Small Wars Journal

Breaking Barriers to Deeper Understanding: How Post-Modern Concepts Are ‘Value-Added’ to Military Conceptual Planning Considerations

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 10:18am

Author’s Note: this article attempts to stimulate further discourse on what the military requires in terms of Design concepts, vocabulary, doctrine, and education- but there is no expectation that adding Design concepts will subsequently eliminate traditional military planning concepts. Design provides dissimilar and often unique perspectives for military applications. Critical and creative discourse is a cornerstone in Army Design methodology; yet to think with Design requires one to let go of the preferred and traditional planning processes and embrace uncertainty. Military leaders should not seek an ‘end-all be-all’ definition or ‘paint-by-numbers’ set of Design procedures, but use some of the suggested concepts offered in this article to help enhance their repertoire of thinking skills. What do post-modern philosophical concepts bring to military conceptual planning? If we do not at least consider their value, we have already closed ourselves off from learning, and learning how to learn…

This article contains some highly abstract concepts that have little use in any future military doctrine, and likely are not very useful to the greater force in terms of planning participation outside of conceptual planning efforts. This probably is not a very convincing way to begin an article that promotes the utility of Design concepts in military planning, but Design is best addressed both critically and creatively. Military readers may wonder, ‘why even bother with any post-modern philosophical concept at all?’ Design does not provide any quick or simplistic solutions, and unfortunately, our military culture struggles to see much long-term benefit when traditional processes seem to shuffle our organization along, albeit at a cost. Perhaps, if we at a minimum explore some of these post-modern abstract concepts, they might offer a prospect for evoking greater understanding of a complex military problem so that traditional planning efforts might better be applied. That is only if we can even start that discourse within our military institution beyond the limited trappings of ‘Design Doctrine’ such as FM 5-0 The Operations Process and FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency.[1]

‘Design Theory’ is different from ‘Design Doctrine’ in that it is not nearly as well received by the military institution. [2]  Design Theory continues to face significant adversity in any discussion about conceptual planning- there are enough institutional hurdles already in place that any meaningful dialogue is often disrupted right out of the gate.  Why does Design theory receive such a livid reception in military planning dialogues? Does Design offer anything useful to our military institution, and can we apply to practical scenarios any of the highly abstract and often intellectually distant processes to real military applications? This article offers up several highly abstract Design concepts in an effort to cross the bridge between conceptual planning and detailed planning; while these abstract concepts do not replace detailed planning, they might enhance our understanding and self-awareness as we trod along familiar paths to potentially unknown destinations.

Army Design methodology draws from across the wide and often eclectic range of scientific and philosophical fields that support holistic approaches to complexity for military planning concepts.[3] What the U.S. Army chose to include in recent Design doctrine, lexicon, and practice reflects specific organizational values, preferred logical processes, and institutional identity.  Although Design Theory reflects an immense and expanding field of new knowledge and unique logics, what the U.S. Army chose to omit from Design doctrine is also relevant to consider when thinking upon why the military now struggles with integrating conceptual with detailed planning in modern conflicts. This article addresses the post-modern philosophical assemblage concepts of ‘interiority’ and ‘exteriority’ and how they contribute to Design synthesis in ways that military leaders might find useful. [4] These new philosophies present different processes on synthesizing social complexity where reductionism and analysis lack utility in understanding something like a dynamic conflict environment. [5] To the critics that scoff at the thought of applying philosophy or ‘pseudo-scientific theories’ to military conceptual planning, one might only reply- what if there is some usefulness here? In order to even consider their expediency in military conceptual planning processes, one must temporarily let go of cherished reductionist and linear planning logic that comprises virtually all military doctrine and professional education.[6]

Interiority and exteriority concepts are most closely associated with the post-modern works of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. [7] In their second series of essays on Critical Theory collectively titled ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, these philosophers weave a complex web of metaphors upon metaphors to explain how societies produce assemblages of knowledge.  They present many fascinating and somewhat intellectually challenging concepts on understanding social complexity in non-reductionist logic. This article will attempt to summarize several elements of Deleuze and Guattari’s seminal work and relate them to practical military applications in conceptual planning processes. Before jumping into definitions of interiority/exteriority and assemblages, the overarching topic concerning organizational tension between traditional detailed planning logics and the new ‘Design’ conceptual planning approach requires additional explanation. Without acknowledging why the military resists alternate planning logics first, one cannot expect much success in discussing particular benefits of these alternate logic concepts specifically.

Since the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Scientific Reasoning, military planning and execution has relied almost exclusively upon the reductionist and linear logic where uniformity, repetition, and hierarchical decision-making dominate the field. [8] Recently, western militaries began adapting non-traditional logics several loosely related fields that this article groups as ‘Design Theory.’[9] Design pulls from an extremely wide and often eclectic range of theoretical constructs. [10] Whether drawing inspiration from General Systems Theory, post-modern philosophy, or social science’s Organizational Theory, this adaptive and expanding field emphasizes a non-hierarchical, anti-procedural methodology that promotes critical and creative thinking. To illustrate this, consider the following two scenarios:

Each musician sits down in specific locations in the orchestra pit with precise sheet music. The conductor coordinates everything, and the orchestra rehearses many times until they perform together in unison, a repeatable and exact performance, exactly as the composer designed the performance to sound. Deviation is prohibited, as individuality and non-conformity will destroy the cohesion of the orchestra.

The jazz players assemble at a local restaurant patio without any sheet music and begin playing around with their instruments and some melody ideas that each musician created and brought to the group. As one beat or riff catches the group, they begin to experiment with it, deviating from it and improvising new melodies while still holding to a loosely recognizable beat that wanders around the diverse landscape of musical sound.

In other words, Design Theory prefers musicians to exercise improvisational jazz and create in unscripted manners instead of lock-step performances of rehearsed sheet-music orchestra. [11] Whether one draws Design tools from the system-centric or post-modern philosophical fields or another dissimilar field entirely, the vast majority of Design concepts are unlike traditional military planning logic that drives the preponderance of professional military education and practices. [12] It appears that the more abstract or conceptual a Design concept, the greater an up-hill battle one faces with introducing terms such as interiority/exteriority into the military organization.

Making a Case for Post-Modern Abstraction in Conceptual Planning:

If Army ‘Design’ doctrine does not recognize the concepts of interiority/exteriority, why does it matter? To follow Design Theory’s emphasis on critical and creative thinking, any concepts, lexicon, or practices that stimulate innovation, creativity, and adaptation hold merit regardless if they are included in official doctrine or not. [13] Interiority/exteriority concepts for military Design applications draw inspiration from post-modern social science and philosophy theory where a high level of abstraction is required to grasp the concepts. This article employs several metaphors to attempt to convey to the reader these abstract concepts, as humans essentially learn through metaphor.  George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s work on linguistics postulated that, “primarily on the basis of linguistic evidence, we have found that most of our ordinary conceptual system is metaphoric in nature…we act according to the way we conceive of things.”[14] No metaphor survives literal application, and more often than not, a cloud of diverse metaphors potentially builds a superior abstract concept for readers to understand. This article will employ several dissimilar metaphors ranging from the horse carriage industry’s collapse in the early 20th century to basic atmospheric models of tornados.  If you find it unusual that a military article on conceptual planning would purposefully employ non-military metaphors, there is a good reason for it. Drawing from non-military fields helps marginalize any military reader’s pre-filtering of data and bias. For instance, if we applied World War II operations on the German Eastern Front, many readers would lose sight of the abstract concepts and fixate instead on the minute details of the example- namely whether the Russians or Germans did this or that. “We are not very good at discovering the unexpected as we tend to see what we expect to see and find what we are looking for.” [15] Potentially, using any military metaphors or historic vignettes for the purposes of this article risk this deviation; selecting dissimilar metaphors from other fields puts the abstract concepts back into primary analysis. Furthermore, please take care to not take individual metaphors pedantically and instead consider how multiple and dissimilar metaphors synergize to help clarify highly abstract concepts. In other words, metaphors aid in explaining abstractions, but do not replace them. To introduce the concepts of interiority and exteriority, first consider the collapse of the horse carriage industry in the first decade of the 20th century.

As the internal combustion engine, Industrial Revolution, steel and rubber industries, and assembly-line production methods merged into a paradigm shift in human transportation at the dawn of the 20th century, the vast majority of horse carriage companies failed to adapt and instead collapsed as automobiles replaced horses. [16]  Companies went out of business because they remained fixated on a horse-centric future, and continued to plan accordingly while customers migrated towards automobile transportation. You might recognize that in hindsight, this paradigm shift in human transformation appears obvious; yet that does not explain why the majority of the horse carriage industry ignored the emerging trends until too late. Before the automobile became the evident and logical replacement for inexpensive and reliable human conveyance, many horse carriage businesses ignored or completely missed the indicators of a revolutionary change (paradigm) in transportation. [17] Why did an organization that was highly successful in the previous transportation logic of horse locomotion find itself unable or un—to anticipate a world where consumers no longer wanted their product? Relating back to our military institution, does the U.S. Army face a similar paradigm shift concerning 21st century military conflict, or will everything continue to revolve around traditional high-intensity (including hybrid) conventional warfare for strategic planning purposes? [18] This is where the concepts of interiority and exteriority work with emergence to demonstrate useful abstract theoretical concepts.

