My take on the problem with force management is that it has been treated as a complicated problem, suitable for central planning (PPBES) and not as a complex problem, rife with social & political context, in a dynamic state where the variables change parameters far faster than the planned decision cycles. Consequently, we never get what we planned for, it’s always too costly and the steady-state never is.
My suggestion that FM be treated with design, as a complex problem, would engage with fundamental questions of the purpose of the Army and process by which it is designed, fielded and sustained. I’d argue against an Archimedean perspective because that’s what has led us to the cumbersome, over-planned, under-executing Byzantine bureaucracy we have in place. The owner/operators (ie operational career field “end-users”) have generally stayed outside of the process and have let the “experts” run this system. I argue for them to be part of the FM process, and thus believe design-thinking is needed in order to get the Army you want.
I consider it to be complex, and not just complicated, because of the multiple actors, time frames, values, purposes that combine to resemble March’s “garbage can decision making model” w
A rather longish discussion of how social, political and “unplanned” FM can be is here: http://usacac.army.mil/blog/blogs/dlro/archive/2008/11/24/a-reflection-on-army-force-structure-decision-making-from-1995-1996-passing-on-the-bct-based-army.aspx
I am naturally skeptical about charismatic leaders, but I have seen its power in action.
He spoke in a very relaxed manner, hardly the tone you might expect for a guy getting ready to take on the most politically sensitive mission around, one frought with peril, and which could go wrong in a thousand different, easily imaginable ways
It was surprisingly intimate moment, as he spoke humorously with and about his aide de camp and some of the other majors in his morning running group
he spoke frankly about the challenges ahead and the values we were going to use to see our way thru the fog and danger.
after about 10 minutes there was a palpable feeling that we were in good hands at the top and that we were going to prevail, and that if there a way thru the forest we were going to find it
it was the opposite of demagoguery, yet charismatic in its own way in that it was authentic, and appropriate and somehow “fit” who we all were at that moment in time
So, I am intrigued by charisma, where it comes from, how it works, why it works, and all that jazz
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Reflecting on self-directed leadership in a military college environment (an action research approach)
The purpose of this assignment is reflect upon my learning through this course and to describe what I am doing to provide for the development of leadership capabilities in those who look to me for direction and guidance. My professional work centers on preparing Army organizational leaders for a world of complexity and uncertainty, and specifically in designing a teachable curriculum that satisfies both the accreditation system and the needs of individual students and faculty. As a result of many cycles of action research involving a variety of stakeholders, I have been designing curriculum that seeks to maximize the opportunities for student and faculty Voice in all phases of the classroom experience, including: design, preparation, delivery, assessment and follow-through. Because the strategy represents a significant shift from the traditional methodology, I am finding many leadership challenges and opportunities throughout the program. I will explore a number of important themes and strategies in this paper.
Chaos and complexity theory point towards a need for multiple points of view and an accommodating culture and practice in order to account for uncertainty in the world. Leaders set the stage for an organization that seeks to thrive under these conditions and therefore become primary leverage points in setting the conditions for success. Because our students are not objects at a distance, not third-party objects of study but rather thinking, feeling human beings with insights and experiences and discretion, we have shifted our design team composition to include routinely groups of students in the form of focus groups and co-researchers in the action research tradition. Incorporating students in the design of lessons that will be taught that academic year represents a paradigm shift.
I am shifting our feedback system to incorporate more qualitative assessments from both faculty and students. This is a departure from our standard practice of relying exclusively on quantitative instruments. Our new feedback system for programmatic assessment is much more from the mixed methods tradition, which seems to me to be central in going forward in our efforts to understand and appreciate complexity. My intent is that the mixed methods approaches in the classroom will expose students and faculty to this methodology as a way to prepare them with a useful tool beyond the boundaries of the college environment.
I am systematically pursuing outreach and connections with faculty and curriculum designers from other teaching departments in order to establish a network-centric approach to integrated curriculum design. This is taking the form of a leaderless, self-directed workgroup, with group norms and processes emerging to take the place of formal assigned individual hierarchical leadership. This self-directed work group presents recommendations of consensus to the traditional leadership of the College and is proving to be more and more influential with each successful project.
Because collaborative and adaptive leadership represents a shift in the cultural and operational perspective of the college, students and faculty, it is necessary to build up a resource and reference base that can be used to justify and support our inquiries. We are building a set of wiki’s and blogs that are interactive in order to prepare for our new lineup of lessons, to support collaborative learning inside the lessons dynamically, to document the results of our in class inquiry and to expand the knowledge base both for future lessons and for the field force in general. There is evidence to show that our students and faculty are getting the hang of this technique. This is reshaping the way we approach lesson preparation and our resource base and it is carrying over into our distance learning and remote site teaching strategy. Remote site teachers now have access to our growing experience base on the wiki and blog and can use that in their classroom for air where they do not possess personal experience and expertise.
