2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: Entrepreneurs in Bureaucracy -- Military Innovators

Written by Hugh Forrest | January 3, 2014

Ben Kohlmann leads the Military Innovators panel at SXSW 2014

The 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival features more than 800 sessions that address a range of issues and topics relevant to digital creatives. This installment of the Session Spotlight looks at “Entrepreneurs in Bureaucracy: Military Innovators”, a panel led by Benjamin Kohlmann (@benkohlmann and @DisruptiveThnkr) from Norfolk, Virginia.

SXSW: Please tell us more about the focus of the “Entrepreneurs in Bureaucracy: Military Innovators” session at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival.
Kohlmann: During a decade at war, emerging military leaders creatively found their way through countless cross-cultural interactions. Returning stateside, bureaucratic realities crushed combat-tested, entrepreneurial minded personnel. Many self-assembled to create informal organizations within the military to promote new solutions. Groups such as the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum have galvanized lumbering military institutions to look to start up culture in motivating the Millennial Generation. This panel will explore the challenges faced and lessons learned by pushing Information Age solutions through an Industrial Age hierarchy. Stories of combat-tested entrepreneurship will inspire those desiring to navigate and innovate within large, established organizations.

SXSW: Who are the other speakers on this panel and what they will bring to the table?
Kohlmann: Nate Fick was a combat-tested, Special Forces Marine who wrote the book "One Bullet Away". After leaving the Marine Corps, he attended Harvard Business School and Kennedy School before becoming the CEO of the Center for a New American Security. He is now an entrepreneur and CEO of EndGame, Inc. Vic Glover is a F/A-18 Super Hornet Test Pilot recently inaugurated as an astronaut with NASA. He was a Legislative Fellow prior to being selected for the astronaut program. Lindsay Rodman is a Harvard Law Graduate, Board member on the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum, and legal council for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a Marine Corps Judge Advocate General.

SXSW: What kinds of people will want to attend this session?
Kohlmann: We believe the lessons we offer will appeal to anybody interested in creating change within large, bureaucratic organizations. Furthermore, anybody interested in the challenges the military faces in integrating ideas from talented young officers should attend.

SXSW: If a SXSW Interactive registrant is unfamiliar with this topic, will he / she be able to follow the discussion?
Kohlmann: It helps to have a general understanding of the military, but even that won't be necessary -- we will be jargon free, and be frank with the good, bad and complicated that defines our lives.

SXSW: Tell us a little more about why you are qualified to talk on this particular session.
Kohlmann: I really stumbled into the military innovation movement, after publishing an article and starting an off-the-record, grassroots junior officer innovation organization linking creative military personnel with successful civilian entrepreneurs. From there, we've organically grown to span the 4 services, and I have even had a chance to spearhead the Chief of Naval Operations Rapid Innovation Cell -- an organization that allows junior personnel to have ideas funded by the highest ranking officer in the Navy.

SXSW: In your opinion, why is speaking at SXSW Interactive a big deal?
Kohlmann: The world's biggest stage for entrepreneurs and creative thinkers is something that cannot be missed.

SXSW: Not necessarily related to your speaking topic at SXSW, what is your favorite book from the last year and why?
Kohlmann: Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

SXSW: Not necessarily related to your speaking topic at SXSW, what is your favorite current TV show and why?
Kohlmann: Shark Tank. Mark Cuban is awesome -- and the ideas are pretty awesome!

SXSW: What do you do to relax?
Kohlmann: Read, blog and run!

Stay tuned to this space for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. Register now to attend “Entrepreneurs in Bureaucracy: Military Innovators” and other programming at SXSW Interactive 2014. Hurry, registration prices increase at the end of the day on Friday, January 10.