Interiority and Exteriority: What Do They Bring in Value to Planning?

Suppose you lived in 1900, and owned one of the larger horse carriage companies in America. You stood at the height of American carriage market production and contemplated the next four years of growth and investment. Without knowing about the future of the automobile industry, how would you guide your company’s business strategy for the next decade?  Of the companies that eventually went out of business by 1910, they overwhelmingly anticipated horse carriage transportation to remain what it was in 1900- the dominant method for human conveyance. People will buy carriages, the automobile will remain a “rich man’s toy”, and skilled laborers would hand-assemble carriages while integrating proven technological advances as they emerge. In other words, their narrative about the future reflected only known information. This bounds the interiority of their organization’s knowledge and reinforces a linear causality in logic where the future looks much like the present. Interiority reflects the familiar and known.

Ever notice that most books or movies about ‘the future’ strongly reflect everything in the period the science fiction originated from, to include contextual symbols and ideas on what the future would look like? We project the future in the forms we must intimately understand- we use our interiority to construct an imagined future that remains quite devoted to the present minus the laser rays, shiny space suits, and robots and aliens that look like humans covered in make-up and prosthetics.[19] If we struggle to imagine the future without abandoning the symbols and concepts that structure our present reality, how hard is it for a horse-centric transportation company to envision a future without horses?

Returning to the horse company metaphor, consider how the carriage industry reflects some patterns in military organizations where planning and preparations often appear to be oriented towards winning the previous war instead of anticipating the next conflict.[20] Historian Brian Linn criticizes the military in Echo of Battle of resisting change, maintaining “intellectual rigidity, a propensity to mistake slogans for strategic thinking, and the dogmatic belief in itself as the ‘best trained, best armed, best led force’ that has ever existed.”[21] Recent British Ministry of Defence conceptual planning doctrine expands upon this with, “as closed and ritual-bound organisations, militaries have strong cultures that can be fiercely resistant to change and which shape how they develop and how they act.”[22] Chinese military theorists Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui’s criticize American interiority and ‘in-house assumption’ barriers from an Eastern perspective in Unrestricted Warfare. They charge Westerners with “observing, considering, and resolving problems from the point of view of technology” as typical American thinking.[23] Organizational theory uses the term ‘in-house’ assumption to describe the institutional barriers that help protect an organization’s interiority from change even when reality exposes any fallacies in logic.[24] Military innovation is difficult because innovation “questions the routines and systems that underpin core competencies… [it also] threatens existing capabilities in which militaries have made heavy investment and around which sub-community interests and cultures have developed.” [25]  Does the military as an institution share some of the ‘in-house assumptions’ that are setting up organizations in similar manners where horse carriages are in the future instead of automobiles? Does detailed planning such as MDMP, JOPP, and MCPP reflect an emphasis on interiority thinking instead of critical and creative thinking about what exists outside these institutional boundaries? [26] Does the military overemphasis on hierarchical decision-making foster a ‘group-think’ approach to the world that drives an organization to prefer seeking information relevant to the interiority and self-relevance of the institution?[27] These meta-questions quickly lead outside the boundaries of the interiority into the depths of the unknown- the exteriority of a system.

Returning to 1900 and sitting behind the desk as head of a horse carriage company, what are the unknown elements that either already exist outside your interiority (known and accepted information) or will emerge as the system adapts and transforms through time? What are the emergent properties that exist outside a carriage company’s interiority? Or, what do they not know, and what do they know that is no longer accurate? New production and mass-assembly processes paired with a growing urban population of unskilled workers combine with the combustion engine, steel and rubber resources, and a rapidly adaptive physical landscape of cities and towns connected by roads all escape the ‘known-knowns’ of a carriage company’s interiority in 1900.  Horse carriage companies grasped some of these concepts, but failed to assemble them together and anticipate a future without a horse-centric transportation need. [28] More importantly, the core American values of independence, prosperity, and interaction readily accepted the automobile as a new symbol that accomplished everything the horse carriage did more effectively.

This massive transformation in core American values that manifest in symbols demonstrates the innovation and patterns of adaptation inherent in the exteriority of the carriage company’s system of knowledge production. [29] The ‘unknown-unknowns’ that would quickly dismantle the entire horse carriage industry already existed in 1900, except the majority of carriage company owners just failed to recognize them holistically. One can fill volumes describing each part of a pile of bicycle parts, but you need to assemble it to gain the ability to ride. [30] While it is easy for those that already have the concept of a bicycle within their interior knowledge, what about when bike parts litter one’s interiority but they have yet to be assembled by the pioneer to invent the first bicycle?

By combining Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of complementary yet antithetical forces with the historic metaphor of the American carriage industry’s collapse in the early 20th century, this article offers one perspective on depicting the concepts of interiority and exteriority in figure 1 below. [31] While interiority and exteriority remain highly abstract concepts that defy traditional description, figure 1 provides explanation within the familiar doctrinal and reductionist framework generally preferred by military organizations. [32]

Figure 1: an incomplete contrast between ‘interiority’ and ‘exteriority’

            Figure 1 addresses the concepts of interiority and exteriority; however, how these two forces interact within a society or organization such as the military or a horse carriage company requires the use of another dissimilar metaphor. Consider for a moment how tornados form in the atmosphere. Without going into more detail than necessary for this metaphor, they draw significant energy from a large low-pressure system and often focus that destructive force to a finite point on the ground. The swirling airflow and interaction of interior energy in the condensation funnel in relation to the exterior atmosphere and surface provide a useful conceptual structure for pairing up these highly abstract post-modern philosophical concepts. They also provide one way to potentially visualize the concept in a process that readers might find familiar by using tornado movement. Figure 2 merges the aforementioned concepts of Deleuze and Guattari’s interiority/exteriority and applies military levels of war (tactical, operational, and strategic) up into the clouds of abstraction to form the basis for an overarching military planning ‘assemblage.’

Figure 2 provides a conceptual graphic that works with the atmospheric metaphor to relay one method for understanding ‘assemblages.’ Another way of clarifying between interiority knowledge and exteriority often revolves around explanation versus description. We seek ‘what’ and can readily describe what we know when we use our interiority knowledge- this is our familiar landscape. The military prefers to reduce things down tactically, where description and analysis delivers quantifiable ‘knowns’ we can touch, manipulate, and measure. [33]  When we seek explanatory answers on why complex adaptive systems behave as they do, we must rise up from our interiority landscape and enter the uncertain and dynamic exteriority where change and adaptation obscure our understanding. The following narrative frames the abstract and complex components of figure 2 below:

Consider a large and dark storm cloud shifting and swirling over a flat landscape. The storm cloud is so vast and impenetrable that we cannot make much sense of its form, or ‘map out’ the vast and complex interior of energy and atmospheric elements. This reflects the unknown, or the exteriority of our knowledge base. We are on the ground, and the flat landscape around us represents the ‘known’ or ‘map-able’ interiority of our knowledge base- everything we already know and understand can be found on our interiority landscape. To introduce a linear time element to this metaphor collage, the tornado that forms follows a seemingly random line with a beginning, present, and end. For us on the ground, we ‘know’ where a tornado touched down, and we can make sense of what it destroyed in its path because this represents our past.

As the tornado wiggles along, the ever-moving tip of the funnel touches down at ‘present’ time and space which represents where we are for the moment. As a tornado passes over you, one does not know where it will go- the anticipated path represents the future state of the complex system. The swirling exchange of wind from the exteriority and interiority are analogous to some of the abstract concepts yet to be addressed, but the tornado holistically represents the ‘assemblage’ that spans from a level of high abstraction deep in the cloud (where human transportation exists as a vague and amorphous concept) down to medium levels of abstraction where themes and patterns emerge. Mechanical locomotion, fuel-consuming systems, and gravitational interaction with topography all interact here at a broad and adaptive level, still within the cloud but closer to the ground.

Within the violent and adaptive funnel cloud, various competitors to horse-centric transportation compete and interact, while horse carriage processes sharpen into a point on the ground at the tip of the tornado. This is where the assemblage transforms, creates, and destroys the landscape- our perception of reality. The past features horse-centric transportation as far back as the interior knowledge stretches, and our institutional values and tenets help harden our ‘field assumptions’ so that we prefer to anticipate the tornado to move along the path we prefer it to- towards more horse-centric transportation.

What we fail to anticipate is the creation of a paradigm in transportation pulled from the exteriority of the dark clouds- the automobile industry that disrupts the future landscape in ways we find confusing and unexpected. Automobiles will change as well, and the assemblage continues with a violent and confusing interaction between the vast exteriority (unknown knowledge) and our flat, map-able, and protected interiority landscape…

            Figure 2 ties several aforementioned Design concepts while figure 3 below provides examples of an assemblage using the horse carriage metaphor. The tornado graphic is a central illustration to the remainder of the article, and the remainder of this article will continue to add additional abstract concepts to the basic graphic concept seen in figure 2. Abstract concepts are notoriously difficult to convey effectively, and there are undoubtedly many other possible ways to depict such abstraction. Design Theory often uses the linear ‘past-present-future’ construct of narratives to cater to how humans prefer to learn and make sense of the world.[34] The tornado travels along a timeline where past tornado behavior is behind the immediate (present) point where the tornado interacts with the ground. While complex systems such as tornados resist prediction, the ‘future’ reflects one of many paths the tornado system might take through emergent conditions within the entire assemblage. Figure 3 attempts to explain a horse-centric transportation assemblage onto this tornado graphical concept.

