Don Vandergriff: Raising The Bar – Creating & Nurturing Adaptability To Deal With The Changing Face Of War

As John Schmidt described in Command and (Out of) Control: The Military Implications of Complexity Theory, when applying the complexity theory to war:7 “The great Prussian military theorist-philosopher Carl von Clausewitz was an avid amateur scientist who relied heavily and explicitly on the physical sciences to provide metaphors for his military concepts. Two of his greatest and most enduring concepts – friction and the center of gravity – come straight out of the science of the day. Of course, science for Clausewitz was a Newtonian science. The Newtonian paradigm is the mechanistic paradigm: the world and everything in it as a giant machine. The preferred Newtonian metaphor is the clock, consisting of finely tooled gears meshing smoothly and precisely, ticking along predictably, measurably and reliably, keeping perfect time.”

“the TA should always encourage the student to treat the situation as if he or she were living it. In many of the scenario events, the student has literally fractions of a second to react, and allowing each one to ponder the situation for hours reduces the benefits of the exercise. Spontaneity is the key. Teachers must tell the student leader that the first reaction is probably the best one. Again, this is a good tool to build character, especially when a student’s course of action is being attacked by the rest of the class. After the TDG is conducted, the TA should require the student to defend his or her course of action. No matter what the course of action, if the student thinks he or she is right, the teachers must require him or her to defend it.”

“However, this does not imply that the use of traditional, Industrial Age testing techniques should be continued, because those techniques only reinforce rote memorization. These negative techniques include “true or false” questioning, “fill-in the blank” or “multiple-choice” examinations. However, cadre like to save time by using these linear evaluation techniques. They also provide quick feedback to the tested student, the cadre, and the chain of command when utilized for reports and Power Point slides. But these teaching techniques cheat the student because they focus on short-term results. Since “knowledge” and “social judgment” are also part of the traits of adaptability, continual observations and evaluations of how a leader chooses to communicate decisions to subordinates or to inform the chain of command must occur. If leaders do not communicate decisions effectively to their subordinates or units, it makes no difference whether they are decisive or timely. Thus, teachers should use essay-based evaluations in the classroom. The use of essays will require that teachers have a firm grasp on the English language, grammar and style, and essays will also take more time to evaluate, but in the end they will provide a much deeper sense of the students’ educational progress. What should teachers look for in evaluating student leaders? A teacher should look for leadership failures that suggest weak character. For instance, if a student changes his original decision in order to go along with the instructor-recommended solution, or if the student stays with a poor or out-of-date decision from higher authority simply because that is what “higher” told him to do, teachers should mark these traits as a failure. The worst thing a student could do is to make no decision at all.”


“Current Army instructional approaches lack opportunities for experiencing the emotional trauma of failing within a safe environment – something that is needed to promote maturity.” … “The Army’s highly technical environment and its mission to fight uncertain and complex foes in the 21st century demands that the emphasis from the outset be on growing by “learning to learn,” and not learning information alone.”

“allowed to fail, as long as they show signs of learning, and do not repeat mistakes (those who made a mistake in the act of doing something will attempt to explain why they made their error); and pushed to seek answers, and to produce adaptive leaders familiar with tasks that may comprise their solutions to tactical and non-tactical problems. They understand how to employ tasks together to solve problems.”


By Eric Patton

Well look down Yonder Gabriel, put your feet on the
land and see

But Gabriel don't you blow your trumpet till you hear
from me

There ain't no grave can hold my body down

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s