Finally, I am working with interested others in formalizing our new approaches into college policy and SOP in order to lock in our games in the college’s infrastructure. Without these changes, initiatives are only as enduring as the energy of the interested parties. By incorporating them into our explicit rules and policies, we can institutionalize changes and ratchet our way towards success.
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remember that Hunt is writing his synthesis in 1996, and he comes from the leadership discipline, not education or cognitive neuroscience. He is good when it comes to synthesizing existing literature, but his excursions into the future of “what-if” are not very convincing.
There has been a lot of important work done on the very issues of rationality vs intuition, on (control & prediction) vs (emergence & adaptation), but it hasnt come from the land of leadership.
I have been doing a ton of research in this area, and in fact the limitations of rationality, and the implications for leaders, leadership skills, organizations and culture, strategic planning and operational execution are precisely the reason i started this program.
my mission is to figure out what leaders need to know, be, and do to manage problems & opportunities outside of the bounds of rationality and convention, and then design and deliver a teachable curriculum that prepares students and faculty for fuzzy situations and coalitions. where goals, cultures, standards, criteria, resources, time horizons are much closer to chaos than order, and with no interest among the stakeholders to move away from the apparent chaos.
I take Heifetz as representative of the state of leadership which has apparently spent the last 2 decades trying to micro-refine the individual models of leadership, and which in my opinion have been left behind by the nature of the challenges for organizations. Even seen as a consultants handbook, Heifetz is comfortably situated inside conventional, stable organizations trying to tweak their way to success.
Back to your point.
The rationality vs intuition debate is best developed from the world of decision-making and cognition. The essential and representative authors to read are Gerd Gigerenzer & Gary Klein, on intuition and heuristic decisionmaking. William Poundstone’s “Labyrinths of Reason” is an excellent introduction to the limitations of rationality. James March on decision-making systems is foundational. Mintzberg is pretty good on recognizing the implications Tversky & Kahneman’s Nobel prize winning work on cognitive biases and behavioral finance is the top level theory basis (spanning 40 years), and all of these guys connect back to the incomparable Herb Simon’s bounded rationality from the 1940s, and which still is some of the best writing and thinking in this area.
The most promising area of current research is found in the fields of emergence, chaos and complexity theory (including complex adaptive systems) but there are miles to go to connect these ideas to the leadership disciplines
So, i think Hunt was intuiting that something else was needed, but hadn’t connected to that body of work.
There is another whole discipline that’s waiting to be incorporated: education, especially adult education, and that’s where i seem to be centered: in the preparation of leaders for these new demands/considerations, while satisfying the constraints of an accreditation system which values certainty, objectivity and standardization.
it seems to me that education lags about 20-25 years behind the cutting edge, as accreditation’s fascination with certainty, objectivity and standardization reflects what was thought to be essential in business and commerce 2 decades ago. So education is just discovering that which the rest of the world is abandoning (or at least moving well beyond)
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It’s not “survival of the fittest” in the wild, it is extinction of the unfit & toleration of the “good enough” which promotes a broad gene pool. A broad gene pool gives us the adaptive flexibility to adjust to “black swan” events, (Taleb).
well, our educational system should seek to promote that kind of diversity in outreach, methods, programs etc and not just short-sidedly focus on how to efficiently pass the next round of standardized tests which are geared for the immediate environment, but which leave us uneducated for the possibilities of an infinitely rich future
there are many skills, habits, behaviors, attitudes which dont thrive in an individual, cut throat environment, but which may be needed for an environment that favors cooperation: such as living in a nuclear age.
I think it’s important to remember that “the failure” is in the system’s inability to provide a medium for the seed that is the person to flourish.
We know from “The Long Tail” that digitization and globalization allow for the creation of feasible 1:1 relationships. we are less constrained to find “economic” tradeoffs that satisfy the many and underserve the tails of the distribution.
We should, therefore be looking to expand the set of possible methods and resources to serve those further out on the tails of the distribution in order to broaden our “gene pool” of human potential.. See Axelrod on “The Evolution of Cooperation” for example
Good survival strategy for the a species, all species, for life itself, is to maximize biodiversity, because of the possibility of discontinuous “shock” events to the environment, for which prior specialization is unsuited.
The examples of Branson and Gates amply illustrate the rich rewards waiting for us on the untapped wide tails of the human distribution
It is arrogant of education to presume it can forecast the future and determine what can and should be precisely taught for “success”.
If education hasn’t learned that yet, then it should attend some of its classes in the sciences and arts to discover the limits of pure rationality and control
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The purpose of this paper is to examine my current leadership skills. I will describe and reflect upon a recent curriculum project that I was in charge of at the US Army command and Gen. staff College. I will use a lens of the Bolman and Deal four Frameworks to evaluate my leadership skills in each frame and look for opportunities to extend my skill set in each (Bolman and Deal, 2008). Since my project is continuing into a second year, I will use this paper to prioritize and guide my professional development.
