Alex Bennet (
Tue, 01 Dec 1998 17:24:15 -0800

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 01 Dec 1998 17:24:15 -0800
From: Alex Bennet <>

>A couple of years ago I caught the memetics meme after reading Dawkins'
The Selfish Gene. A number of months later I enjoyed Aaron Lynch's
treatment in Thought Contagion. Although I intuitively recognized the
goodness in the study of memetics ("goodness" in terms of opportunity and
usefulness in effecting cultural change), as a catalyst for change my quick
leap was to WIFM ("me" in terms of the Navy acquisition system within which
I work). I have spent the last four years of my working life as part of
the Department of Navy Acquisition Reform Team, specifically, as Director
of Communications, Education and Training.
>I'm not sure how to define the "memetics paradigm", but I've spent the
last several years developing implementation approaches based on the
diversity of thinking surrounding the concept of memetics, building memes
based on environmental drivers, system and individual needs, and the power
of emotion. Where external environmental drivers collided with perception
issues, we addressed both simultaneously. Where system and individual
needs were in conflict, we attempted to facilitate alignment. Finally, but
certainly not least, we worked to harness both negative and positive
emotional forces.
>Dissemination of these memes was accomplished through both formal and
informal vehicles, with a focus on utilizing networked distribution systems
built on what I will call "integrators" throughout our acquisition system.
Integrators are individuals who have both mid-level (working-level)
positional authority and personal power. They are located in (or touch
directly) every functional and organization segment of our acquisition
>"Acquisition Reform" was our first meme, of course. The Department of
Defense has been reforming for years, so what was so different about this?
I could write a treatise on this, and certainly there is no single answer
(Congressional budget cuts, threat change, alignment of leaders, fear =85)
but if there was ONE thing that could be said to be the most important
catalyst of change, it is the sharing of innovative ideas =85 granted howbei=
in a fertile environment.
>Let me provide one example. We began a "Change Through Ex-Change" (a
meme) process. This was a formal, three-month long process to facilitate
the exchange of innovative ideas across our stovepiped program structure.
The Assistant Secretary formally called for one or two innovative ideas
from each of our programs. These were collected, organized and set up in
easily searchable formats on the web and on CD. The people who were
actually implementing the innovative ideas served as POCs. Each POC and
the senior leaders of our commands were invited to particpate in a formal
conference =85 six were selected to brief their ideas, and additional reps
from across our organization were also invited. The Deputy Undersecretary
of Defense opened up the event (and had personally spent the weekend
reading every one of the several hundred ideas netted through this
process), and a full hour and a half was spent with our senior leaders
talking with the POCs whose ideas caught their attention. Now what became
even more important was the continuation of this exchange =85 by hooking in
VTC, we had remote sites tied into the event, by distributing videos, we
reached our workforce world-wide. Before the end of the event, our
ASN(RDA) charged every person who was attending, indeed, every program to
follow up on at least two ideas. Over the next year, there were 17 Change
Through Ex-Change mini conferences (with new ideas) sponsored by the major
commands to continue the process across their programs. The following year
we repeated the process. [In fact, when I think about it this process was
truly an imprint of the replication, variation and selection loop =85 we can
actually trace the spreading (application) of those memes throughout the
workforce with, of course, variation, depending on the program.) I used
some thoughts about memes and the science of memetics when I introduced
that first conference, and built on those words the next year. While I set
about producing memes, I told the workforce exactly what I was about, and
charged them with selecting the right memes to replicate.
>I could go on and on. It has been a busy four years, and the Navy-Marine
Corps acquisition system is certainly complex. At any rate, you've heard
from the deckplates. I'm collecting data and noting patterns, and look
forward to spending several more years learning from the rich dialogue
spurred on via the internet. =20
> Alex Bennet
>P.S. I am particularly intrigued with the relationship between individual
value sets and organizational values and meme receptivity. =20

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