Andy Stumpf on the Theory of Innovation

Andy Stumpf, Man on a Mission.

The Theory of Innovation

In anticipation of the inaugural Thin Air Innovation Festival, we sat down with several of our panelists and speakers, all thought leaders in their field, to get their thoughts on innovation.

Lt. (retired) Andy Stumpf is a veteran Navy SEAL with over a decade of combat service experience. He served 10 tours of duty and has a record of merit including five Bronze Star Medals (four with Valor), a Purple Heart, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corp Commendation Medal (with Valor), Army Commendation Medal, two Combat Action Ribbons, and a Presidential Unit Citation. While on deployment in Iraq, he was wounded in 2005. As a result of his injuries, the doctors told him he might never have the use of his leg again. After a yearlong rehab regiment including overcoming a reliance on painkillers, he recovered not only the ability to walk unassisted, but returned to full active duty and continued combat deployments.

Now retired from service, Andy continues to serve his country through raising funds and awareness for the Navy Seal Foundation, which plays a vital role in helping the families of SEALs who have made the ultimate sacrifice. He recently broke the world record for the longest wing suit jump under canopy flying nearly 19 miles in one jump from an elevation of approximately 36,000 feet in a goal to raise $1 million for Navy SEAL Foundation. Andy is the founder of Razor 01 LLC, a consulting firm dedicated to teaching the lessons learned from over a decade of sustained combat in Special Operations to the leaders and managers of corporate America.

How do you define Innovation?

Innovation to me is about forward progress. It is about looking at the current situation and then moving forward, maybe only one inch at a time. Before you know it, you have something new and unique. That principle applies to everything from physical training to product development. As long as the needle is moving, the innovation is continuing.

How are you inspired by innovation?

Every time I see someone do something new, or breathtaking, it inspires me to push harder. I truly believe that we are limited only by the self-imposed confines of our mind. When I see others innovating, pushing the needle, doing what was previously said to be undoable, it motivates and inspires me to do more.

How do you inspire innovation in others?

I think the best way to inspire others to be not only innovative, but creative, it to support them. It is the same theory I take with my kids. I don’t want to place boundaries on what they think is possible. I want them to explore, ask questions, make mistakes, and most importantly, learn from those mistakes. When people ask me how I have accomplished things in my life, I tell them the truth….I listen to my heart, and what I know I am capable of, not someone else telling me what they think I am capable of. If you can release the burden of being concerned with others opinions and their externally imposed limitations, the boundaries for personal innovation are limitless.

What is the most innovative project you’ve been involved with?

I can’t think of any one project that truly stands out. I spent many years working on small projects, where we focused on incremental improvement as opposed to drastic redesign. I have been involved with innovative projects with firearms, parachutes, diving equipment, navigational equipment, and everything in between.

What is the future of innovation?

Given the access to information and collaborative power now available, I think we will see innovation taking steps forward in leaps and bounds. It seems that improvements that would normally take 5-10 years are now occurring in 2-3. I think the timelines will continue to compress as systems and technology continually improve. People forget the IPhone only came out in 2007, look how far similar technology has progressed in that time.

Join Andy, and other leaders in innovation at the Thin Air Innovation Festival in Park City, Utah, April 6-8. For tickets and more information, please visit

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