2. Description of the Situation
The U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas is the centerpiece of the Army leadership development focusing on field grade level, organizational leaders. The year-long course is divided into approximately equal thirds. The first third is the core curriculum received by all Army majors and focuses on critical and creative thinking, leadership, history, change management and basic organizational level doctrine. The middle third, known as the Advanced Operations Course (AOC), is focused on 1500 resident officers whose career path will take them back into tactical field units in leadership positions. The final third is an elective period where students can meet their own particular educational needs based on interest and follow-on assignments.
This past year ,the middle third of the course underwent an extensive redesign and reengineering process which represents the largest single change to the curriculum since its current form was originally implemented five years ago. I was responsible for approximately 1/3 of the redesign program which focused on the addition of new material concerning the largest educational gap in the Army as identified by senior Army leaders, field unit commanders, faculty and students. I received a set of ambitious and broad design principles from the college’s senior leaders and assembled a team of students, faculty, curriculum designers, and recruited experts from Army proponent organizations in order to create a teachable block of instruction that addressed the identified gaps
3. Desired outcome for the situation:
We defined two dimensions for our endstate: organizational outcomes for the college, and curriculum outcomes to address the educational gap. Our participatory action research design team, consisting of curriculum developers, faculty and students identified the top six desired organizational outcomes, as follows:
- Produce a quality staff recommendation for AOC force generation curriculum and an elective for “spillover” material
- Produce an interdepartmental “application- level “curriculum fully integrated through the AOC Working Group process
- Employ an inquiry- based research process that models the principles of group-learning in real time, which can serve as an example for other inquiries in important topics
- Establish an infrastructure that supports student learning while in attendance, and after graduation as a reachback
- Create a knowledge base that focuses on support of our student and faculty population, and which synthesizes quality research & knowledge from Army staff and support organizations
- Document the staff process that will support our ongoing accreditation and scholarship standards
Our desired student curriculum outcomes were:
- Students applied the Army process map to build ready forces
- Students are aware of concepts, challenges, and best practices
- Students and faculty contribute to the growing body of professional knowledge
- Students use a team oriented approach
- College provides a reach back capability for graduates to stay current
- Curriculum establishes linkage to lessons in the Core and Parallels
- Create opportunities in electives for deeper inquiry
4. The Bolman and Deal Four Frameworks summary: Bolman and Deal created a four framework approach to leadership situations, which enable change agents to systematically view multiple approaches to an issue. Here is a summary of the four frames and a characterization of leaders (Clark, 2004)
a. Structural frame: emphasizes creativity and seeks to establish clear goals and roles and coordinated activity established by authority policies and rules. The structural leader is a social architect whose leadership style is analysis and design.
b. Human resource frame: focuses on the needs and motives of individuals who live and work in social systems, and considers opportunities for participation and shared decision-making as a way to enlist commitment and involvement. The human resource leader is a catalyst and servant who looks to support advocate and empower.
c. Political frame: based on negotiated collaborative political structures aiming to find trade-offs for scarce resources, and emphasizes conflict resolution and balancing interests. Political leaders are advocates who seek coalition building and the distribution and balancing of power and interests.
d. Symbolic frame: focuses on culture, meaning, believes in faith by examining and supporting since making through symbols, metaphors, stories and other narratives. The symbolic leader is a prophet who seeks to inspire through multimedia communication and visioning.
5. Skills used:
a. Structural frame: bureaucratic structure and existing policy were important parts of my leadership strategy as I sought to leverage existing infrastructure. For changes to remain permanent and meaningful, it was clear to me that our design group had to create infrastructure changes. In many cases this involves a carryover into the political frame as we considered how to build coalitions to gain approval for our structural changes. As much as possible we tried to make our recommendations fit within the existing formats of college policy in order to ensure we did not jeopardize our accreditation, which is an important value for the college.
b. Human resource frame: from the beginning of the program design sessions, I made sure that we kept our discussions centered on students and their educational needs and outcomes by emphasizing the concept of student Voice. After the first meeting, it was clear that we also needed to incorporate faculty Voice in order to accommodate a variety of educational methods which in existing policy was difficult because of the needs for a standardized curriculum for accreditation. This proved to be a very difficult set of values to sustain throughout the design process because the natural tendencies of developers and faculty were to revert to traditional methods with which they were comfortable. Having students as members of the design and development teams, however, ensured that this remained visible throughout the process.
c. Political frame: this turned out to be a crucial component of the entire process. Because of initial successes with our wiki and blog, and the early incorporation of Army-staff level action officers, we got a lot more senior leadership attention than I expected. This made the project a high-stakes payoff and it quickly became an area where competing values emerged as teaching departments lobbied for time and resources to reflect their goals. At the same time, when we used a political process to negotiate the structure and content of the curriculum, there were many faculty who considered it business as usual. My opinion was that only a political process would allow us to integrate the multiple perspectives. I could have chosen to have our directorate’s position dominate the proceedings but it was clear to me that an integrated curriculum was necessary for the students. This was a position that students also shared, which helped me carry the day.
d. Symbolic frame: throughout the project I tried to emphasize the importance of the top down and bottom’s up gap analysis which pointed to this set of curriculum topics as being of central importance to the Army. By connecting the purpose to the bottom’s up and top-down vision to establish its relevance and create the energy to see us through the change. I created top-level vision diagrams in order to highlight in a visual way the broad outlines of the program and used very visible blog postings to maintain progress reports for the population at large. The senior leader in the college, the Deputy Commandant, was an important source of symbolic strength as he had committed fully to our vision and endstate.
