Innovation Training for NATO

The Smurfinators successfully complete the Project Mercury

Through years of searching for the best approach to innovation training, the NATO Innovation Hub has found the most solid structure to work with; Project Mercury. It is now becoming the training reference for all members of the NATO Innovation Network (NIN).

Project Mercury, born from a collaboration between the U.S. Air Force and the University of Michigan, provides participants with a structured, easy-to-follow path leading to a realistic innovative solution.

Focused on providing a solid work structure to promote innovative ideas, Project Mercury guides its participants to identify and solve priority issues relevant to their organization. This is achieved over a 13-week online training leveraging hands-on teamwork. During this time, participants will form a team, find a sponsor, and agree upon developing an innovative solution. By the end, participants will have designed a viable solution concept for the identified issue.

“Smurfinators” was the name chosen by NATO’s first team to take part in Project Mercury. Formed by a small, diverse, and nimble group of 6, from Allied Command Transformation and Air Command, the Smurfinators tackled areas of improvement within NATO. Their goal was to develop a more efficient and flexible work environment through improving information sharing. 

“A framework that teaches academic and real-world skills for innovation in an excellent and scalable way,” states Jeroen Franssen, Lt. Col. of the Belgian Army at NATO Innovation Hub. 

The framework’s dynamic nature allows team members to shift their focus according to the most critical issues, creating a smooth way of working around problems without getting stuck on a particular topic.

It also requires participants to network, and gather different ideas and perspectives that will be useful when solving future innovation challenges.

Because Mercury allows for a large amount of personalization, any NATO member can shape it according to their most relevant challenges.

After the training of the Smurfinators, Project Mercury will be offered to all the other national innovation entities composing the NATO Innovation Network. 

“Taking part in this training will strengthen the cohesion between NATO Innovation Network members, and support its main goal of spreading the innovation mindset, tools, and techniques across the Alliance,” says Serge Da Deppo, founder of the NATO Innovation Hub.

To make this happen, the 6 ‘Smurfinators’ will now act as coaches for the next cohort of trainees from the NIN.

An additional advantage is that Project Mercury grants its successful participants with the “Certified Innovation Practitioner” certificate that will boost their capability to spread the innovation best practice.

Project Mercury – NATO will run once a year, and be open to all NIN staff, and innovators from the NATO Command Structure.