TO THINK STRATEGICALLY YOU MUST THINK SYSTEMICALLY
Albert Einstein spent his later years grasping at a way to present a neat, comprehensive, unified theory of physics that could explain the nature of the universe. He did not succeed, no at that time could have, though some physicists believe they are on the right track to do so. Einstein's technique, viewing the whole field as a single interconnected system, remains the most valuable one for thinking strategically because it forces the strategist to consider the implications of each move from every angle. What do I mean by systemic thinking ? Some examples:Stuart Berman
has applied Dr. Barnett's
PNM theory to develop an analysis of internet security as a total system, asking in his presentation, if we are vulnerable to a " Cyber 9-11 "
. ( Take the time to view the powerpoint - the first part reviews PNM, the latter section applies it to cybersecurity) It's an appropriate question because we know that most states but most energetically China are experimenting with cyberwarfare as a way to balance the scales with the United States by gaining the capacity to " blind" the hyperadvanced, netcentric warfare
capabilities of the Pentagon. The Chinese have also launched cyberattack experiments against Taiwan
in turn has been examining the disconnect that occurs when the engineering of complex human systems takes place:
a) When the designers are far removed from the political decision makers
- a severing of vision from power.
b) When the designers do not take into account that the success of their system naturally is going to have consequences
, forseeable as well as unintended. Or as Pundita put it:"With hindsight, the decisions--taken without modeling how they would play out if successful--were idiotic. The knowledge about how to project scenarios was out there; it simply wasn't used. That's the kind of idiocy in government we can, and must, learn to avert. That is the greatest challenge for this era."
Herman Kahn would have agreed. And finally Pundita calls for the development of a formal discipline of large-scale system design
Some strategists have thought along these lines, notably Sun-Tzu
and his modern disciple John Boyd
, the father of the OODA decision cycle. For moderns this kind of thinking requires a retraining - perhaps causing a neural rewiring - of brains educated to habitually compartmentalize, isolate, deconstruct and analyze knowledge into vertical
hierarchies of information. What is needed is the horizontal
thinking exemplified by Barnett's PNM theory - synthesis, pattern recognition, analogies, intuition - to cut across the artificial boundaries we have raised for ourselves to see the connections and the overarching meta-principles that make the global system run.
Or break down.