6. Skills that could have been used:
a. Structural frame: I could have emphasized more interim written reports to lock-in procedures and SOP changes during the year-long program, instead of waiting for the conclusion to make permanent infrastructure changes. I wasn’t aggressive enough in incorporating administrative managers from the higher headquarters in our process in order to enlist them in our change program. I should have offloaded more technical work to others in order to maintain my focus on the creative and guidance processes. I could have used more faculty from different departments in building the interdepartmental curriculum .
b. Human resource frame: I should have committed more group resources to the faculty development program once we had completed the design and production of the new curriculum. I expected that the lesson plans could stand on their own and being trained in the usual way, and I was surprised at the amount of pushback. I should not have been surprised, however, knowing my peers, and more resources in this area would’ve been helpful. I could have used more student and faculty Voice in telling the story of our change program, instead of using my own personal blog and wiki reports; this would have placed the ownership for our program more in the hands of students and faculty and less in our group. I could have spent more resources on providing timely feedback to students and faculty based on their design inputs, as I’m not sure I did enough in that area to satisfy them. I could have emphasized more of the value of flexibility in our central design; we had a lot compared to our traditional methods, but I don’t think I emphasized enough what we had achieved. I should have put more effort into rubrics and examples from different faculty members of the design team in order to demonstrate our commitment to flexibility in the classroom.
c. Political frame: because I enjoy the political dimension of this program, I was too willing to frame this as individual or group winning and losing compared to the status quo; I should have put more focus on strategy and tactics and cooperative solution finding than in winning and losing. I should have planned for more interim rewards for cooperative and supportive behavior both for members of my team and from among the faculty that voluntarily supported the effort. I should have spent more energy on changing the mindset of the “warring state” to one of the cooperative tribe with respect to integrating departmental issues; the “warring states” is the default orientation of most interdepartmental programs for proposed change. I should have created a central interdepartmental design team in the form of an alliance to maintain momentum across the college. I could have spent more energy incorporating team members from other military colleges above and below us in the hierarchy in order to create a continuous wave of change.
d. Symbolic frame: I could have used more of our inside group-produced artifacts in the lesson plans themselves in order to improve the acceptance of the new lesson plans. I could have made better use of our wiki and blog sites to support collaborative design and collaborative teaching in the classroom. I should have used more strategic communications avenues and media to bring students on board with the program for change before we went into execution. I could have used more partnership programs with field units to demonstrate the relevance of our material to the students follow on assignments.
7. Lessons learned: I found this reflective exercise to be very useful in generating insights for me. Here are my ten most important takeaways.
a. In an interdepartmental, complex process it’s important to publish everything with transparency and trust everybody.
b. It’s not enough to ask for feedback from customers or in this case students and faculty, it’s important to engage in multi-loop dialogue and demonstrate a willingness to adapt to their requirements.
c. Tell the story at every opportunity to everyone that you can find, because the accumulation of small strategic communications events all add up to strategic success in the long run.
d. Leave no stone unturned in enlisting support even if you don’t think you need it or you think you have more than enough. There will come a time of surprise when you need every extra resource and it will be too late then to try to find them.
e. Reinforce the main effort in every action, even if it is only a supporting or shaping effort. Because resources are limited, everything must support the endstate.
f. Aggressively look for connections between departments, teams, resources, opportunities; in a network environment you never know where the next connection will come from that can make the difference between success and failure.
g. The moments of positive emotion and inspiration must be followed and supported by long periods of preparation and perspiration.
h. Question the boundaries that seemed reasonable early in the design, because you may find that your initial efforts have changed the game.
i. Reinforce the essential partnerships between key stakeholders in order to define success as group success.
j. Be open to unexpected opportunities to achieve unplanned successes. This is an extension of the idea of looking for connections. Sometimes the moment will show you unexpected treasures if you’re open to picking them up and making them yours.
Bolman, L., & Deal, T. (2008).Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice and leadership. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.
Clark, D. R. (2004), Bolman and Deal’s Four Framework Approach. Retrieved March 7, 2010
Representative Army capstone documents defining the requirements for new concepts in leadership.
TRADOC, (2009). A leader development strategy for a 21st century Army.
TRADOC Pam 525-5-500. (2008). Commander’s Appreciation and Campaign Design.
Army Regulation 6-22 (2008): Army Leadership
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What follows is a 1st person, stream of consciousness reflection written to my mentor & committee chair.
