We All Have a Role to Play in Ethical Innovation.

Author:Szalkowski, Ron

The defense industry should be on the lookout for the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing, especially since it's entirely possible for companies to trick themselves into being the wolf.

Boundless access to information and technology in the digital age has ushered in an unforeseen ability to develop extraordinarily advanced and potentially lucrative technologies from the comfort of a garage.

Weekend hackathons can help clear technological hurdles and additive manufacturing allows products to be built that simply weren't possible even a few years ago. The flip side of the new era is that there are more product pitches and performance claims to sort through than ever before.

Decision-makers and executives must pause before embracing claims that could unknowingly undercut the efforts of thousands of researchers who operate with integrity and ultimately put brave individuals such as soldiers, law enforcement officers and emergency response personnel at risk.

When it comes to navigating it all, be it in driving developments within your own organization or evaluating external technologies, we can look to the advice of renowned physicist Richard Feynman.

Feynman is known for a lifetime of scientific pursuits that range from work on the Manhattan Project to winning the Nobel prize for his work in developing quantum electrodynamics. His work was also paramount in investigating the 1986 Challenger disaster and, in doing so, revealing a disconnect between NASA engineers and executives.

His example, though grounded in basic scientific research, also stands at the intersection of engineering, marketing and business practices.

When Feynman gave the 1974 commencement address at Caltech, he talked about "science, pseudoscience and learning how to not fool yourself."

The notion of "not fooling yourself is trickier than it seems in a space of innovation and the most cutting edge technologies. Buzz around a hot development can bring about proposed solutions that range from novel-yet-unproven to blatantly misleading. The ideation phase should be kept unbounded, but when it moves from the whiteboard to launching and marketing products, care must be taken.

A timely example is the growing awareness of traumatic brain injury and specifically mild TBI or concussion. The consumer industry is littered with failed startups that pushed products onto concerned parents claiming abilities to assess or prevent concussions. Even if they had the best intentions, it seems as...

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