Generating and Sustaining a Culture of Innovation for the Navy’s Pit Crew at Lakehurst

Designing a culture that helps leadership to enable everyone in the organization to think the thoughts, talk the talk, and walk the walk that will produce the desired results has been the mission of NAVAIR’s Support Equipment & Aircraft Launch and Recovery (SE & ALRE) Department.

NAVAIR SE & ALRE has recently begun applying the Culture as Collective Intelligence (CCI) model, which allows leadership to measure and justify investments in their innovation networks. CCI has six elements. The innermost element is the organization’s WHY, its enduring purpose or reason to exist. The outermost element is the WHAT, the products and services it produces to realize the WHY. The four elements of the middle ring comprise the organization’s culture – the collective intelligence that continuously produces new products and services to achieve its enduring purpose time and again in a volatile and changing world.


SE & ALRE defined their WHY as “Provide affordable, timely development, delivery, and support of SE & ALRE to enable warfighter superiority around the globe.” In their previous mental model, they saw themselves as the “glue” in the seam between the aircraft and ships of the NAVAIR and NAVSEA Systems Commands. But they really are far more than just a passive bonding mechanism, they produce the technologies, systems, testing, and training that enables the “Navy’s Pit Crew” to accomplish their mission. Just as a NASCAR pit crew is critical to winning the race, so too is the Navy’s Pit Crew to winning the war.


SE & ALRE has prioritized five behavior patterns that they want to characterize their culture and provide the environment in which their innovation networks will thrive: Communication, Technical Conscience, Teamwork, Strong Leadership, and Vision. For each behavior they have identified which policies and/or practices foster, and which inhibit the behavior. For those that inhibit the desired behavior, they are using network science to redefine the practice of that behavior to foster innovation. Finally, they intend to take to higher leadership those inhibitory policies that are beyond their span of control.

By applying the model of Culture as Collective Intelligence, SE & ALRE hopes to break down barriers and produce the innovations required for tomorrow. Now is the time for all of us to examine our organizational cultures to ensure that we will provide the environment that will enable the DON’s innovation network to continuously generate and propagate the knowledge that will give our warfighters a competitive advantage and ensure our place in the world.

By Tom Bleazey, Technical Director SE & ALRE, and Gary Markovits, CEO of Innovation Business Partners **

For more information you can reach Gary Markovits at

** = The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense or the United States government.

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