Reverse Innovation in Defense

By Peter Modigliani

The Department of Defense and U.S. allies have an opportunity to apply reverse innovation strategies to design novel defense capabilities for allies and scaling the most promising solutions for U.S. forces.

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“A reverse innovation is any innovation that is adopted first in the developing world.

Surprisingly often, these innovations defy gravity and flow uphill.”

The DoD and U.S. allies apply Reverse Innovation strategies to design novel defense capabilities. The key elements of a Reverse Innovation strategy are design simplicity, unlearning, addressing the infrastructure gap, changing the management model, and fueling local growth teams. This approach provides allies who have small defense budgets affordable solutions to address their priority military needs along with a prototyping and experimentation environment for U.S. defense solutions. The National Technology Innovation Base (NTIB) can then apply the lessons and solutions from the allied environments to scale systems for U.S. defense solutions and Foreign Military Sales (FMS). These solutions could be at the low end of a high-low mix of U.S. capabilities.

In many cases Clayton Christensen’s Disruptive Innovation theory may apply when a simple product enters at the low end of performance and price, but over time displaces the market leaders. As part of U.S. defense security cooperation strategies, the DoD and defense industry conducts FMS. While only 13 international partners are buying the F-35, 189 countries and international organizations participate in FMS.