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AETC commander discusses role of innovation in developing leaders

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, Commander of Air Education and Training Command, speaks to atendees of the 2018 Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 22, 2018. During his speech Lt. Gen. Kwast explained the importance of innovation for the future of the Air Force and how to develop innovators. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenneth W. Norman)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, Commander of Air Education and Training Command, speaks to atendees of the 2018 Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 22, 2018. During his speech Lt. Gen. Kwast explained the importance of innovation for the future of the Air Force and how to develop innovators. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenneth W. Norman)

ORLANDO, Fla., -- Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast, commander of Air Education and Training Command, spoke to Airmen about the importance of developing innovators in today's Air Force at the 2018 Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium, Feb. 22 in Orlando, Florida.

During his speech, Kwast gave his thoughts on the basics of teaching Airmen to be innovative.

“You teach people how to be innovative by teaching them to observe human nature and understand what motivates people,” Kwast said. “Everything that prevents us from being creative, everything that prevents us from being innovative as a group is rooted in human nature.”

He further explained there are two types of innovation: adaptive and transformational.

“We must be masters at this game of innovation and we better be world class at developing a culture of innovation,” Kwast said. “The two forms of innovation that keep you perpetually relevant are innovation that sustains what you are doing today and what is working, and then innovation that changes you into something that can do the same thing in a different game, a different world, a different economic curve.”

Through new programs like Pilot Training Next, which is using virtual and augmented reality technology to study how Airmen learn more rapidly, AETC is embracing a culture of innovative thinkers who are emboldened to always look for better ways to complete the mission.

“The trick here is to have a strategy for sustaining innovation that is traditional, but the strategy for a transformational innovation has to be fluid — it cannot be bogged down, because it will grow and migrate and move as you explore and try to bring it online,” Kwast said. “The predicate is that you design something that uplifts the current investment to the maximum degree possible, so that it will be accepted, eventually, as the strategy evolves.”

Developing Airmen requires promoting learning and experience opportunities across the Continuum of Learning. Kwast explained that Airmen should always strive to learn and innovate faster, because that is the only sustainable advantage in modern warfare.

“If there is one question you ought to leave here remembering, it’s this,” said Kwast. “How can I do this job better?”

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