Lieutenant Kristen Wheeler is a proud prior enlisted Surface Warfare Officer. More than that she is a passionate leader and a phenomenal human being. A true talent magnet and multiplier with an eye for opportunity, I am pleased to be a part of what she fondly refers to as a shared tribe of fellow dancing bees…

I graduated from high school in 1995, the tail end of Generation X. For those who paid attention to music videos in the early and mid-90s, you may remember the Blind Melon video with the little bee girl. It begins with her attempting to showcase her passion (dancing) to an audience that literally laughs her off the stage. She runs away and into society, dancing for people who end up puzzled by her talent and talking to a homeless man who just needed a friend. She walks the streets, searching for her place. And then, behind a black rod iron gate… her tribe… a merry band of dancing bees… her tribe. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about… here’s the link.

I’ve been lucky enough to get the opportunity to spend seven months on the Naval Innovation Advisory Council, a new initiative that was birthed from the Secretary of the Navy’s Strategy and Innovation.  This opportunity became available because of network of likeminded people (my fellow dancing bees) that believe that our Navy’s potential for continued epic greatness as we transition through this age of uncertainty.

We are at the threshold of a new era on our planet. The world is changing rapidly on a daily basis. Those who remember a time before Google have seen the incredible trajectory humanity is now on when it comes to not only the prolific amount of information generated, but also the rapid pace at which news is shared. Social networks have redefined our cultural interaction with one another, and current technology exists in fields such as autonomy, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and ‘The Internet of Things’.

This has created an inflection point in our history, where two mindsets often clash… those who wish to remain in the comfort of the past and present and those who see fortune, opportunity, and awe in what is yet to be.

Out of those who embrace the uncertain future, a tribe has emerged. These likeminded folks who believe that the only way for our great Navy to not die off in the pages of history books, is to evolve and grow. These people inspire me every time we talk and work towards solutions. These tribe members are the keepers and shapers of our future.

A recent experience clouded my newfound attitude and inspiration, and led me to a conversation with a fellow tribe member. That made me appreciate even more fully, and distinctly the power and value of not just the tribe, but how it compares to the concept of a “team”. My tribal elder (though not old in any fashion), waded through all these ungrounded “gut-feels” of mine and posed a series of questions on which I was to marinate. I’ve added some to his list, as well.

  • Define team.
  • Who is on this team?
  • What is the goal of the team?
  • Has your team rejected you?
  • Define tribe.
  • Who is in the tribe?
  • What is the goal of the tribe?
  • Has your tribe rejected you?

After thinking on those questions, clarity began to seep back into my thoughts, dissipating the clouds of insecurity, confusion, rejection, and negativity.  I was reminded that the tribe is beyond the team. I’ve been expecting the team (any team for that matter) to connect, collaborate, and inspire the way the tribe does. And at the end of the day, the tribe is the band of brothers and sisters that have chosen to assemble through thought, word, and deed… beyond the confines of a constructed team… with a passion and talent for making it rain.

Perhaps one day we can have so many tribe members, that our constructed teams will naturally take on the same superior attributes of the tribe. I know my mind will be chewing on this one for a while, with a desire to understand what is it about the tribe that breeds philosophical discourse and collaboration. I never grow weary watching tribe members riff with such harmony that inevitably produces a full symphony under a brilliant display of fireworks.