Layering the ‘horse carriage industry’ metaphor within the tornado graphic, the past, mapped upon the interiority landscape represents the horse-dominant age of ground transportation while the future indicates an auto-centric emergent state, or potentially some other form of transportation yet undiscovered or fully realized.  The field assumptions and organization values/tenets act as a protective barrier around the interiority- this propels an organization such as a horse carriage company to make sense of the world by embracing what is known, and avoiding high levels of abstraction and uncertainty. [35] The tactical level, as depicted in the graphic as the ‘tip of the twister’ denotes our preference to focus upon immediate events, tangible details, and quantifiable data- the scientific method and many military procedures operate at this very low level of abstraction where interiority knowledge is ample, specific, and reducible. [36] But when the tornado skips along a seemingly chaotic path where prediction fails, how can an organization such as a carriage company or the military break out of ‘thinking in the box’ and rise above the landscape of interiority knowledge?

Metaphors within Metaphors: Design in Discourse

 Since the horse carriage industry’s interiority remains bounded within known information and protected by a barrier comprised of organizational ‘in-house assumptions’ and core values, the past behavior of tornados interacting along the fixed plane of interiority is generally more influential in how that organization contemplates the tornado’s future. [37] Alternatively, the path of destruction behind the tornado becomes more important than the larger and more perplexing storm system obscured by layers of dark clouds above. This vast and swirling storm system denotes the illusive ‘exteriority’ where persistent creation and adaptation evolves the storm system and guides the tornado towards a future state. To play with both metaphors once more, the horse carriage industry prefers to consider where the tornado is heading based upon tangible information as depicted by previous known destruction; known implying ‘interiority’ instead of unknown (exteriority). [38] Dark clouds that mask the exteriority of the system possess the numerous swirling and adapting factors such as the emerging assembly line process, steel and rubber innovations, and the advancement of combustion engine efficiency. These are located in the exterior because they are unknown to carriage organizations that fixate only upon their own interiority. In other words, when one only thinks in horse-centric processes, they will never anticipate a future with anything but horses. What exists above, within the swirling dark clouds of exteriority, where unknown-unknowns and paradigm shifts abound? [39] More importantly, how does the assemblage interact between these concepts of interiority and exteriority? Continuing with the tornado metaphor and the exchange of air flow and energy, figure 4 below introduces the associated abstract concepts of territorialization and deterritorialization for consideration on assemblages.

Just as thermal currents and electrically charged molecules sweep through a storm system and exchange energy as the funnel cloud progresses across the landscape, these abstract concepts of territorialization and deterritorialization work in similar fashion, shaping the assemblage and generating adaptive transformation of the system over time and space.

Explaining Territorialization within the Tornado Metaphor:

Let’s start with ‘territorialization.’ Deleuze and Guattari propose the supporting abstract concepts of ‘territorialization’ and ‘deterritorialization’ that support this overarching concept called an assemblage. “The territory is the first assemblage, the first thing to constitute an assemblage; the assemblage is fundamentally territorial.” [40] Although A Thousand Plateaus returns to territorialization throughout most of their 514 page book, this article attempts to take a generalized approach to this concept in order to apply it to military planning considerations while applying the horse-carriage metaphor as a foil. As territorializing forces are the preserving elements that ‘hold together’ an assemblage, they apply to those phenomenon that drive horse carriage businesses towards continued competition, cooperation, and adaptation in the vast free market of capital enterprise. These are more abstract concepts that generally explain some of the complex system behavior- the higher into abstraction we move, the further we get from tactical details and traditional linear thinking. [41] Returning to the tornado graphic, the swirling air currents and system energy that hold the funnel cloud in rotation represent more abstract concepts within a complex system, such as the perpetual notions of Smith’s invisible hand of economics, or American entrepreneurship and innovation values.  For a horse carriage company owner, these abstract hierarchical business structures formed the organization of carriage companies of the period, geography, and physical elements along with societal laws and values as they relate to the dawn of the 20th century. [42] Although technology and society transformed since that period, many of the same highly abstract forces remain in place for modern businesses and our military institutions. Prosperity-driven agendas, hierarchical decision-based organizations, market competition and adaptation remain abstract yet constant forces that we must continue to make sense of.  Innovation, adaptation, and dynamic change work within territorialization to create ‘emergence’ where new ideas and discovery break down barriers and shatter cherished myths. Territorialization creates, but also destroys. Just as a new paradigm such as the emergence of the affordable and mass-produced automobile transformed the individual ground-transport market at the dawn of the 20th century, it had to destroy the thriving and enduring horse-centric market along with those associated societal values, assumptions, and symbols. [43]

            If the interiority and exteriority of an assemblage interact like a tornado traveling along a fixed but complex path of fierce interaction, the territorializing phenomenon maintains the shape of the funnel cloud. This indicates that while an organization’s interiority may remain rigid and bounded the complex system of swirling forces do generate patterns that influence change. The funnel cloud holds its form and preserves the assemblage while an organization such as a horse carriage company does encounter transformation of its interiority through the passage of time (narrative). The world changes around us, and we struggle to make sense of it. [44] The second phenomenon introduced by Deleuze and Guattari, termed ‘deterritorialization’, operates as a disparate force to the territorializing that preserves the funnel cloud structure. In an Eastern sense, they reciprocate like yin and yang. What territorializing provides to the assemblage, deterritorializing removes.

Explaining Deterritorialization within the Tornado Metaphor:

            Deterritorializing as a force recombines and replaces elements within the assemblage in the manner that entropy claims the inefficiencies and failures of adaptation as observed in natural evolution. Deleuze and Guattari employ the metaphor of a black hole, whereas this article applies the swirling forces of high and low pressure air masses within a dynamic storm system to relate to how territorialization and deterritorialization influence the abstract concept of an assemblage in organizational theory. [45]   As figure 4 depicts territorialization as the force that imparts emergence, adaptation, and innovation through preserving the system, deterritorialization does the opposite by forcing destruction, elimination, and extinction of various elements of the assemblage. Kuhn also warned of how a paradigm shift in a field would destroy the existing theory, and render those scientists and practitioners that clung to old ways as obsolete in the wake of the new paradigm.[46]  Returning to the horse carriage metaphor, what abstract elements forced destruction of accepted horse-centric concepts while dissimilar ones worked to preserve other elements of transportation enterprises? Economic forces, the ‘Gold Standard’, and the Industrial Revolution reflect some of the abstract phenomenon within the territorializing force that drives the horse carriage industry along the timeline in 1900. Deterritorializing forces such as stock market instabilities through investment fluctuations, the emerging global economy, and the expanding market for cheaper yet faster modes of transportation instead of horse-centric locomotion reflect the destructive nature of the assemblage. Whether we liked it or not, the horse’s position as a central element to ground locomotion would be destroyed by the emerging forces that ushered in the automobile industry. Yet within the first decade of the 20th century, many previously prominent carriage companies would be eliminated and many highly skilled carriage artisans unemployed or performing different work. [47] How did they fail to see the horse’s demise, or did they instead don blinders and expect the future to remain ‘horse-centric’ despite the swirling forces of the human transportation assemblage?

Connecting the Assemblage:

Figures 2-4 features a blue line connecting various elements within the assemblage ranging from the high abstraction within the exteriority down through lower levels of abstraction into the strategic, operational, and eventually tactical levels of refinement (interiority) where the present state of the system exists in tension. [48] Although depicted as a line, the higher within the exteriority, the greater the abstraction, while the closer to the point of friction with the interiority along the timeline, the more specific the phenomenon. To consider this another way, ‘human transportation models in tension between speed and cost’ reflects a high level of abstraction, while ‘American horse carriage industry on the eastern coast in 1900’ reflects a lower level of abstraction. Figure 5 below attempts to illustrate how abstract concepts link down into interiority (tactical) thinking for an organization such as a horse carriage company experiencing the paradigm shift that will destroy its industry. The swarming exchanges of territorialization and deterritorialization become interrelated through a swirling and changing web of actors, phenomenon, patterns, and forces throughout the entire assemblage as it moves along the timeline creating a narrative.[49]

For the horse carriage industry in 1900, the entire assemblage (figure 5) represents the abstract phenomenon where human transportation develops along the linear timeline as society progresses. At a high level of abstraction within the exteriority, the concept of a ‘transportation machine’ draws parallel with Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘war machine’ in A Thousand Plateaus where theoretical constructs such as war, economics, or love remain in the exteriority while finite examples of specific military conflicts, business successes, and individual relationships occur within an organization or society’s interiority. [50]  With figure 5, the horse carriage company may self-identify within its interiority that, “we are an organization that builds and sells carriages” and still be unable to consider a future where the same organization transforms into something that does not center on horses. This is despite the higher level of abstraction where carriage companies are merely extensions of a larger phenomenon of human transportation and economic progression. In other words, is the company a horse carriage company, or a transportation company that currently specializes in horse-centric locomotion? Those organizations that look beyond their interiority to recognize that they may be horse-centric in the present, but auto-centric in the future are the ones capable of adapting and innovating to remain prosperous. Switching from horses to armies, is the U.S. Army an organization that defines itself as conventional military conflict-centric, or as an organization that may be unconventional and asymmetrical-centric for future 21st century conflict that is unlike anything previously seen? What are the assemblages out there facing our military institution, and how does our interiority landscape and field assumptions inculcate us from the forces of territorialization and deterritorialization as the complex system adapts and transforms?

