Regina E. Dugan

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Science is art. It is the process of creating something that never exists before. ... It makes us ask new questions about ourselves, others; about ethics, the future.

Regina E. Dugan (born 19 March 1963) is American businesswoman, inventor, and technology developer. She served as the 19th Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In March 2012, she left government to take an executive role at Google.

Quotes[edit]

The future will be what we choose to build. We choose to build what we believe in.
Get uncomfortable.
The path to truly new, never-been-done-before things always has failure along the way … It’s supposed to be hard.
Solving the problem must matter. It must instill a sense of urgency…
  • Science is art. It is the process of creating something that never exists before. ... It makes us ask new questions about ourselves, others; about ethics, the future.
    • As quoted in Virginia Tech Magazine (Summer 2013) by Denise Young; also in Digital Da Vinci: Computers in the Arts and Sciences (2014) by Newton Lee
  • We want to make things. We want to make things with our hands. We crave it. It sparks something in us, feeds our urge to create. That's why were here.
    The future will be what we choose to build. We choose to build what we believe in. It's always been that way. A small group of people choose to believe in something, and then they make it so. In that order. They choose to believe in something, and then they make it so. That's the power of makers — the power to choose a new future, by believing, and making.
  • 1. Get uncomfortable.
Make a list of the biggest and boldest projects in your company. Ask yourself how many make you deeply uncomfortable because they could change your fundamental business model. If a project has disruptive potential, it should make you uncomfortable.
2. Create a small, agile team.
While you can organize a large company to support evolutionary R&D, that doesn't work with disruptive innovation. You need a small and agile organization. If you have fewer than 200 people, you don't need a lot of process and you can talk to almost anyone by stepping out of your office and talking a little loud. (I'm Italian.)
3. Refresh the team constantly.
  • 5. Create tension.
A disruptive innovation group exists, in part, to create tension. So don't be surprised when that happens. Disruptive innovation will challenge processes, challenge HR, and challenge your perspective on IP — while it upsets your ideas about who gets to be involved in the development process. The result: the speed and flexibility you need for effective disruptive innovation.
  • 5th assertion in "Dugan's Rx for disruptive innovation", as quoted in "How to innovate? Google exec explains" by Patricia Sellers, in Fortune and CNN/Money (17 December 2013)
  • The path to truly new, never-been-done-before things always has failure along the way … It’s supposed to be hard. … Solving the problem must matter. It must instill a sense of urgency … And that urgency cannot be created in the abstract; it has to be real to inspire greater genius.
  • Our lives are so full of activity and "chatter" it’s difficult to find quiet time… Those are the moments that are the most creative for me. The location is less important than the choice to turn other things off. Because I find that the quietest times of my life speak the loudest.
    • As quoted in "The CNN 10 : Thinkers" (2013)

Fast Company interview (2011)[edit]

We're trying to catalyze and grab the best ideas no matter where they come from, leveraging the most modern concepts of crowdsourcing and harnessing creative power.
"Regina Dugan's Innovative Strategy For DARPA" by Adam L. Penenberg in Fast Company (19 October 2011)
  • You can't lose your nerve for the big failure because you need exactly the same nerve for the big success.
  • I do think that speed is part of the innovation process. If ideas aren't built on with a sense of urgency, time can pass you by.
    This isn't just a problem for the government. It's a problem for everyone: The difficulty of making new ideas broadly available.
    And yet some ideas move quickly. Look at the progression of radio, television, the Internet, the iPod, Facebook. The acceleration in getting to millions of users has gone from 38 years to less than 4. That's something that we've paid a lot of attention to: How do we increase the speed at DARPA?
  • To increase the speed of innovation here, we want to increase the number of people who can contribute ideas to the creative process. … We structure programs so that we can have diversity of involvement from universities to small businesses to large businesses to garage inventors. You're looking for the maximum number of folks who can contribute ideas to the process. So we're trying to catalyze and grab the best ideas no matter where they come from, leveraging the most modern concepts of crowdsourcing and harnessing creative power. Look at the semiconductor industry. Those companies could only keep up with Moore's law by going from hundreds of chip designers focused on eking out every last electron, to hundreds of thousands of designers throughout the industry who could excel at various pieces of the design. When you open up the process like that, the number of people and the diversity of people who can participate goes way up.
  • I tell young people who ask me about their careers, "Wake up on Saturday and ask yourself, Which job would I go to right now? Then choose that one." Because what it tells you is that you're going to your passion; your passion is your work. And I feel that way about my work.

