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Peter Denning, PhD

Distinguished Professor, Computer Science
Chair - Computer Science Department, Director - Cebrowski Institute for Innovation

Denning has been a leading engineer and scientist in computing since his graduation from MIT in 1968, where he discovered the locality principle for how computations access storage objects and from it invented the influential working set model for program behavior. Amongst his many achievements, he contributed important extensions to operational analysis, co-founded CSNET, and led the Digital Library project for the Association for Computing Machinery. He was also the founding Director of the Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science (RIACS) at NASA-Ames, one of the first centers in computational science. Denning held academic teaching and research roles at Princeton, Purdue and George Mason University before joining the Naval Postgraduate School in 2002. At NPS, he currently leads the Innovation Project, which is devoted to understanding innovation as emergence around contingencies and teaching innovation as a skill set that mobilizes people into emerging new practices. He also currently leads the Great Principles of Computing project, which has gathered and focused the timeless basic principles of computing, contributed to a new image and respect for computing, and seeded the national movement to revamp the high school AP Curriculum and the development of CS principles courses at major universities.

As one of the instructors for the Innovation Leadership course, what do you think NPS’ greatest strengths are when it comes to changing the military’s mindset about innovation and innovation adoption?

A great strength is the willingness of many students to learn the skills necessary to bring their innovations into adoption in their communities. With the skills we teach they can navigate the bureaucracies that tend to block changes and impede innovations. Our students will be the ones who change the "military mindset.” The goal is to make the Navy and Marine Corps more agile. We are already pretty agile here at NPS. Our students are bringing agile methods to their communities.


How can collaboration between Silicon Valley and NPS enhance innovation and adoption of emerging tech/capabilities for the U.S. Military?

Collaboration is good when it builds on each other's ideas and produces a better outcome than either alone. The main mechanism available to us is the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), which are difficult to set up because government IP rules differ from private industry.


Why is it important for NPS to develop partnerships and networks in order to maintain and drive America’s competitive advantage in this new world? 

One important skill for doing that is to learn to identify influential "voices" in the community and listen to what they are saying, even if you don't agree with them. Their assessments about what is happening reveal the directions of movement, and their declarations of new possibilities create new movement.


As we cross the threshold of celebrating NPS’ 70 years in Monterey, what are your hopes for the institution as it heads into the future? 

I'd like to see the institution strengthen the partnership between the faculty, the command administration, and the Navy leaders who set policy.

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