Interiority, Exteriority, and Assemblages in Conclusion:

Highly abstract concepts are notoriously difficult to apply in discourse, especially when an organization prefers a reductionist and linear logic conveyed in a simple and generally static hierarchical vocabulary as the military routinely does.[51] This article attempted to introduce to the military design debate the useful post-modern concepts of interiority and exteriority. These concepts combine with the supporting notions of territorialization and deterritorialization forces to form the highly abstract organizational theory concept of assemblages. Immediate reaction to such challenging and potentially problematic abstractions from the traditional military mode of reductionist and linear thinking is to dismiss them outright as unnecessary and entirely too cerebral for a fighting force. [52] This is dangerous reasoning because it reinforces an organization relying upon interiority knowledge and emphasizing description of only what is known- such as when a carriage company in 1900 only sees horse-centric transportation for the next decade. Just as those major horse-centric organizations refused to adapt and went out of business after decades of prosperity, our military risks future relevance and effectiveness in the next conflict if we also fail to adapt and look beyond our preferred logics and beyond our self-bounded landscape of interior knowledge.

            Theoretical abstractions such as Deleuze and Guattari’s assemblage concept require patience and persistent reflection to develop prosperous Design discourse for a group of practitioners. The tornado graphic and horse-carriage metaphor might be useful for some, and inappropriate for others. There is no ‘gold standard’ or Holy Grail for Design explanation. There are few short cuts or checklists, otherwise a millennium of philosophers and brilliant military leaders would clearly have written them for us ages ago. [53] This article proposes the concept of applying clouds of dissimilar metaphors to holistically build cognitive synergy and understand highly abstract concepts for direct Design application. While the atypical coupling of a tornado graphic metaphor with the historical metaphor of the horse carriage industry demise in the early 20th century reflect one possible method for using cloud metaphor techniques, readers undoubtedly come up with many dissimilar other combinations based upon individual experience, knowledge, and creativity. With Design’s emphasis on innovation, exploring the exteriority of a system, and critical thinking, that illustrates the whole reason for breaking away from lock step linear ‘proceduralizing’ typical of military planning. [54] Future Army Design discourse cannot merely center on how to indoctrinate select terms, concepts, and practices into a “paint-by-numbers” military conceptual planning model that promises to be applicable to all future conflicts and provide universal comprehension to the widest audience possible.[55] Instead of reinforcing traditional and hierarchically focused learning processes that work in some tactical applications (when complexity is not a prominent factor), the military must emphasize critical and creative thinking. This means that post-modern concepts such as interiority and exteriority do bring value to the conceptual planning process. While any true Design deliverable must provide detailed planners the tasks, objectives, goals, and purpose for subsequent detailed planning framework, highly abstract approaches such as those applied in this article infuse deep understanding and explanation to back up those direct tasks, details, and directives for the military to action upon.

Thinking only from within your interiority prevents you from thinking about anything but horse-filled futures, even as the automobile paradigm shatters your industry.

Whether planning involves decision-making for adapting one’s business to emerging transportation trends or recognizing that future military conflict may not return to the desired conventional high-intensity operations, focusing exclusively on one’s interiority of knowledge may be problematic for accomplishing long-term strategic goals. Furthermore, when an institution promotes uniformity and ‘group-think’ over critical and often provocative introspection on whether core values and tenets (in-house assumptions) prevent emergent knowledge from flowing from the exteriority to the interiority, failure becomes a useful teacher in stimulating adaptation or elimination.[56] Essentially, the U.S. Army may need to consider how some horse carriage companies adapted to automobile production while a majority of the remainder collapsed into extinction. As the assemblage known as the ‘war machine’ continues to generate future conflicts while engaging new concepts and forms, many traditional and formerly successful processes, techniques, and logics become deterritorialized into obscurity.[57]

This article set out to demonstrate how some post-modern and highly abstract concepts within Design offer utility in conceptual planning endeavors for military organizations. Although some readers continue to seek a ‘Design Holy Grail’ that summarizes what is essential within Design, you will not find that because it simply does not exist. At best, Design exists for military practitioners in hybrid combinations of revised Design doctrine, theory, and a wide yet dissimilar variety of fields, disciplines, and novel concepts that interact and adapt as complex military environments continue to transform.  There is no rulebook, and therefore the argument that “post-modernism and other Design Kool-Aid is not needed in military conceptual planning” rings false. By closing off potentially useful concepts such as Deleuze and Guattari’s work, Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, or Jacques Ranciere among other post-modernist thinkers, military planners essentially fail to “realize strategic aims by examining the assigned problem from multiple perspectives.” [58] Should military planners insert a “Design exercise with interiority and exteriority concepts” into mission analysis during their military decision making process (MDMP) as a rigidly structured procedure for planning? Certainly not- this violates core principles of creative and critical thinking as espoused by Design. Instead, military planners might consider post-modern concepts offered in this article as conceptual tools for their toolbox. Some complex situations warrant their use, but each time they will likely be a highly tailored and customized approach that resists repetition and proceduralization. While the tornado graphic may bring added value to some approaches, it may be entirely useless in many others. Creative thinking and adaptation drive the right Design approach- to simply follow something written down in doctrine or structured within a solitary theory or concept is as limiting as just thinking within one’s bounded interiority. At that point, you just might be “drinking the Kool-Aid” of your organization’s preferred logic, and like most major horse carriage companies at the turn of the 20th century, your days might be limited by the extent of your ability to adapt with change.

[1] The United States Army, Commander’s Appreciation and Campaign Design Version 1.0 (TRADOC Pamphlet 525-5-500, 28 January 2008), 8. “Like other professions, Soldiers prefer structural complexity and linear phenomena. Such problems are easy to control through technical reduction and a systematic method-based solution.”  See also: Colin S. Gray, Out of the Wilderness: Prime Time for Strategic Culture (Comparative Strategic Cultures Curriculum Contract No: DTRA01-03-D-0017, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, 31 October 2006) 1. “But once that story is interpreted and systematized into doctrine by professional theologians, much of the original message, the essential plot even, is apt to be watered down or lost.”

[2] Milan Vego, On Military Theory (Joint Forces Quarterly, Issue 62, July 2011: Last accessed: 18 Aug 2011). “Some of the new theories, such as general systems theory, are highly controversial and even pseudoscientific. Postmodern philosophy is also controversial, and it represents just one of many philosophical currents. Yet it has been adopted as a foundation of [Systemic Operational Design] and the U.S. Army's "design."

[3] CACD 1.0, 5-6. “Commanders must approach operational problems from a holistic systems perspective…the entire earth is a system…the most complex systems are those that are both structurally and interactively complex.”

[4] Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, (translated by Brian Massumi) A Thousand Plateaus; Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 360. “The State-form, as a form of interiority, has a tendency to reproduce itself, remaining identical to itself across its variations and easily recognizable within the limits of its poles…” Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of interiority and exteriority form assemblages which constantly interact. “It is in terms not of independence, but of coexistence and competition in a perpetual field of interaction…”

[5] CACD 1.0, 6. “Reductionism and analysis are not as useful with interactively complex systems because they lose sight of the dynamics between components.”

[6] Shimon Naveh, Jim Schneider, Timothy Challans, The Structure of Operational Revolution; A Prolegomena. (Booz, Allen, Hamilton, 2009) 72. Naveh, Schneider, and Challans state that military planners are “confined to the ‘shackles’ of inferiority determined by institutional paradigm, doctrine, and jargon…[they] are cognitively prevented, by the very convenience of institutional interiority…because the ‘shackles’ of ritual hold them in place.”

[7] Deleuze and Guattari, 398-400. See also: Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory; Foundations, Development, Applications, (New York: George Braziller, 1968 ) 19. Ludwig von Bertalanffy describes open systems in General System Theory as entities consisting of “parts in interaction. The prototype of their description is a set of simultaneous differential equations which are nonlinear in the general case.”

[8] Jeff Conklin, Wicked Problems and Social Complexity, (CogNexus Institute, 2008. (accessed 05 January 2011) 4-5. “This is the pattern of thinking that everyone attempts to follow when they are faced with a problem…this linear pattern as being enshrined in policy manuals, textbooks, internal standards for project management, and even the most advanced tools and methods being used and taught in the organization.” See also: Alex Ryan, The Foundation for an Adaptive Approach, 70. “With the industrial revolution, the planning and decision-making process gradually built up a well-oiled machine to reduce reliance on individual genius.” See also: Michael Krause, Cody Phillips, Historical Perspectives of the Operational Art, (Center of Military History, United States Army, 2007) 333. “The U.S. fought its wars for more than 200 years without needing an ‘operational level.’ Strategy and tactics were good enough for Clausewitz and Jomini- and for our fathers and grandfathers as they fought the biggest wars known to man.”