“Special Forces” Innovation: How DARPA Attacks Problems (2013)[edit]

Over the past 50 years, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has produced an unparalleled number of breakthroughs. Arguably, it has the longest-standing, most consistent track record of radical invention in history.
"“Special Forces” Innovation: How DARPA Attacks Problems" in Harvard Business Review (October 2013) co-written with Kaigham J. Gabriel
DARPA was created in 1958 … Its founding mission was simple: "to prevent and create strategic surprise."
  • Over the past 50 years, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has produced an unparalleled number of breakthroughs. Arguably, it has the longest-standing, most consistent track record of radical invention in history. Its innovations include the internet; RISC computing; global positioning satellites; stealth technology; unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones”; and micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), which are now used in everything from air bags to ink-jet printers to video games like the Wii. Though the U.S. military was the original customer for DARPA’s applications, the agency’s advances have played a central role in creating a host of multibillion-dollar industries.
    What makes DARPA’s long list of accomplishments even more impressive is the agency’s swiftness, relatively tiny organization, and comparatively modest budget. Its programs last, on average, only three to five years.
  • The DARPA model has three elements:
    Ambitious goals. The agency’s projects are designed to harness science and engineering advances to solve real-world problems or create new opportunities. At Defense, GPS was an example of the former and stealth technology of the latter. The problems must be sufficiently challenging that they cannot be solved without pushing or catalyzing the science. The presence of an urgent need for an application creates focus and inspires greater genius.
    Temporary project teams. DARPA brings together world-class experts from industry and academia to work on projects of relatively short duration. Team members are organized and led by fixed-term technical managers, who themselves are accomplished in their fields and possess exceptional leadership skills. These projects are not open-ended research programs. Their intensity, sharp focus, and finite time frame make them attractive to the highest-caliber talent, and the nature of the challenge inspires unusual levels of collaboration. In other words, the projects get great people to tackle great problems with other great people.
    Independence. By charter, DARPA has autonomy in selecting and running projects. Such independence allows the organization to move fast and take bold risks and helps it persuade the best and brightest to join.
  • DARPA was created in 1958, shortly after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite to reach space, sparking a national crisis in the United States. Concern that the Russians had achieved technological superiority led to the formation of the agency. Its founding mission was simple: "to prevent and create strategic surprise.”

Quotes about Dugan[edit]

Dugan believes that the nerds at DARPA are heroes. They challenge assumptions and push far past imagined boundaries.
Sorted alphabetically by author or source
There is only enough time to iron your cape, and back to the skies for you. ~ Jason Harley
  • Dr. Dugan’s contributions to the United States military are numerous. She led a counterterrorism task force for the Deputy Secretary of Defense in 1999 and, from 2001 to 2003, she served as a special advisor to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, completing a Quick Reaction Study on Countermine for Enduring Freedom. The results of this study were subsequently briefed to joint senior military leadership and successfully implemented in the field.
  • The way corporations approach innovation is decades out of date, says Regina Dugan. The head of special projects at Google-owned Motorola Mobility is trying to change the way big companies come up with ideas by emphasizing urgency and not being afraid to fail.
  • Dugan believes that the nerds at DARPA are heroes. They challenge assumptions and push far past imagined boundaries. And: “We all have nerd power, we just forget.” We’re born with the feeling that we can create and explore. It’s hard to hold on to this feeling. We doubt and fear. We think that someone else will be better than us, more capable. “But there isn’t anyone else, just you. If we’re lucky, someone steps in, takes a hand and says let me help you believe”
    For Dugan, that came in the form of an e-mail from Jason Harley, who, on a dark day for her, wrote an e-mail:
“There is only enough time to iron your cape, and back to the skies for you.”
  • Disruptive innovation is the kind that unhinges old ways of operating, juices competition and creates new growth. One of the world’s leading experts on the subject is Regina Dugan.

External links[edit]

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