The Modern War Institute and Defense and Strategic Studies department took eighteen cadets enrolled in DS345 Military Innovation to Google HQ in New York City on Tuesday, April 25, to discuss organizational culture, innovation, and technology. Cadets met with a panel of military veterans now employed by Google, took a tour of their expansive offices in Chelsea, and partook in a series of games and group exercises to understand how companies like Google foster bottom-up innovation.

“Google offers an alternative and more horizontal organizational structure to innovation,” said Dr. Lionel Beehner, former Course Director of DS345 who accompanied the cadets on the trip. “It has fostered this really interesting can-do and positive ethos among its thousands of employees here.”

The aim of the trip was to apply the theories from the course—from organizational theory to the civil-military model—to large institutions, whether public or private. The course focuses on not only technological innovation in military history but also doctrinal innovation and its sources. “In class we learn about innovation in terms of theory and military application,” said Cadet Madison Jones, a Class of 2018 Systems Engineering major. “Touring Google and talking to their employees provided a unique opportunity to experience innovation in a civilian manner.”

She added that her favorite part of the trip section was “speaking to our tour guide over lunch and learning about his journey in the military and how he ended up working at Google. Google’s approach to innovation is incredibly unique, and if the military can adapt some of their techniques we can better develop a culture of innovation.”

Cadets marveled at the colorful study pods and sleekness of Google’s offices, where workers get around by scooters and the glassed-in cafeteria offers sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline.

“The trip to Google was an excellent opportunity to see how innovative organizations think and create the institutions to do so,” said Cadet James Delahunty, a Class of 2017 DSS major. “Hopefully through this experience we cadets can take this learning experience and apply it to the conventional force where the ability to be innovative and adapt to our environments has never been more urgent.”


Image credit: Cadet James Delahunty