you can support your own creativity and strengthen your own divergent thinking, but let's walk through them. First and foremost, give your default network the time and material to support your divergent thinking. Be open to new experiences and other disciplines, open up space on your calendar, remember that open space is not wasted space, allowing time for mind wandering helps make creative connections. When an idea comes forward and you decide to reject it, pause for a moment, and ask yourself, "Why are you rejecting it?" Consider what constraints you might be placing on your own creative ideas that you might not even recognize. Likewise, give the same consideration for ideas others bring forward. Are you or other teammates acting as the gatekeepers and inadvertently hampering innovation? Also, when it comes back to your own personal ability to think divergently, meditation, particularly open monitoring meditation has been shown to support divergent thinking. So perhaps give it a try.

Pursue domain and/or discipline expertise. Not really a surprise to most of us that are all trying to be experts in our field. We're all trying to be experts in our field. It's I think something we attempt to do our best at every single day, but recent research also shows that domain expertise supports creativity. Recently, Rosen et al., published research just in 2020 that looked at electroencephalograms or EEGs or brain waves of jazz musicians. Their findings show that musicians with greater domain expertise were found to being more creative during improvisation. Like the very first example of research I shared that started my interest in doing the PSP, the EEGs showed that their default networks were activated whereas their executive networks were deactivated. However, less experienced musicians were found to create less creative improvisations and their executive networks were activated rather than suppressed. This data underscores other work by Rosen that has indicated a balance between the default and executive processes that are dependent upon domain expertise.

To quote his 2020 study, individuals with less domain expertise rely on executive network processing, whereas those with greater domain expertise have automatized key elements of their creative cognition, so they can relax cognitive control and allow default network associative processes to dominate. They can think divergently and improvise more easily. So in addition to pursuing your own domain expertise, you can support your creative growth through divergent thinking training. In 2004, Ginamarie Scott of University of Oklahoma published a meta-analysis of 70 studies that access the effectiveness or assess the effectiveness of creative training programs. The meta-analysis clearly concluded that creativity training is effective with the largest effects being seen in divergent training and problem-solving. If you're curious about how you can go out and do your own divergent thinking training, you can actually Google it and find that Coursera offers a free creative problem-solving course, and that there are plenty of universities that are also offering programs through their extension and distance learning courses. And finally to couple these last two ideas together in work, just recently published in September of 2020, Son et al., reported that science students with greater domain knowledge improved more through divergent thinking training than those of lower domain knowledge.

So those of you who teach, whether it's in the classroom or on the flight line, it might be worth considering that this study suggests that divergent thinking training combined with the domain knowledge acquisition results in better divergent thinking than if you were to just do the divergent thinking alone. So, good synergy there and to close. Once you bring forth the new creative ideas through your divergent thinking, the creation of innovation has only just begun, next comes the convergent decision-making and then experimentation, which means the risk of failure, and there are always risks when you try new things that have never been done. And as we hear often with high risk, there can be high reward. I'd like to share one last example of Air Force-funded basic research that not only has the potential to help us create revolutionary military capabilities and accelerate change, but literally is helping us understand how to better accelerate acceleration.

At only four millimeters long, killer flies don't seem like a whole lot of a threat, but to their prey, which are smaller flies and fungal gnats, they are deadly flying aces most of the time. Researchers have recently discovered that killer flies can conduct high-speed aerial dives reaching accelerations of 36 meters per second squared. That is 3.6 times the acceleration of an object due to gravity. So for reference, for USAFA grads and fans out there, a diving falcon only reaches an acceleration of 6.8 meters a second square. The trick is that unlike falcons that just tuck their wings and go with gravity as they dive, the killer flies beat their wings as they fall. They combine the acceleration of gravity with power flight and hence become deeply thunderbolts from above. Except that researchers have discovered the fly doesn't seem to take into account the acceleration of gravity during their aerial attacks, and therefore, while they can go after their prey like a shot, they often miscalculate and miss.

At an amazing rate of 3.6 times the speed of gravity from above and unfortunately it misses, but instead of focusing on when the fly misses, our researchers are focused on understanding how as they are diving from above, even with all the visual clutter in the field of view below the prey and not taking gravity into account, sometimes the fly is successful.

To accelerate change and ensure we get to where adversaries cannot, we must innovate, which means first we must have the creative ideas that we can charge forward with, experiment with and optimize. So even though we're speeding up, we're accelerating, I do have one final challenge to leave you with today. Here it is. Sometime this week, find 30 minutes on your calendar, lock it off, make it sacred, and then when that day and time arrives, spend the first 15 minutes reading, watching, learning something totally new, something outside of your current discipline, then spend the next 15 minutes thinking about what you just learned that was new and considering how it does or does not relate to something that you are currently working on and while you're doing this, your mind wonders at any point, just let it go. See what surprising, divergent ideas your default network comes forward with. The work we do now does determine our future, so don't just repeat the calls for innovation, please break down the barriers to it. Thank you.

Ms. Joyce Vaughn, MGMWerx: Colonel Ewy, thank you so much for that presentation. At the end, I was like, "Oh, oh, she's telling us to meditate," I'm for it, I'm all for it.

Col. Ewy: Absolutely, yeah, meditate, mind wander, daydream, give yourself a moment to just let those ideas come to you. A lot of people say, "Oh, I got this idea when I was in the shower," well, that's because you're not focused on any one thing in particular, and that default network is coming up with those divergent ideas, bringing things together that it wouldn't, if you were focused on something else.

Ms. Vaughn: But how does that change process that you all have? And how is that affecting the culture? What little things have come into place to actually bring in more divergent thought and processes?

Col. Ewy: Oh, I have a fantastic one. So, Major General Pringle, who is the commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, just this past Thursday, initiated what we are calling, "White space Thursdays," so Thursdays can no longer have top-down-driven meetings. It is a day to be open, to allow people to get the work done that they need to or read a book they haven't had an opportunity to, but basically just frees up some time on the calendar. So I think that is an acknowledgement of how, when we just are busy all the time, it doesn't allow us to do that deep thinking and to really come up with the creativity and the innovations that we are asking ourselves to do.

And then the other thing, I think MGMWERX is a beautiful example of how we are acknowledging that we want to be able to allow outside organizations in, and to bring that diversity of thought, and also the acknowledgement that sometimes it's hard to get people on basis, that's why MGMWERX is outside, and I'm actually sitting at the BRICC, which is our Basic Research Innovation Collaboration Center, it's RP organization, part of AFRL, working with AFRL, and because it is outside the gates and it's easier to get to. So I think people are acknowledging the importance of giving people space and a moment to breathe, particularly during this pandemic, but also bringing divergent and multidisciplinary voices to the table. 

MS. Vaughn: Colonel Ewy, again, thank you so much for your time and your talent.

Col. Ewy: Fabulous, thank you so much Joyce. Thank you everybody for joining. Have a wonderful day. Thanks so much, take care all.


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