[9] The trailblazer of Design for military applications is Systemic Operational Design (SOD) developed originally by the Israeli Defense Force in the 1990s. The Australian Army titled theirs as ‘Adaptive Campaigning’ while the British have most recently produced their Joint Doctrine Note 3/11: Decision-Making and Problem Solving: Human and Organizational Factors (Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), Ministry of Defence, June 2011). Last accessed: 22 August 2011. The U.S. Army and USMC have both gone through several iterations of ‘Design’ processes, doctrine, and pamphlets that are cited throughout this article.

[10] Donald A. Schon, Educating the Reflective Practitioner, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1987 ); See also: Peter Checkland and John Poulter, Learning for Action; A short Definitive Account of Soft Systems Methodology and its use for Practitioners, Teachers, and Students, (England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2006); See also: Fritjof Capra, The Web of Life, (New York: Doubleday, 1996); See also: Shimon Naveh, Operational Art and the IDF: A Critical Study of a Command Culture, (Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessment (CSBA), contract: DASW01-02-D-0014-0084, September 30, 2007). Naveh explains the rise of Systemic Operational Design (SOD) as a theory for the Israeli Defense Force in the 1990s up through the 2006 Hezbollah War.

[11] Christopher Paparone, The Nature of Knowledge in the Profession of Military Logistics, (Army Logistician, November-December 2008, ). Paparone uses a similar metaphor on jazz music versus orchestra sheet music for contrasting conceptual and detailed planning logics.

[12] CACD 1.0, 10. “Every ill-structured problem is essentially unique and novel…since each wicked problem is a on-of-a-kind situation, it requires a custom solution rather than a standard solution modified to fit circumstances.”

[13] Naveh, Schneider, Challans,72. Naveh, Schneider, and Challans also make a distinction between what they consider designers and military planners. Military planners are “confined to the ‘shackles’ of inferiority determined by institutional paradigm, doctrine, and jargon…[they] are cognitively prevented, by the very convenience of institutional interiority…because the ‘shackles’ of ritual hold them in place.” Doctrine reflects a barrier to critical and creative thinking.

[14] George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), 3-5; See Also: Justin Kelly and Mike Brennan, OODA Versus ASDA: Metaphors at War; Australian Army Journal For the Profession of Arms, Volume VI, Number 3, (Duntroon: Land Warfare Studies Centre, 2009) 43. All metaphors are “incomplete and only partially appropriate representation of the phenomenon it purports to characterize.” See also: Eva Boxenbaum, Linda Rouleau, New Knowledge Products as Bricolage: Metaphors and Scripts in Organizational Theory, (Academy of Management Review, Vol. 36, No. 2, 2011) 274-275.

[15] Joint Doctrine Note 3/11: Decision-Making and Problem Solving: Human and Organizational Factors (Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), Ministry of Defence, June 2011). Last accessed: 22 August 2011, 2-5.

[16] Thomas Kinney, The Carriage Trade: Making Horse-Drawn Vehicles in America; Studies in Industry and Society, (The John Hopkins University Press, Maryland, 2004), 286.

[17] Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan, (New York: Random House, 2007). See also: Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd ed, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

[18] Qiao Liang, Wang Xiangsui, Unrestricted Warfare, (Beijing: People’s Liberation Army Literature and Arts Publishing House, February 1999), 13-14. “Some of the traditional models of war, as well as the logic and laws attached to it, will also be challenged. The outcome of the contest is not the collapse of the traditional mansion but rather one portion of the new construction site being in disorder.” Liang and Xiangsui present a non-western perspective on how a paradigm shift in military thinking in the 21st century does not destroy the old entirely, but reorganize an old structure into a new one; some parts remain useful while others go to the intellectual scrap heap.

[19] Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (translated by Sheila Faria Glaser; the University of Michigan Press, 1994) 122. “This projection is greatly reduced in science fiction: it is most often nothing other than an unbounded projection of the real world of production, but it is not qualitatively different from it.” We thus imagine robots in human form because other forms ignore how we view our world and relate unknown concepts such as futuristic robots in familiar forms.

[20] W.T. Singleton, Man-Machine Systems, (edited by Open Systems Group), Systems Behavior, 3rd edition (London: Harper & Row Publishers, 1981) 125. Singleton’s quote illustrates the repetitive condition the U.S. Army faces when preparing the military organization in peacetime for an expected conflict. More often than not, the war that the Army trained for is not the war the Army gets.

[21] Linn, 232; See also: Australian Head Modernisation and Strategic Planning- Army, Australian Army’s Future Land Operating Concept, (Australian Army Headquarters, Canberra, September 2009) 4.15.d.3. Australian Design doctrine criticizes the techno-centric military hubris in favor of fostering a learning environment. “Often the most important lessons will come from early identification of people’s mistakes. Consequently, the Land Force needs to reject a ‘zero defects mentality’ in favour of a culture that embraces learning;” See also: Winter, 59. “Military conservatism and traditionalism tend to take the form of ‘dogmatic doctrine.”

[22] Joint Doctrine Note 3/11: Decision-Making and Problem Solving: Human and Organizational Factors (Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), Ministry of Defence, June 2011). Last accessed: 22 August 2011, 4-5 (412).

[23] Qiao Liang, Wang Xiangsui, Unrestricted Warfare, (Beijing: People’s Liberation Army Literature and Arts Publishing House, February 1999) 114. See also: Nassim Taleb, The Black Swan, (New York: Random House, 2007).

[24] Mats Alvesson, Jorgen Sandberg, Generating Research Questions Through Problematization, (Academy of Management Review, Vol. 36, No. 2, 2011) 254. Alvesson and Sandberg use the term ‘in-house assumption’, ‘root metaphor’, and ‘field assumption’ to explain how organizations employ a logic that contains theoretical concepts that are ‘unproblematic’ and are often deeply tied to organizational values and identity. When these theories fail to explain the world, the organization continues to view the theory as unproblematic instead of applying critical thinking to the logic itself; For a military example, see also: Carl H. Builder, The Masks of War; American Military Styles in Strategy and Analysis, (RAND Corporation: John Hopkins University Press, 1989) 38. “But something happened to the Army in its passage through World War II that it liked; and it has not been able to free itself from the sweet memories of the Army that liberated France and swept victoriously into Germany…part of the Army is trying to revert to its traditional, historical role; and part is hanging on to an image of the Army at its finest year, the last year of World War II.”; 

[25] Joint Doctrine Note 3/11: Decision-Making and Problem Solving: Human and Organizational Factors (Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), Ministry of Defence, June 2011). Last accessed: 22 August 2011, 4-17 (416).

[26] The U.S. Army employs the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) while Joint Forces use a similar Joint Operations Planning Process (JOPP). The USMC use the Marine Corps Planning Process (MCPP) that offers an adaptation of both MDMP and JOPP tailed to unique Marine requirements and institutional tenets. All of these processes use a regimented and sequential series of procedures that translate higher command’s intent and desired end-state into concrete missions, tasks, objectives, and lines of operation in a reductionist, linear logic; See also: Joint Doctrine Note 3/11: Decision-Making and Problem Solving: Human and Organizational Factors (Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), Ministry of Defence, June 2011). Last accessed: 22 August 2011, 2-11 (218). “Common processes are vital to help disparate organizations work together effectively…but we should not become slaves to technology or process at the expense of adaption to, and innovation in, a new operating context.”

[27] Jeff Conklin, Wicked Problems and Social Complexity (CogNexus Institute, 2008. (accessed 05 January 2011) 4. “Traditional thinking, cognitive studies, and the prevailing Design methods all predicted that the best way to work on a problem like this was to follow an orderly and linear ‘top-down’ process, working from the problem to the solution.” Conklin addresses business and Design approaches to complexity, yet his study transfers effectively to military operations.

[28] Thomas Kinney, The Carriage Trade: Making Horse-Drawn Vehicles in America; Studies in Industry and Society, (The John Hopkins University Press, Maryland, 2004) 3-4. Kinney describes the tension between some carriage companies that expanded into massive industrialized factories that transitioned industry from craft-to-mass production, while other small carriage companies “survived the introduction of high-speed machinery...and small firms often stood their ground against outsized competitors.”

[29] Mary Jo Hatch, Ann Cunliffe, Organization Theory, Second Edition (Oxford University Press, 2006) 210-211. Hatch adapts her ‘cultural dynamics’ model from Pasquale Gagliardi and uses a cycle of assumptions, values, artifacts, and symbols where a society rotates through each of the processes and eventually changes them.  Assumptions relate to values of the culture, and those values are manifested in artifacts (things). Select artifacts rise to the status of ‘symbols’ with the symbolization undergoing an interpretation phase that reverses the cycle and changes the entire cultural assemblage.

[30] Francois Jullien (translated by Janet Lloyd), A Treatise on Efficacy Between Western and Chinese Thinking, (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2004), 19.  Jullien contrasts western reductionist thinking with that of Eastern; western tends to think systematically, where“the parts [can] be worked out, actually, logically, and mathematically, and then be put together…an equation describing the behavior of the total is of the same form as the equations describing the behavior of the parts.” The West would concentrate on bike parts separately, while the East would ride it and address the problem holistically.