I describe what it was like to record a 10 min video “telling the story” of some preliminary findings emerging from my action research cycles into curriculum and adult learning.
It will be shown at an international conference in Athens, as part of the Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN) annual conference, as part of a bundle of reports from the Future(s) of Education project, an international participatory action research network.
i am just glad to get it out of my head
i had a real out of body experience recording that one;
i am a very effective briefer in person, because i can read the audience pretty well.
i have recorded hundreds of mini lectures etc for my business and for use here at the college on various topics.
i have never, ever needed more than a single take to record, decent and sometimes even inspired voice-overs until last night and that briefing.
I literally needed about 30 takes to get thru it; most i stopped when less than a minute into it because the tone just didn’t feel right
i think it has to do with being a fish out of water, and the difficulty i felt in trying to tune my story for an audience i couldn’t see, but more importantly didn’t have empathy for
because the audience characteristics still feel fuzzy to me, i couldn’t call up the right tone, voice, persona to apply
this caused me to have almost a split personality in the moment, when i am ordinarily dialed in
i had a “talking part” and a “look ahead part” that is concerned with shaping the transition to the next point/slide
but now i had a disconcerting 3rd part that was trying to anticipate the possible reactions of an unfamiliar, and hard to imagine audience
this is what made me feel so out of sorts
until i “wore out” the last, 3d part and was able to trust in just telling the story, and accepting the vulnerability of knowing that i couldn’t know the audience, i found i just couldn’t get thru it.
this is the same phenomenon I spoke with Prof Mike Wesch, the digital anthropologist at Kansas State University, and world thought leader on social dynamics in social media: the camera eye represents the unlimited, unfathomable infinite future of all possible audiences across time and space who can be looking in on the “telling moment”.
in a sense, its like coming face to face with the unblinking eye of God and wondering what she is thinking
it is trust that lets us get thru that moment, the accepting of vulnerability, that creates the empathy that hopefully fills the story, as told, with hope.
that’s a clumsy way of trying to express my meaning of the risk and vulnerability to “telling” and why it can be such a powerful learning moment, and why we need to model it, embrace it, encourage it, and support it.
Your “producer’s draft” was exactly what i needed to be able to get out of my own comfortable fishbowl;
you gave me a bridge to the audience that i could not create on my own.
this has become an interesting reflection to me already
please put the video on the website, and any or all of this reflection as you deem suitable
have a great time at the conference!
Who am I as an adult learner:
I am framing the answer within the context of my “Big 5” (Strelecky, 2007). The “Big 5” focus my thoughts about self, purpose, mission and values. In Strelecky’s work, the Big 5 are 5 things you want to accomplish in your life. My “Big 5” are all states of being, roles that I want to live with the highest quality (arête). My Biog 5 are: father, husband, teacher, student, warrior,
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: ENTJ I am getting closer to the “I” as I get older which moves me from “Leader” to “Scientist” in the typology. My scores are very high on the NT domain, which gives me a global, theoretical perspective. I notice that I am always searching for the broadest generalizations that can be made from an incident, or the widest application of an idea. It doesn’t take much for me to go off on a tangent. I am least happy when bringing a project to a conclusion, as it feels stifling and disconnected from the dynamic world around me. Finality and endings are disturbing to me, and I dislike graduation ceremonies above all else. I am much more at home in the developmental and conceptual phases of any project. I get bored easily by data gathering and have learned to offload that task to others. I am a good project manager, as I have learned to build teams of various skills and aligning tasks with strengths.
Kolb Learning Style Indicator:
The Kolb LSI measures self-reported preferences along 2 dimensions: Concrete experience-Abstract conceptualization and Active experimentation-Reflective observation. These 2 dimensions reflect how we prefer to gather our information about the world and then how we prefer to make sense of it. The intersection of these 2 dimensions establishes 4 quadrants, and can be used as a way to describe a classroom population as well as individual learners. We use this model extensively at the Command & General Staff College, and I have become convinced of its practical uses when used within reason.
In this model, I am classified as an “Assimilator”, which combines a preference for Reflective Observation and Abstract Conceptualization. This means I don’t need to spend too long “in the moment”, fully experiencing every nuance of the moment; I am always ready to begin reflecting on its dimensions, characteristics, descriptions and classifications. As an Abstract Conceptualist, I proceed to place experiences within my larger world view, as a particular example of a class of experiences. I spend little time in active experimentation to validate the data, once satisfied that it makes theoretical sense.
These preferences are helpful when approaching new material where the connection to theory is strong or explicit, because it satisfies my need to be situated in the world. I am comfortable with complexity and nuance and am competent at brainstorming and imagining future scenarios.
The downside of my preferences is that I am prone to overlook deep subtleties in experiences especially if the situation is slow moving. The idea of sitting in a duck blind for hours waiting for birds is my idea of hell on earth. I am also prone to accept theoretical justification as truth and am willing to short change practical validation of new concepts simply because of the theoretical elegance.
