During the early days of the Iraq and Afghanistan war, the British and US military realized that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were going to be more that just a troublesome nuisance in their pursuit of military objectives.
To counter the increasing number of casualties from IEDs - both individual and vehicle targeted - the US and British challenged their military innovation departments to develop equipment that could better protect soldiers on patrol.
The result was an interesting smorgasbord of innovative ideas that were pitched to the military, ranging from specially designed IED resistant vehicles to Boeing's sci-fi Plasma Protection Field that would surround a vehicle during an IED explosion.
One invention that fell under the radar (get it?) was bomb proof underwear, designed by the British military. The design came from the requests of soldiers on the ground who had first hand witness the destructive damage could cause to one's genitalia.
The product ended up being a big bust for several reasons including cost to manufacture, lack of reusability (how do you wash them?) and the obvious fact that unless you build the underwear out of metal, nothing is really going to protect your junk. The last and most describing reason was that the under garment contained spandex and polyester which would melt and stick to the skin during an IED attack causing more damage than good (ouch).
While it's almost impossible to predict the next innovative idea that will change the course of war (or your career), it is worth noting that a certain direction of thinking may assist in a greater chance of a positive outcome.
Let me explain.
Instead of pouring money into protecting soldiers during IED attacks, what if the military pivoted from the defensive to the offensive? What if they doubled down on the idea that IEDs - usually just rudimentary shells tied together with a simple circuit and controlled by a remote, timer or pressure plate - could be defeated by avoiding or destroying them before it's too late?
Undoubtedly the US military has a division of research focused on these issues. The real question is: How much are they investing time and money into these more 'far fetched' solutions?
We often get caught 'behind the ball' in our professional lives and that forces us into an innovative mindset that is always catching up. Sometimes the best solutions are the ones when we look above the fray. It can be difficult, but it's necessary to make large transformational change. Othwersie, you might end up with bomb-proof underwear.