[31] Deleuze, Guattari, 351. Deleuze and Guattari discuss their concept of ‘the war machine’ and differentiate two rival forces that are “at once antithetical and complementary, necessary to one another…their opposition is only relative; they function as a pair.”

[32] John Romjue, American Army Doctrine for the Post-Cold War, (Fort Monroe: Military History Office, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, 1997), 84. Romjue cites H.O. Malone, Jr. Chief Historian’s notes on a Fort A.P. Hill meeting on 16 September, 1992. The subject of the meeting: FM 100-5 Off-Site Conference. “Doctrine had to come to terms with the new geometry of the battlefield. Were diagrams useful in describing an intellectual concept? And should an intellectual concept be doctrine at all? [General Frederick M. Franks, Jr.] viewed the old standard, and dichotomy, of linear versus nonlinear warfare as a shibboleth, now without meaning…Franks thought no graphic was necessary for such a visualization…Doctrine was needed that would jolt the Army out of the old geometry of the battlefield.”  See also: Builder,17.

[33] Shimon Naveh, Jim Schneider, Timothy Challans, The Structure of Operational Revolution; A Prolegomena (Booz, Allen, Hamilton, 2009) 88. According to Naveh, Army Design doctrine demonstrates repetitive tacticization where military institutions “are inclined to apply knowledge they have acquired from their tactical experiences to their operational functioning sphere. In such cases, they either reduce the operational inquiry of potential opposition into a mechanical discussion or completely reject the need for a distinct learning operation;” See also: Mats Alvesson, Jorgen Sandberg, Generating Research Questions Through Problematization (Academy of Management Review, Vol. 36, No. 2, 2011) 261. “Members have (1) beliefs (2) about attributes of the organization and (3) that these attributes are distinctive, central, and enduring.”

[34] Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse; Essays in Cultural Criticism, (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1978) 6. “Rational or scientific knowledge was little more than the truth yielded by reflection in the prefigurative modes raised to the level of abstract concepts and submitted to criticism for logical consistency, coherency, and so on.” See also: Ervin Laszlo, The Systems View of the World; A Holistic Vision for Our Time, (New Jersey, Hampton Press, 1996) 16. “Systems thinking gives us a holistic perspective for viewing the world around us, and seeing ourselves in the world.”

[35] Carl H. Builder, The Masks of War; American Military Styles in Strategy and Analysis, (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1989) 142. Builder argues that military institutionalism and desire for self-relevance places the interests of the military above all else, to include national interests at times; See also: Scott Winter, Fixed, Determined, Inviolable; Australian Army Journal For the Profession of Arms, Volume VI, Number 3 (Duntroon: Land Warfare Studies Centre, 2009) 63. Winter uses the term ‘military conservatism’ to explain how during peacetime, Australian military organizations protect “the baby of tradition- the ‘fighter spirit’ and established and proven doctrine;”

[36] Mats Alvesson, Jorgen Sandberg, Generating Research Questions Through Problematization, (Academy of Management Review, Vol. 36, No. 2, 2011), 256. “Problematization cannot be reduced to a mechanical or even strictly analytical procedure, since it always involves some kind of creative act.”

[37] Gerald M. Weinberg, Rethinking Systems Analysis and Design, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1982),121. “Reduction is but one approach to understanding, one among many. As soon as we stop trying to examine one tiny portion of the world more closely and apply some close observation to science itself, we find that reductionism is an ideal never achieved in practice.” See also: Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse; Essays in Cultural Criticism, (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1978) 6. “Rational or scientific knowledge was little more than the truth yielded by reflection in the prefigurative modes raised to the level of abstract concepts and submitted to criticism for logical consistency, coherency, and so on.”

[38] Ervin Laszlo, The Systems View of the World; a Holistic Vision for Our Time, (New Jersey, Hampton Press, 1996) 2; See also: Ahl, Allen,1. “In all ages humanity has been confronted by complex problems. The difference between then and now is that contemporary society has ambitions of solving complex problems through technical understanding;” See also: Gary Jason, Critical Thinking: Developing an Effective System logic, (San Diego State University: Wadsworth Thomson Learning, 2001) 337. “People tend to compartmentalize: they divide aspects of their lives into compartments and then make decisions about things in one compartment without taking into account the implications for things in another compartment.”

[39] Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd ed, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).  Kuhn’s theory of paradigm shifts essentially states that an inferior or imperfect field or theory develops abnormalities until eventually, those abnormalities help evoke an entirely dissimilar and superior field or theory that eliminates the previous one. This paradigm shift shatters the previous logic; Newtonian physics was eliminated by Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity in a paradigm shift in the early 20th century; the rifled barrel eliminated smooth-bore muskets and tight standing-formation firing from military tactics. 

[40] Deleuze and Guattari, 323-325.

[41] Valerie Ahl and T.F.H. Allen, Hierarchy Theory: A Vision, Vocabulary, and Epistemology, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996) 18. “Meaning, and explaining the “why” of a phenomenon, come from the context. The lower-level mechanics, the “how” of the phenomenon, have nothing to say about “why.”

[42] Grant Martin, Tell Me How to Do This Thing Called Design! Practical Application of Complexity Theory to Military Operations, (Small Wars Journal, April 8, 2011, ). Martin explains how a wide and diverse range of fields such as “economics, psychology, sociology, evolutionary biology, physics (quantum mechanics) and cosmology” all relate to complexity theory. This author suggests that ‘territorialization’ forces preserve the structure of an assemblage through interaction of many competing theories and processes such as those Martin describes.

[43] Mary Jo Hatch, Ann Cunliffe, Organization Theory, Second Edition (Oxford University Press, 2006) 210-211.

[44] Paul Ricoeur (translated by Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer), Time and Narrative, Volume 3, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985) 107. “We would be not able to make any sense of the idea of a new event that breaks with a previous era, inaugurating a course of events wholly different from what preceded it.”

[45] Deleuze and Guattari, 334. “It is important to bring up this “black hole” function again because it can increase our understanding of phenomena of inhibition…”

[46] Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd ed, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).  Chapter 2: Kuhn explains that scientists that reject a paradigm in their field will need to change their field or become irrelevant.

[47] Thomas Kinney, The Carriage Trade: Making Horse-Drawn Vehicles in America; Studies in Industry and Society, (The John Hopkins University Press, Maryland, 2004), 260-261. “If the skilled craftsman’s window of opportunity narrowed, it remained open nevertheless, and through to the very end of the industry”

[48]Deleuze and Guattari do not include the military concepts of ‘strategic, operational, and tactical’ in their work. This author applies military planning logic to the post-modern theory of assemblages and uses the tornado metaphor in a hybrid application of these various concepts and dissimilar logics. While some post-modern academics may object to this hybrid approach, consider that an equal population of traditional military strategists will also take objection as well based on aversion to post-modernism in general.

[49] Paul Ricoeur (translated by Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer), Time and Narrative, Volume 3, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985) 107. See also: Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1973), 7. “The arrangement of selected events of the chronicle into a story raises the kinds of questions the historian must anticipate and answer in the course of constructing his narrative.” White offers questions that create the order, meaning, and “how did it all come out in the end” construction of a narrative.

[50] Deleuze and Guattari, 360. “It is in terms not of independence, but of coexistence and competition in a perpetual field of interaction, that we must conceive of exteriority and interiority, war machines of metamorphosis and State apparatuses of identity, bands and kingdoms, megamachines and empires.”

[51] John Nagl, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife; Counterinsurgency Lessons From Malaya and Vietnam (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002) 9. “Military organizations often demonstrate remarkable resistance to doctrinal change as a result of their organizational cultures. Organizational learning, when it does occur, tends to happen only in the wake of a particularly unpleasant or unproductive event.”  See also: Michael Krause, Cody Phillips, Historical Perspectives of the Operational Art, (Center of Military History, United States Army, 2007) 440. “Most senior American leaders of Desert Storm had little exposure to the operational art in the Army educational system;" See also: Peter Northouse, Leadership: Theory and Practice, Third Edition (California: Sage Productions, 2004) 69-70, 77-78. Northouse outlines the ‘authority-compliance’ style of leadership in theory.

[52] Gary Yukl, Leadership in Organization, Sixth Edition, (New York: University of Albany, Pearson, 2006) 94. “Thus, the leader may have to use a sequence of different decision procedures with different people at different times before the matter is resolved.” Simply following doctrine and repeating previously successful actions is not enough in complex environments. See also: Michael Fullan, Leading in a Culture of Change, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001) 107. “You don’t have to become Dr. Changelove to realize that living on the edge means simultaneously letting go and reining in;”

[53] Anatol Rapoport (editor), Editor’s Introduction to On War, Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, (Penguin Books, 1968). For readers that immediately turn to Clausewitz when considering a holistic military theory, Rapoport’s work provides a useful foil. A Games Theorist, Rapoport takes a decidedly non-western approach by framing Clausewitzian logic as a political theory of war that is incompatible with various other rival war theories; he describes early Soviet theory as ‘messianic eschatological’ while later Cold-War Soviet became ‘global cataclysmic eschatological.’ Rapoport lays the groundwork for understanding extremist religious war theories as ‘divine messianic eschatological.’ This work proved useful in framing western military logic with theoretical concepts such as Clausewitz and Jomini. See also: Qiao Liang, Wang Xiangsui, Unrestricted Warfare, (Beijing: People’s Liberation Army Literature and Arts Publishing House, February 1999) 19. Liang and Xiangsui take an eastern perspective on western warfare. “We still cannot indulge in romantic fantasies about technology, believing that from this point on war will become a confrontation like an electronic game, and even simulated warfare in a computer room similarly must be premised upon a country’s actual overall capabilities…”

[54] Naveh, Schneider, Challans,72. Naveh, Schneider, and Challans also make a distinction between what they consider designers and military planners. Military planners are “confined to the ‘shackles’ of inferiority determined by institutional paradigm, doctrine, and jargon…[they] are cognitively prevented, by the very convenience of institutional interiority…because the ‘shackles’ of ritual hold them in place.”