As a consequence of knowing this about myself, I find it necessary to do sitting meditations to work on my mindfulness and presence in the moment, to learn to appreciate the experience simply on its own merits, without a need to explain it or frame it as part of a larger construct. On group projects I am careful to include pragtmatists and naysayers who will insist on evidence and results from fair trials before we adopt policy changes.
These strengths and weaknesses, and my accommodations to the limitations of my learning preferences are an integral part of my business success as an equity trader which puts a value of new ideas, but also on backtesting and forward risk management.
Brainmodepower typology: AVK, global.
I am off the chart on the audio learning, and on the globalization scale. I have now noticed that when I am really trying to concentrate on learning I do not look at the person talking, but need to doodle in order to free my ears to hear. Doodling helps me occupy my eyes and hands (visual and kinesthetic modes). This has been a problem for others in the past when they would say “Look at me and pay attention!” when I was doing my best to pay attention.
2 stories from combat on this topic which reinforces the power of the insight: On a night attack, wearing night vision goggles I had high explosive rounds land near me and “whiteout” my night vision goggles, and I lost my night vision for about 15 minutes: I was able to command my company though because I could hear what was going on via the radio and I had a sense of where things were based on noise, sounds, and the volume of fire. A few days later, in the daylight, I had a hand grenade land very near to me and I didn’t have my earplugs in. I was deafened for about an hour before my hearing returned, and it was the most frightening experience I had ever had. I felt absolutely cut off from the world and was unable to command effectively. It was terrifying, even though I could see everyone around me and could consult a map.
I am a fast reader and I prefer to read in burst of 10-20 minutes, rendering my notes in visual, mindmapping form. I will generally develop detailed cognitive maps and turn them into slides as cues for recalling detail and cognitive structure. I take semi-structured notes on standard note-taking forms that I have developed over the years to suit my style. I will often color code the notes to make structure even more apparent. When I review notes from my Masters program (15 years ago), they make perfect sense to me and I can recall the circumstances of the classroom and the moment as if no time has passed. This form of “chunking” supports my assimilating style.
At any given moment I may be engaged in reading up to 20 books at a time in various locations, and I follow my mood or sense of urgency for picking up the next book to read. When I find myself drifting I stop and do something else until my attention is focused, rather than trying to force concentration.
I can concentrate for hours at a time in reading if needed, but I prefer the shorter bursts when my mind is feeling especially sticky. Learning to crate feelings of “sticky mind” is an essential part of my practice of sitting meditation, which Buddhists call “child’s mind”.
I will rarely read a book from cover to cover, preferring to read from top down and outside in, by examining the covers, introduction and forward, table of contents, index and references and chapter summaries first, and then come back to the book after 24 hours when that has had time to digest and become embedded. I will then skim chapters based on my interests, and finally skim the whole book. I have adapted this technique from Mortimer Adler’s “How To Read A Book” (Adler, 1940) and it has helped me integrate a lot of material from a broad array of fields.
I am not very good in free form dialogues of material, preferring to hear structured presentations that reflect deep inquiry on the part of the presenter. Lectures are excellent for me as I can listen carefully, while doodling and seeming to daydream in my own personal comfortable space. I enjoy writing and working on a topic while having a background lecture playing, trusting that if something interesting is being said that I will tune in to it. Some of my most creative work is done in this manner in the apparent cognitive dissonance set up by 2 different information streams. I am listening to a Teaching Company presentation on Chaos by Dr Stephen Strogatz as I write this.
My biggest problem as an adult learner is procrastination and time management, since I am always eager to read one more thing before generating my final conclusions. I also find it difficult to recast my theoretical framework of information once established and will generally try to find ways to accommodate pieces of my original insight in an evolving understanding. I try to delay taking final positions in order to gather more information for this reason.
I find it amusing that despite a strong rational component, and a structured approach to learning, that my decisionmaking and sensemaking is much more intuitive than rational. I trust my instinct far more than my conscious mind. This is a habit perhaps ingrained into me from 15 years of being an infantryman in combat and trusting my senses in dangerous situations. This habit of mind is so odd that it is even the subject of discussion among peers who know me well and wonder how I can be so rational and yet make instinctive, intuitive decisions.
I have been teaching in the Command & General Staff College for 8 years and have reinvented my whole approach to teaching as a result of the action research inquiry while attending CTU. While I acknowledge the need for competence at the data level I also have become much more aware of the importance of the social level of learning. I no longer think that learning and education are like filling up a pail, but are rather like lighting a fire (to paraphrase Yeats).
I am trying to create an educational space in the classroom, in the college, and in my professional work that encourages and supports free inquiry, a commitment to truth and academic freedom, and both a respect for and a seeking out of diverse perspectives and points of view. As a teacher in the classroom I try to model the behavior I seek from students, by the quality of my preparation, a concern for the learning and perspectives of others, and a willingness to be vulnerable in my ongoing search for knowledge. I am encouraging as many means of formal and informal feedback as possible to help students shape their own educational programs and outcomes. I encourage and support their inquiry in my classes and through support of their independent studies. I reach out to other colleges and programs to create networks of learners and to act as a catalyst for learning.
