“What you think, you become”
“We are what we frequently do”
There has been a lively and still evolving debate in the milblogosphere regarding “disruptive thinkers”, starting with Benjamin Kohlman’s post at SWJ whose editor Peter J. Munson has done a fine job steering, collecting and commenting upon. A selection:
The Military Needs More Disruptive Thinkers by Benjamin Kohlman
Disruptive Thinking, Innovation, Whatever You Want to Call It is Needed for a Military in Crisis by Peter J. Munson
What was interesting to me is that many authors and their points had less to do with a close examination of cultivating cognitive skills than related topics of changing organizational culture, the perils of groupthink, rehashing ideas from Frans Johanssen’s The Medici Effect
and John Kao’s Innovation Nation,
the superiority of entrepreneurship,
hidebound military bureaucracy and other tangents to indirectly create an environment in which insightful or innovative behavior might
Only Mike Mazarr
zeroed in to the heart of the matter, writing:
….We need to improve, for example, in the detail and specificity of critical and creative thinking methodologies that we integrate into the curriculum.
There’s nothing wrong -in fact, much to the good – with the call of Kohlman and others like Joan Johnson-Freese to deliberately combine students and faculty of radically different professional backgrounds. Such a personnel mix is a good base for horizontal thinking to take place, where discussions can range across fields generating insights and analogies and accelerating learning.
However, just assembling a broad mix of talent and putting them together in a building is not enough because it is not any more goal oriented than a MENSA
social. Good things might happen, sure, but just as easily not. This is why DARPA
is a lot more productive of an organization on an annual basis than the Institute for Advanced Study
. There needs to be a mixture of problem-solving and play, free inquiry or experimentation and unifying goals. Communities of interest have to first have a sense of community for the vibrantly sharing and inspiring “minds on fire
” effect to take place.
If the military or more broadly, American society, wants a larger number of creative
, innovative, “disruptive”, strategic
or whatever kind of thinker, then the answer is to actively and purposefully teach students creative, critical
and strategic thinking skills and to value intellectual curiosity, skepticism, imagination and empiricism over ideology and conformity. The other indirect, “better environment”, stuff certainly improves your chance of success, but systemic improvement will only come about by making such objectives the focus
of instruction and learning rather than a haphazard byproduct.