[55] United States Marine Corps, Department of the Navy, Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication (MCDP) 5, Planning, (Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, Washington D.C. July 1997), 25. The Marines warn that a planning pitfall is “the tendency for institutionalized planning methods to lead to inflexible or lockstep thinking and for planning and plans to become rigid and overly emphasize procedures…attempts to [institutionalize planning] will necessarily restrict intuition and creativity.”

[56] Shimon Naveh, Jim Schneider, Timothy Challans, The Structure of Operational Revolution; A Prolegomena, (Booz, Allen, Hamilton, 2009), 88. According to the authors, Army Design doctrine demonstrates repetitive tacticization where military institutions “are inclined to apply knowledge they have acquired from their tactical experiences to their operational functioning sphere. In such cases, they either reduce the operational inquiry of potential opposition into a mechanical discussion or completely reject the need for a distinct learning operation;” See also: Mats Alvesson, Jorgen Sandberg, Generating Research Questions Through Problematization (Academy of Management Review, Vol. 36, No. 2, 2011) 261. “Members have (1) beliefs (2) about attributes of the organization and (3) that these attributes are distinctive, central, and enduring.”

[57] Deleuze, Guattari, 353. Deleuze and Guattari use a ‘Chess and Go’ game theory analogy for their internal and external concepts of ‘the war machine.’ “Chess is indeed a war, but an institutionalized, regulated, coded war, with a front, a rear, battles.” They correlate the rigid structure of the chess game to how linear tactical processes of the state and the military institution prefer obedience, hierarchical control, and repetition.

[58] CACD 1.0, 2-3 (21). See also: Michel Foucault, Discourse and Truth: The Problematization of Parrhesia, (originally covered in six lectures given by Michel Foucault at the University of California, Berkeley in October-November, 1983. Published online at: (accessed 16 December 2010); see also: Jacques Ranciere (translated by Kristin Ross), The Ignorant Schoolmaster (Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1991).

About the Author(s)

Ben Zweibelson is the Program Director for Design and Innovation at the Joint Special Operations University and is a doctoral student at Lancaster University. A retired U.S. Army Infantry officer and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Ben has provided design education across USSOCOM, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Government, academia and industry as well as internationally. He was named “design conference ambassador” for the second year in a row for the upcoming IMDC, and has recently lectured on design at the Polish and Danish War Colleges, the Canadian Forces College, NATO Schools at Oberammergau, the National Counterterrorism Center, the IBM capstone SPADE conference for NATO in Copenhagen, as well as numerous Special Operations and strategic level defense assets in 2018. He resides in Tampa, Florida with his wife and three children. He can be reached at



Hubba Bubba

Thu, 10/27/2011 - 2:32pm

There indeed is some hostility in some of these posts. It is expected, as there was always hostility when any new concept rambled along and challenged the existing paradigm of the time. Is design theory that vehicle? Or is it a red herring? I am not sure, but it is quite interesting. The metaphors used in this article are quite far-reaching. The tornado interacting with the interiority and exteriority concepts reminds me of some Hemmingway:

"Thomas Hudson had studied tropical storms for many years and he could tell from the sky when there was a tropical disturbance long before his barometer showed its presence. He knew how to plot storms and the precautions that should be taken against them. He knew too what it was to live through a hurricane with the other people of the island and the bond that the hurricane made between all people who had been through it..." - Islands in the Stream.

Is Hudson a useful metaphor for the military's desire to anticipate the next storm (conflict) and how to plan for it? What happens when the next storm is unlike anything previously? What happens when the next storm threatens the house on the island in a new and unforecasted way? Will the island dwellers continue to throw their resources and energy into previous ideas and concepts in the hopes that the traditional way of weathering storms will continue to work? Will they reject any new or unorthodox ideas because they risk the house- if we play with post-modernism and "fancy ideas" instead of proven MDMP and doctrinized procedures, we risk the house being destroyed in the new storm.

Ah, well- my attempt at a metaphor for this one.

Blowing bubbles-


After reading these exchanges, I am pesimistic. Not because there is not enough literature out there, but because the community (that embraces the ideal of doctrine) wants closure (and that's what they'll get).

One of our issues is that "design" is becoming a catchword (that is, a container for discrediting or criticizing the institutional proclivity for utilitarianism/"tool kit-itus"). Those who have read about design want to know how it is useful.

"Show me how this is useful" is akin to "Tell me how postmodernism will help us win wars."

Criticism is about finding fault with the frames we have. Creativity is about reframing (sometimes in radical ways). Neither tells us how to win wars.

The doctrinal approach to design seems hardly critical of the frames we have (doctrine has become a continuous reshuffling of the categories of tasks under a new supertask architecture of the same ol' concepts based in modern science metaphors). The Army's "new" publications are a great example of this reshuffling and the appearance of transformation; whereas, it is analogous to placing new marketing labels on the box of the same ol' saltine crackers.

Reframing may require us to rethink the idea of doctrine itself as making "interiority" the only way we see the potential for knowledge construction (doctrine appears to be "progressive" from an interior point of view).

Doctrine is in many ways the ultimate death knell of exterior sources of knowledge constructions and sources of creativity for reframing. It is regressive in that sense. After all, one synonym for doctrine is "dogma."

Keep at it Ben!!


We are in violent agreement, which confuses me on what we are disagreeing upon...
May I return to the introduction of this article:

"This article contains some highly abstract concepts that have little use in any future military doctrine, and likely are not very useful to the greater force in terms of planning participation outside of conceptual planning efforts. This probably is not a very convincing way to begin an article that promotes the utility of Design concepts in military planning, but Design is best addressed both critically and creatively. Military readers may wonder, ‘why even bother with any post-modern philosophical concept at all?’ Design does not provide any quick or simplistic solutions, and unfortunately, our military culture struggles to see much long-term benefit when traditional processes seem to shuffle our organization along, albeit at a cost. Perhaps, if we at a minimum explore some of these post-modern abstract concepts, they might offer a prospect for evoking greater understanding of a complex military problem so that traditional planning efforts might better be applied."

Post modern concepts are one possible addition to the tool box; if anyone has the impression that they are the only way, or just the best way, then I am clearly not getting that point conveyed and I need to try again in some other way.

Design Theory is not a replacement; I prefer to think of it as a different set of tools in the tool box. Use the tools that work best for the job at hand- but perhaps in my own limited military experience, I have felt some concern when an institution emphasizes certain tools, and has a potentially unwilling predisposition towards other options that are tools of a different sort.

The introduction of these concepts are problematic because we have a hard time communicating them. I fully agree with that. I recently completed a rather interesting and useful planning operation where we began with a small OPT and used a heavy amount of Design Theory, and subsequently expanded the OPT while converting the Design Deliverable into a more useful detailed product which led to an excellent wargame and COA selection. The whole process was grounded in Design Theory, but as the OPT expanded to a much larger team, the language and concepts of Operational Design, JOPP/MCPP/MDMP doctrine, and traditional intelligence processes built upon the deliverable and we established 'buy in' from the vast majority. The final product is a traditional COA recommendation- but it still permeates with the original Design Theory for those that started in the original OPT. I learned a few things from this process, and perhaps that may help in future writing efforts? In the end, I just do not see Design becoming a mass-produced and indoctrinated procedure; it may have to remain a small group initial effort where the fruits of the labor help spark more traditional methods/processes...or I may be completely wrong with this.

As always, a pleasure.


Bill M.

Wed, 10/12/2011 - 11:14pm

The argument that our generals and admirals are focused on fighting the last war gets a tad old. Just because they may disagree with you on how the future will unfold and where we can assume risk and where we shouldn't doesn't mean their dug into unmalleable positions, far from it. One really doesn't have to dig that deep to see some great works by many Generals and Admirals addressing how we need to change to fight/defend in the future.

As for creativity, I do agree that MDMP the way it is practiced limits creativity considerably, but to be frank the doctrine Nazis who adhere to it blindly are generally at the grade of LTC and MAJ. However, most commands I have been in at the operational level do not restrict themselves to MDMP unless it is a crisis. They explore alternative approaches, they seek outside opinions, and play with other problem solving models as time permits.

I agree strongly with Dayuhan about the large number of snake oil salespersons out there who are muddied the waters with old concepts wrapped in new wrapping paper, or poorly formed ideas not ready for show time in the real world.

Design theorists need to stop criticizing others for their inability to explain their concept, and yes I could summarize global warming in a couple of paragraphs, as well as evolution, but that doesn't mean you can't write books on each topic to explore them in detail.