I respect the action research construct of multiple ways of knowing (experiential, presentational, propositional, and practical) and acknowledge the learning that can happen through 1st person, 2d person and 3d person action research.
I favor the connectivist learning school of thought being developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes at University of Manitoba, as I believe it represents a realistic, sound, robust and challenging way of developing knowledge and practice to appreciate and thrive under conditions of uncertainty. More at: http://www.elearnspace.org/
As part of my research I am looking carefully at how to add Voice to the environment by encouraging, supporting and promoting the diverse needs, intentions and inquiries of faculty, students and curriculum developers in a way that advocates a move away from an industrial age view of curriculum and towards one of connectivism and individuality. In this sense I have taken on an advocacy perspective that is values-based but which respects the perspectives of other members of the action research teams that make up the projects.
My role as a father influences my role as a student. One of the important reasons for me to begin the doctoral program was to set a personal example for my kids, who at ages 18, 15, 11 are getting to see their dad doing his homework and reading books every night as a priority. My father set the same example for me as a kid as he went to night school to work his way up the engineering ladder from “shop rat “to full-fledged design engineer. I’ve been trying to re-learn math and physics to be able to keep up with my son who is getting ready to go to college next year to be a physicist or an engineer, but just like in video games, I believe he has passed me for good. I am content to listen to him and get him the occasional book to feed his curiosity.
Husband: without my wife’s support I could not have dreamed of taking on the active role of student once more; in fact she finally told me to stop moping around and dreaming about it and just get it done. I need that boost from her to get moving at times. I want her to be proud of my work and my goals.
I use Warrior in the eastern sense, as one who is called, by his dharma, to seek mastery of self first in order to protect the weak and promote justice and compassion in the world. This calling is well described in Trungpa (1984). In this sense, my role as an adult learner is to focus on those things that I ought to be learning in order to improve my practice; to find worthy teachers and learn from them; to questions my own assumptions and preconceived knowledge in order to step outside what I already think I know and to follow my beliefs to their core to find the source.
Warrior learning also has a strong service component, and so the topics for inquiry, the choices for action research must satisfy the “so what” question, must be directed towards a virtuous end. For me, the choice to do action research within my college represents a way to do the right thing in support of my duty to country and soldiers whom I support. Action research’s methodology strongly supports these values, particularly when fellow inquirers are positioned as co-researchers.
Adler, M. & Van Doren, C. (1940). How to read a book. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Strelecky, J. (2007). The big five for life: Leadership’s greatest secrets. New York: St Martins’ Press.
Trungpa, C. (1984). Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior. Boston: Shambala Publications.
Peter Checkland’s Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) describes the use of models to help us frame questions to ask of the world, and which help us become explicit about our world views, assumptions, frames of reference, theories of cause and effect, values, and desired outcomes.
Checkland, P. (2006) Learning for action: A short definitive account of soft systems methodology and its use for practitioners, teachers and students. Chichester, England, Oxford Press
We’ve developed a deceptively simple Force Mgt practical exercise in the form of a card game. The complete rule set is simple; takes 5 min to scan and understand.
Rapid rule summary:
1. Students buy forces (5 cards) from a production table (a limited deck) and in each of 5 rounds, deploy them into 5 regions to compete for Victory Points
2. Win: first one to 51 victory points OR most points after 5 rounds
3. Game: lasts up to 5 rounds
4. Each round has 5 hands , each hand is worth Victory Points (VP)
5. Hand 1 is worth 6 VP, hand 2 is worth 5 VP etc…
6. Player 1 buys from the red deck, player 2 from the blue deck)
7. After you buy your 5 cards, you place 1 card face down in each region (hand)
8. Once all cards are placed, cards are flipped over and you determine results
9. If your card wins the hand you get the victory points and keep you card; if you lose the hand, you get no victory points and lose your card. If it’s a tie, you keep your card and no one gets points.
10. Each player has an identical deck to buy from.
It turns out that the development of strategy and then fielding an appropriate force really matters, AND there are distinct choices that are meaningful, available and feasible.
If you are interested, we’d like you to review the rules, and :
- 1. Buy your first round of forces
- 2. Deploy them into the 5 regions for turn 1.
- 3. Send your “Round 1” move to email@example.com, along with a short description of your strategy
We are interested in examining the variety of forces and the strategy employed in round 1. Do you, for example:
1. Buy 4 ea 10s and a Joker to kill any enemy aces and retain max budget flexibility to see what he has remaining?
2. Buy aces early to get a lead on victory points and then protect them?
3. Buy Jacks to kill 10s while still preserving SOME budgetary flexibility?
4. How do you balance economy of force with winning victory points? (efficiency vs effectiveness)
And then tactically employing forces, do you:
1. Put aces against 6 and 5 victory point regions?
2. Put 10s against 6 and 5s to hunt aces?
3. Aim for maximum victory points each round?
4. Aim to capture 11 of the 20 available points each round? (ie bluff on 6 and 3, but try to win 5,4,2?)
In the actual play of the game we’ll look for adaptability and learning, and how strategies change after teams have played each other a couple times etc.
