Strengthening the intellectual foundation for our profession of arms.
November 26th, 2017 by David Caligari
The land force needs forward-thinkers and innovators to develop the intellectual edge for future conflict. These thinkers are professional soldiers who solve challenging problems to develop our intellectual edge. Placed in one team—the Land Force Insights Team—they are a focal point for developing the land force as the stewards and a catalyst. This team will comprise thinkers from across all ranks and trades and will leverage technology to engage the wider force in dispersed posting locations. The Land Force Insights Team will embrace the information-rich world to solve problems for our decision makers of tomorrow.
Our force will fight in complex and uncertain battlefields. Non-state actors are rapidly developing near-peer capabilities and American-led technological dominance is diminishing. Future conflict will differ to contemporary operations as technology continues to drive change. We must evolve to fight and win. This evolution arrives through deliberate and informed actions derived by innovative thinking and analysis. This is the outcome of the contest of ideas—the forum created by competing ideas against each other to determine the best solution.
The Ryan Review empowered the land force to leverage experience and knowledge to develop our organisation. Blogs have created a digital body of knowledge, which now holds thoughts only considered previously by the ‘few’ at a single mess, not the ‘many’ of today. The Ryan Review has unlocked new levels of engagement that pushes our growth forward, but we can better shape it.
The land force is in many dispersed locations, but brought together by technology. Technology allows individual contributions to be shared, critiqued and validated to guide our growth. This growth is measured as an increase in ‘value’—the land force’s intellectual property. This value is pitted against an adversary through contest on the battlefield. The difference in value is our intellectual edge. It is imperative that the land force expand this intellectual edge.
Solving wicked problems
Generating value for military success is created by solving wicked problems—how to best fight and win. The land force must generate a critical mass of forward-thinkers and innovators to recognise and solve these problems. A wicked problem is a unique problem. These problems require rigorous analysis, diverse perspectives and can be optimally answered by crowd-sourcing for the solution. Crowd-sourcing reduces the time to solve these problems and unearths unique solutions.
Our problem solvers need a home, and our contributors need a destination. The Land Force Insights Team is a core of professional soldiers drawn from across the force. They meet virtually to discuss and debate critical concepts and are enabled by access to the international community’s academic forums, and offer their thoughts to others. They will use this exposure to ignite debate and promote collaboration. Figure 1 highlights that the Land Force Insights Team will offer a solution, then make it available to be scrutinised, critiqued and refined. The Land Force Insights Team will then package the optimal solution to guide our future growth.
The world is information rich, it needs many minds to be harnessed. The land force does not have thousands of staff in dedicated ‘concept development’ jobs to harness this information; it doesn’t even have dozens. It is critical to get the best out of our soldiers posted around the world. This has analogues in the civilian world—in 2012, US scientists gave millions access to the Hubble Space Telescope images. These astronomers, most working in their own time, classified thousands of images, with errors corrected by aggregating the solutions of hundreds of users. We can harness the same willingness in our own people to participate in developing our intellectual edge.
The Land Force Insights Team will make their thoughts, ideas and concepts public, contestable and interactive. Through technology, this team will share the problems and invite the land force to contribute. This team is the steward and the catalyst for developing our intellectual edge. The land force has motivated and interested professional soldiers; they want to be engaged and to think about the future of our profession, and they have lots to offer—the Land Force Insights Team is the vehicle.
The complex and uncertain world requires an evolution in how the land force solves wicked problems. Our force is comprised of professional soldiers that are better connected and better informed than ever before. They have much to give and can shape our growth. Crowd-sourcing solutions will encourage them to contribute and develop our intellectual edge. The technology is now available to realise this dream, we just have to select the people to champion our future.
CAPT David Caligari is the Training Officer, Depot Company at the School of Infantry. He is also a Contributing Editor to Grounded Curiosity.