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Unlikely (?) Intersections

[by J. Scott Shipman]

“To flourish and grow in a many-sided uncertain and ever changing world that surrounds us, suggests that we have to make intuitive within ourselves those many practices we need to meet the exigencies of that world.” John R. Boyd, Colonel, USAF, Ret (1937-1997), Introduction to Conceptual Spiral Abstract

Friends, I’ve been noodling the intersection of ideas for the last couple of years. Based on the classic Boyd quote above (and other works), I’d offer that:

(1) most of our problems (let’s stick to military) can be derived from a lack of tacit knowledge

(2) a lack of respect/perspective for the differences between tactical and strategic uncertainty.

I’m not suggesting any sort of novel discovery, as I’m standing on the shoulders of several other authors/thinkers, but Boyd’s little introduction manages to provide a scaffold of thought we’d be wise study.

4 Responses to “Unlikely (?) Intersections”

  1. Karlie McWilliams Says:

    I would think that practice as well as tacit knowledge is required to ingrain these practices within ourselves. As for the second point, absolutely, and this one of the hardest lessons for anyone to learn, especially when you’re down in the weeds of the day to day, because it’s very easy to lose site of the bigger picture.

  2. zen Says:

    Hi Scott
    I think there’s a couple of deficits that you can have in an institution regarding tacit knowledge:
    a) There is none because the org is attempting to embark on something new or so old the knowledge has been forgotten (in the case of our military, perhaps purposefully) and everyone is at ground zero of the learning curve.
    b) The deficit is really a case of tacit knowledge being unequally or poorly distributed
    I think “b” is the more frequent problem of the two. There’s a lot of causes: unclear thinking, poor communication both in terms of skills and information flow throughout the org, the opposite of mission command where the purpose is deliberately obscure and subordinates are left to guess or sit paralyzed, information bottlenecks or hoarding in the midpoint of the org, total disconnect between ground truth and strategic leadership

  3. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Understand and concur on both points. Consider that a lack of tacit knowledge has the potential to color every action either positive or negative—depending on the culture and personality. This is sort of a “cool kids” theory of tacit, where it may not be cool to have that sort of intimate knowledge/capability(ies). You see this in schools where it has actually become fashionable to be ignorant. I wonder how much of that mentality has bled-over into especially large organizations where anonymity protects…

  4. Karlie McWilliams Says:

    Chiming in on Mark’s answer, I’ve been looking at the future of urban combat and I think it’s a combination of the two – for the most part, knowledge from Vietnam and WW2 has been forgotten, and relevant knowledge from Iraq hasn’t been well-distributed. The fact that the military is focused on big-scale wars with China, Russia, and the like isn’t helping and contributes to the purposeful forgetting of the knowledge.

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