We’ve play tested it enough to know there is a rich source of insights available in the game and that it is simple to play. We’ll play it with decks of cards in the classroom
We prototyped the game in our Force Management elective and are satisfied that that we generate student interest and insight into broader questions of Army force management in an interesting way.
Here are some student insights gleaned from our playtesting:
1. Round 1 results dominate the rest of your strategic choices, so getting Round 1 is crucial.
2. Round 1 strategies are dominated by uncertainty because you have no information about your opponent’s strategy or adaptive style yet.
3. You have to decide when you want to buy strength: early and aim for quick wins, or later after you have seen pieces of the opponents forces and strategy.
4. Forecasting your opponents moves is problematic and make this more like poker than chess or bridge.
5. Aces are like the FCS: dominating until low-cost alternatives found the weakness. It wasn’t unit Aces were developed that the 10s became meaningful, so be alert to deep flaws in complex technologies.
6. Kings are costly but dominate the field; An opponent with Kings drives you to buy Aces but make you vulnerable to 10s.
6. Jacks (J) are a low cost success strategy against 10s, but can be incrementally be defeated by other mid-weight forces.
8. The costs of transforming cards between rounds is significant but manageable and may lead to strategic advantage. Scenario: You buy Aces on the first round and are successful, opponent buys 10s to kill your aces in the second round, but you trade down to Kings which dominate, and which remain difficult to defeat in subsequent rounds.
9. Deciding where (in what regions) to selectively deploy strength
10. Tactical results can overcome strategic insights and strategic failures. Tacrtics can be game changing.
11. What if the enemy has different victory conditions? Price points? Has different rules?
12. What if new cards are introduced after the first rule set is established?
13. How much would you pay to see the opponents’ hands?
14. What if there are partial wins? Or more than 2 teams playing?
15. Simple games can be powerful learning strategies
Conclusions: the game serves as a way to dramatize very clearly many of our force management challenges and is a useful way to create rapid, deep awareness of prime issues in this domain.
Here are some insights from a dedicated gamer and management game modeler:
I suspect that for most people’s first play they are strongly influenced by a form of Confirmation Bias: the As are priced higher, therefore new players conduct their analysis from the assumption that As are more valuable. Depending on the goals of your concrete experience, that may be the best argument for keeping the current price structure. However, an ace of spades loses to seven cards, including four cheap ones, where a KH loses to only four cards that are both expensive and vulnerable — the KH is easily the strongest card in the deck.
I assume trade-ins are secret — in fact that for all practical purposes players are operating behind a screen during their setup phase — because knowing whether your opponent has made any trade-ins is very valuable information. You may want to specify that in the rules.
Given the prevalence of 10s in everyone’s first turn strategies, it seems like the second-cheapest strategy is far more optimal than the cheapest — that is four tens and a jack of spades. That marginal $15 gives you a pretty good shot at a victory somewhere, and a decent chance of carrying more net capital forward.
Here are a selection of previously submitted moves for Round 1: (* = Joker)
|Region||Cards||Strategy: Cost: 102 Carry forward: 48|
|6||10h||I’m trying to kill aces while creating and deploying one, but putting it where it is unlikely to run into an ace-killer unless the other guys is trying an ace-killer strategy like mine. I’ve got cheap on the ace I bought, which is a risk that may not be worthwhile. I’m expecting to kill an ace in either 6 or 5, win 4 outright, and lose in 3 and 2. Expected results are thus 9.5 points to me, 10.5 points to the bad guys, I will lose approx $35 worth of cards and kill approx $70 worth. The enemy is expected to have spent rather more than me, so I will have more cash with which to restructure in light of what I find out. Cost: 102|
|Region||Cards||Strategy: Cost: 150 Carry forward: 0|
|6||10s||10 is the ace killer on 6, then we try to overpower each successive category on the way down. Assumes aces go to 6, which rapidly becomes a tail-chasing assumption.|
|Region||Cards||Strategy: Cost: 123 Carry forward: 27|
|6||Jh||Hunting the ace-killers, retaining some flexibility, winning early points|
|Region||Cards||Strategy: Cost: 150 Carry forward: 0|
|6||Ah||Maximum strength in every region|
|Region||Cards||Strategy: Cost: 145 Carry forward: 5|
|6||Ah||Maximum strength in main regions, try to hunt an ace and kill 10s; accept risk in small region|
|Region||Cards||Strategy: Cost: 149 Carry forward: 1|
|6||10s||Hunt aces and accept risk in regions 5,6, steal points with aces & J in regions 2,3,4|