To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, the Intelligence Community must constantly develop new tools and techniques that give us an advantage. Innovation encompasses more than just technology: it's about challenging the ways we see the world and the processes we use in our day-to-day work. It's about doing our work in the most efficient way possible so we get the most timely and relevant information possible. Our work enables our armed services and national leaders to make sound decisions for our country.

While individual IC elements innovate for their specific situations, the IC as a whole approaches innovation according to a set of common principles: need, collaboration, creativity, and value.

Need

Our goal is not innovation for innovation's sake; it's innovation as a means to support mission and deliver the best possible product to our customers with the ultimate goal of keeping America safe.

Every innovation-related effort—whether it's a process change or a desire for new technical tool—starts with the identification of a legitimate need. What problem do we need to address? How could we be more effective? What products are we making and how can we make them better? Should we keep making those products or is a new product needed? How can we learn what our adversaries are doing? How can we thwart their activities?

Along with every need come ideas of different ways to address it. We prioritize those ideas based on several factors, including urgency of need, scope of benefit (i.e., how much benefit will we gain by addressing this need in this way), feasibility, anticipated research and development time, relevant past or current work, and financial and other resources required. We want to invest our resources to address the most urgent and beneficial needs even while casting a wide net to encourage all types of innovative ideas.

Collaboration

History has proven time and again that applying diverse viewpoints to a problem develops stronger solutions than trying to address the problem in a vacuum. We complement the experience and expertise of the IC workforce with partnerships with industry, academia, non-profit organizations, and other government agencies. Together, we can maximize resources, test theories, and leverage a wider range of ideas and technologies than would be available to any single group working alone.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), part of ODNI, demonstrates our commitment to collaboration. IARPA works with all IC elements to address our most challenging problems that can be solved with science and technology. IARPA also funds researchers outside the IC through public challenges with cash prizes, grants, and traditional contracts. In this way, IARPA supplements individual IC elements' efforts by collaborating on behalf of the entire IC to solve pressing challenges.

Creativity

Intelligence might be one of the oldest professions in the world but it has never been conventional. Creativity is required every day to do our jobs effectively and we use that creativity to develop innovative solutions to intelligence challenges.

Innovation requires imagination, vision, an unconventional way of seeing problems and solutions, and an ability to apply existing technology, processes, and tools in novel, unexpected ways. It requires spotting hidden patterns and making connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena.

IC history is replete with examples of creative applications of ideas, products, and tools to help us collect intelligence. While many must remain classified, some are on display to the public in the online CIA Museum gallery.

Value

True innovation must not only satisfy a specific need, it must also be delivered at an economical cost. It involves deriving greater or more efficient value from resources. It delivers lasting value on a sizeable, measurable scale.

Within the IC, this means that innovation must have a noticeable, positive impact on our ability to collect, process, and analyze information that ultimately results in a better product for our customers. Innovation must deliver real value by enhancing our ability to accomplish our national security mission.