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Now Using the POINT of the Spear….

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

My esteemed colleague, Michael Tanji, goes knuckles over Think Tank 2.0.

Tanji has my 100 % endorsement.

Early Returns

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

On The John Boyd Roundtable:

Shlok Vaidya:

It has the uniqueness of both being able to touch off debate, but still offer a framework with which to talk about the future of warfare (or more appropriately, decision making) – in other words, it demonstrates exactly how to approach Boyd.

Michael Tanji:

The point, made in a side-discussion between myself and the editor, is that this is yet another way in which TT 2.0 works, and perhaps is an indication that the transition to a 2.0 model is well underway:

  • Virtual discussion (Time? Distance? Ha!)
  • Serious discussants (So much for online not being ‘legit’ or ‘real’)
  • Digital delivery (for the digerati)
  • Dead-tree format (for those who like it like that)

Tanji is correct. One objective here was to bridge the gap between symposium, blog and book. One set of ideas, many modalities.


Sam Liles:

As a book about a book it should also be noted that this not much different than the literary critique found in most academic journals. The bonus is that it isn’t nearly as dry. The article penned by Chet Richards discussing “The origins of John Boyd’s A discourse on winning and loosing” is the kind of in depth research that is hard to find. I am fascinated by his discussion of how the specific philosophies were brought into alignment and filled in the gaps of Boyd’s theories.

I have always been interested in how like some Greek philosopher John Boyd effectively portrayed his ideas and communicated them so diligently and never wrote a book. This is antithetical to today’s world where you write the book then get to convey your ideas if the book sells well.  Lexington Green in “Why didn’t Boyd write a book?” discusses the interactive nearing on Socratic method Boyd used with audiences. The points conveyed provide a true insight into what may be the instantiation of John Boyd’s true genius. The reason Boyd likely didn’t write a book may be so that people could continue to discuss and adapt his ideas into the future. A  point Lexington Green discusses and points out eloquently.

Lex’s essay is one of my favorite parts of the book too.


TDAXP  and TDAXP II   HG’s World    DNI

Tanji’s call for Playing a Prediction Market

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

My CTLab colleague Michael Tanji is calling for participants to play a prediction market built at the old groupintel site.

Sounds good. I did this once before, a few years back with a closed Google Group but my attention wandered when the topics drifted away from my core research interests. I suspect this one will be more to my liking.

Sunday, August 26th, 2007


Justly praising The Small Wars Journal, Kent’s Imperative raises an idea up the flagpole. Who will salute ? “Micheal Tanji…Tanji….Anyone….Anyone ?”

I’ll kick in something of journal quality, outsider’s perspective of course, if that will help fill space. I strongly suggest, however, inviting some ex-DCI’s for the launch issue. Also, Baer, Scheuer, Bearden…. Christopher Andrew or another ” popular” historian of intelligence for name rec, street and academic cred ( umm..maybe Tanji and Scheuer shouldn’t be in the same issue). Mix people on the MSM radar with unknown but great IC insiders.

If you ask 100 and get 10, you’re viable.

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007


I’m preparing to leave town on another trip and find myself overstretched in terms of time but I have to note that Kent’s Imperative had some intriguing posts up ( hat tip to Michael Tanji) , about which I’d like to offer a few comments:

Life at Google from an outside perspective

Aside from seeing how uber-techies live and making me nostalgic about past years of reading defector-dissident Soviet bloc lit, I’d like to highlight this passage regarding a KI suggestion to the IC for personnel reform:

“A chance for line level workers to do the kind of intel they want to do (versus the latest crisis they have been thrown into), at least part of the time? Or to contribute to the literature of intelligence? (Modeled along Google’s 20% time.)”

My unqualified guess is that this would increase the productivity and prescience of the IC by roughly the same proportion that expanding private farming helped the Chinese economy under Deng Xiaoping. People typically generate their most valuable insights about those subjects which they are both curious as well as passionate – i.e. earlier in the learning curve than the status of graybeard authority ( once you think you know everything, you tend to stop learning).

The bar to doing this is not a manpower shortage but a middle-management fear of subordinate autonomy. Forcing a talented subordinate to do irrelevant busywork confirms a manager’s authority and power. Autonomous subordinates who do self-directed productive work tend to confirm the irrelevance of middle-management. Few managers have the psychological wherewithal to be adept facilitators, mentors or coaches of gifted employees as an efficient “management” outlook is an inimical perspective to generating creativity and sustaining ” unproductive” exploration.

Regional versus functional issue accounts

From a historian’s perspective, a cool post ( perhaps less interesting to others). Some historiography, lots of methodology. Money quote/conclusion:

As for our opinions on the great divide between the two kinds of houses, we find ourselves veterans of uniquely transnational issues, having been subject to every manner of surge and task force and working group and crisis cell, in the most unusual of niches. We prefer to see small, aggressive, ad-hoc structures comprised of both analysts and operators from a wide range of issues and regional desks with interests and equities in the same target which overlaps their accounts. Only then, by throwing everything against the wall in a structure short lived enough to avoid its own bureaucracy, and disconnected enough to be (at least partially) immune from the day to day politics within a given agency or office, have we found the kind of answers we sought regarding the great questions of process.

We strongly believe such radically unstable and short lived environments are most effective because they are the very manifestation of Schumpeter’s process of creative destruction. It is certainly no way to create a sinecure, nor even to build a long term career path – but it is the best way we have found to generate new and innovative approaches and answers to hard target problems, and to the problems others have not yet begun to identify let alone address.”

Hear, Hear! Very strong agreement in a John Arqilla-esque vein.

It will happen but not until after several more disasters force that kind of transformation or an unusually bold and subtle visionary implements it on the quiet. There is far too much bureaucratic inertia because the vested interests prefer paralysis in which they hold the reins to successful action where they become recognized for the marginalized support staff they really are.

In my turn, if any KI gents happen upon this post, I suggest they look here. From this acorn of an idea, an oak will grow. Mark my words.

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