Defense Department (DoD) Deputy Chief Data Officer James Cully today emphasized the importance of keeping an open mind about how to work greater data capabilities into technology solutions as the Pentagon moves forward to execute on its data strategy released earlier this month.

Speaking at a virtual event organized by FCW, Cully said he has been crafting technology strategies at DoD for the past 12 years, and offered advice about how to arrive at good tech solutions to particularly thorny problems.

As an example of how to focus AI resources to a particular problem, he said “the faster you can define the core issue at the heart of the process, the faster you may be able to make progress.”

But, he added, technology challenges “often masquerade as people or organizational problems.” In light of that, he offered that the first step in the process should be to “step back and make sure you are solving the right problem … begin with correct and precise problem-framing.”

“Then keep an open mind,” Cully advised. “Sometimes, we are too opinionated … so we assume the outcome” of a problem, and ignore new facts that come up along the way, he said.

“There seems to be an academic priesthood on technology issues,” and challenging that can “be like starting a theological war,” and lead to thinking that is too brittle, Cully said. The antidote to that problem, he said, involves “humility … and keeping an open mind” on technology solutions.

At the CDO office, Cully said “we are very excited to dig into these thorny problems and get to work.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.