21 August 2014

Testing Future Concepts of War

This post continues the Twitter based professional conversation between military leaders in the United States and faculty and students at Kings College in London. If you’re interested in participating just “tweet” your response with #CCLKOW

In February 2013, Lieutenant General (then Major General) McMaster spoke at the Maneuver Ball at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. During his remarks, he said leaders needed to develop their own personal theories of war .He challenged the leaders in the room to study the various theories of war in order to better understand them and to also compliment our study with professional discussion which will help to challenge and refine our own personal theories as they develop. 

So how do we as a military organization (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) challenge our theories and refine “organizational” thinking?

In the book “Seeing What Others Don’t” Gary Klein lists flawed beliefs as one of several reasons we miss insights. He gives several examples of researchers and analysts that were resistant to new data missing key insights that led others to develop a new and correct understanding of the problem they were working on.

Organizations also have flawed beliefs and are good at ignoring data that they see as problematic and threatening. Thus,as the military prepares for future conflict, how are concepts of war tested and validated?

In his article titled Military Innovation Through ‘Brilliant Mistakes’ Andrew Hill writes that “..the Army should be relentless in identifying emerging gaps as it prepares for future conflict” and calls this “anomaly seeking”. He goes on to state that every wargame, and simulation that involves other nations and adversaries, presents an opportunity to discover an anomaly. However, he cautions, “..All of that is pointless if we have not determined what information would cause us to question our assumptions.”.

That brings us to the questions for discussion:

How can army leaders create conditions that are conducive for individuals to challenge our current assumptions about war and warfare?

What are some of the different ways the Army can explore new ideas and concepts of war that challenge current capabilities?

Jonathan Silk is a Major in the U.S. Army. He has served as a Cavalry Scout platoon leader , and has commanded both a Tank Company and an Infantry Company. He is currently an Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at the United States Army Military Academy, West Point, NY. He was a recipient of the calendar year2009 General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.

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