Leadership in Wildfire: Innovation: Disturbances

(This is the third in a four-part series.)

Last week, I wrote about the interaction between leaders and innovation. This week we are focusing on the disturbances. The inspiration for this blog comes from a statement by Steven Justice – Advanced Development Programs, Lockheed Martin RET.

When you stand in the future and look back, you are not bound by what you currently know. Drag the future into the present. A truly innovative idea is disruptive, especially if a legacy system is in place.


"Disturbance" – disruption or problems that interrupt an event, activity or process. (Google Dictionary)

On November 17, 1968, the NFL experienced disruption of all disturbances. A decision by the television executives to televise the movie "Heidi" instead of showing the end of the match between the Jets and the Raiders would change the way the games are televised.

Watch the video of the Decades television network about this infamous game.

One of the biggest upheavals of all time is one of the greatest thinkers and innovators on this planet, Leonardo da Vinci. Aside from his masterpieces, most of his works have been publicly known only hundreds of years after his death.

The video of SciShow Great Minds: Leonardo da Vinci tells a wonderful story of trouble.

As a student of leadership, we know that there are periods of enlightenment and periods of darkness. Great thinkers like Da Vinci see what the ordinary eye does not have or are so curious that they think and dig beyond what society considers "normal". Da Vinci has deconstructed birds to understand flight and corpse to understand how the human body works. Some may have thought crazy. Like monday quarterbacks, we call him brilliant. Much of what Vinci envisioned in the areas of engineering and medical innovation came too early. His conclusions were not urgent. No problem to solve. No apparent disturbance. The Renaissance was about art, and it did well.

Fast forward: Today, we are talking about renewable energy and climate change. We have a border crisis and more jobs than people who want to provide them (including wildfires). But … is there a disturbance? Do we need to innovate? Is there a sense of urgency or are those who sound trumpets considered crazy by some parts of society?

Wildland Fire Challenge – dig a little further

Consider the following statement of Blackbird – A legacy of innovation

After the success, there is a period of incessant incrementalism (resting on your laurels or gradual improvement) – a threat to the mission; you do not want to do the same things over and over again. Look for escape capabilities (that's what we're looking for in innovation) – Sean Roche, Associate Deputy Director, CIA, Digital Innovation

  • Has the forest fire department reached a stage of gradual improvement?
  • Do we do the same things over and over again and expect different results?
  • Is the weather conducive to the emergence of escape capabilities?

I challenge you to lead the way in a new and better forest fire service. Do not be chicken can be da Vinci!
Rewind: If you've forgotten parts 1 and 2 of our series, be sure to watch them and watch the Blackbird – Legacy of Innovation trailer.

Pam McDonald is Writer / Editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and
Workforce Development and NWCG Leadership Subcommittee member.
The expressions are those of the author.