Wed, 10/12/2011 - 10:53pm

I think it’s reasonable to expect proponents of a theory to be able to make a general statement of the theory in a clear paragraph or two. That obviously won’t be the whole thing, but it should lay out where the theory is coming from, where it’s going, and how it proposes to get there.

We all know that large institutions (and to a lesser extent individuals) often fall into entrenched patterns of thinking and action. We all know that planning is often based on past experience and reflexive assumption instead of honest assessment of emerging trends: the inevitable reference to “generals preparing to fight the last war” is already a cliché. We all know that this tendency restricts an institution’s capacity to adapt, and that adaptation is necessary to survival. We all know that critical, creative, thinking and innovation are necessary to overcome this inertia.

These really aren’t abstract concepts. They are easily derived from simple observation, and are so widely accepted that they need very little elaboration or support. There may be a few true fossils who would object, but it’s a waste of time to address those: you might as well try to explain plate tectonics to a flat-earther or evolution to a biblical literalist.

We also know, from experience, that managers around the world are continually beset by snake-oil salesmen marketing warmed-over concepts advertised as hot new solutions to the generally recognized problem of fostering creativity in large institutions. Legions of self-styled “management gurus” have made their fortunes this way. We have learned to be skeptical when somebody announces the next big thing: we’ve seen many of them come and go. That skepticism is natural and necessary; it’s not to be complained over, it needs to be overcome by clear explanations and effective demonstrations of utility.

What we don’t know, and what you’re not telling us, is what Design theory <i>is</i>, and how exactly it’s meant to foster creativity and innovation.

If I were trying to foster creativity in a large institution, I would not try to lay out a template or approved method for creative thought: different people create and adapt in very different ways. I’d focus on finding, rewarding, and promoting creative and adaptable individuals, letting them innovate in ways that come naturally to them, and finding and removing the obstacles to innovation.

Is it not odd that insurgents and drug cartels manage to adapt and innovate so effectively despite an almost total lack of post-modern philosophers in their ranks? The purely intellectual route to fostering innovation is not necessarily invalid (though I wonder how much practical innovation it has actually fostered), but it’s not the only way.

That's an excellent illustration of the point that I was trying to make: if that level of condescension is a standard response to a mild attempt at constructive criticism, it doesn't surprise me that the ideas get a hostile reception.

Nobody said anything about a word or a sentence. Evolution, global warming, nuclear proliferation, and climate change can be and have been clearly and effectively explained by professionals in ways that facilitate understanding instead of obstructing it. I see no reason why proponents of Design should not be able to do the same. Clear, effective communication requires some intellectual sweat work on the part of the person doing the presenting, but it's worth it, especially if you want to be understood.

If your presentations aren't getting the response or reception that you think they deserve, it's up to you to make them more effective. That can be a problem - think of it as a wicked problem, if it helps - but it should not be an insoluble one. Blaming the audience is not a creative or innovative response, nor will it solve the problem you face in getting your message across.


Wed, 10/12/2011 - 9:33am

In reply to by bz

Okay, I thought you were continuing the posts made by others in this article stream. Scrolling down, there are requests for Design concept simplification down to a sentence, paragraph, or even word. If you took offense at that, it is most unfortunate, as your argument appears to reinforce the same points as others.


Some thoughts-

How often do you hear folks demanding that Evolution be explained in a word, or a sentence?

How about global warming, or gravity? Or Nuclear Proliferation?

Not too often- and it takes some intellectual sweat work to grasp the concepts, if eyes and minds are really open to critical and creative thinking...but sometimes you cannot have a conversation if the other person has already made their mind up, right?


Some thoughts-

How often do you hear folks demanding that Evolution be explained in a word, or a sentence?

How about global warming, or gravity? Or Nuclear Proliferation?

Not too often- and it takes some intellectual sweat work to grasp the concepts, if eyes and minds are really open to critical and creative thinking...but sometimes you cannot have a conversation if the other person has already made their mind up, right?


Some thoughts-

How often do you hear folks demanding that Evolution be explained in a word, or a sentence?

How about global warming, or gravity? Or Nuclear Proliferation?

Not too often- and it takes some intellectual sweat work to grasp the concepts, if eyes and minds are really open to critical and creative thinking...but sometimes you cannot have a conversation if the other person has already made their mind up, right?


Bill M.

Wed, 10/12/2011 - 1:05am

In reply to by Dayuhan

I tried to explain this previously to no avail. It gets tiring hearing about the intellectual superiority of this concept, yet its authors can't explain it? Not sure why that is, but scientists somehow manage to explain complex scientific theories in terms that make sense to their peers and the lay audience. If they can't explain it, then it isn't a theory, just some loosely connected ideas.


Tue, 10/11/2011 - 11:09pm

Having observed a bit of the discourse (from well outside the intended audience), I suspect that the "intellectual hostility" and general exasperation that the theory draws may be largely a reaction to the manner in which the concepts are presented. Design proponents might do well to abandon the laments about the inability of the anti-intellectual philistines to see the merit of their ideas and put more effort into some honest assessment of the way the ideas are presented and some ways in which they might be delivered more effectively. The presentations often seem to me to be creating unnecessary barriers between the audience and the content, and at times the authors seem more interested in displaying their intellectual luminosity than in clear, effective communication of concepts. I don't think that's actually the intention, but that perception is likely to produce a hostile reception from the audience.

I think much of this material coulb be presented much more clearly and accessibly without "dumbing it down" in any way, and that many of the concepts might actually be refined in the process.

Unconvinced is just fine; I am just shooting for "post modern concepts present some value, sometimes, in some situations, for making sense of a complex environment..." or at a minimum, "post modern concepts are really out there- but if someone in the military organization used something from that toolbox and wanted to apply it to a project, I will not tell him he is completely wasting his time." There is so much intellectual hostility and rigid codification going on with Design that I fear we are cutting off too many options before we even get started. If the traveler can just explain himself well enough, he can bring others on their own journey- but not if they duct tape his mouth shut before he utters a word.



Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:28pm

Re this:

<i>We are full of plenty of tactical Macguivers out there making straw into gold on a daily basis in multiple conflicts. But- at the operational level and above- where all of those tactical successes ought to be unified into a cohesive and synergistic approach that accomplishes our strategic goals- we are left rather flat. </i>

It might be worth considering that the larger the scale of the decisions being made, the more likely they are to be constrained by policy-level parameters. Policy, alas, is often dumb, and it's difficult to devise smart strategies in the service of stupid policies.

I believe that more effective and more innovative thinking and planning would be a useful thing, especially at the policy level but also at all levels below. Whether that can best be achieved - or can be usefully pursued - through postmodern thought, or through the overweight jargon and imposed complexity that burdens so much of the "Design" discourse, is another question. I remain unconvinced.

"This mass is so amorphous that only a "system of systems" can make the sausage of policy, and often the sausage is not very good." - what a great quote, Pete. Loved that.

We are at an intellectual crossroads, perhaps. You frame the landscape well- on one path, we have a superhighway of technological centric logic where the military industrial complex and 'whiz kids' have built this colossus of metrics, science, and these machines that promise to "tame complexity." Instead of adapting from past failures, we re-brand things. Body counts are out, but "jackpots" are in...can someone tell me the difference? The math teachers of the military industrial complex have such a grip on our military that any efforts that fall outside of a metric or measurable (quantifiable) process is branded as 'anecdotal' and irrelevant. This road stifles creative discourse and innovation.

The other road opening up is full of intellectual potholes that make the ride rather unpleasant. Design offers new concepts and innovative thinking- but at a steep price right now. We cannot agree upon a lexicon, or even uniform processes and logic because the military is literally going into seizures over how to understand, incorporate, and ultimately profit from Design Theory. This road is littered with too many philosophical chin-strokers that have some genuinely interesting ideas, but are often too insulated from the rest of the institution to convey their deep understanding in a manner that delivers the explanation in a form that can be actioned with.

The original road (MDMP, linear concepts, doctrine, repetition) is still useful for the military, but not for every journey. Yet we use it often- perhaps too often. We define ourselves with it, we churn out military professionals out of our PME steeped in the dogma...and then we scratch our heads and ask why our leaders are not more adaptable and innovative in real-world applications. Now, I am not saying military professionals are not tactically innovative- they absolutely are. We are full of plenty of tactical Macguivers out there making straw into gold on a daily basis in multiple conflicts. But- at the operational level and above- where all of those tactical successes ought to be unified into a cohesive and synergistic approach that accomplishes our strategic goals- we are left rather flat. Operational Macguivers are few and far in-between. Why? And how can we fix this?

I like to think that a military professional should view the spectrum of available knowledge as an expanding buffet line. Imagine options of different food expanding at an exponential rate as new knowledge is produced by human society in all directions. You are literally surrounded by food- but your plate is limited. What do you consume? For military leaders, can we put any combination we want, or does our institutionalism force us to put the same meals on all of our plates. Doctrine, school, and my organization says I must eat chicken, corn, and mashed potatoes- and eating this every time will always get me where I need to be...and if you add some Hot and Sour Soup, cuttlefish, and beef bone marrow, you are messing with how things ought to be done. We need to encourage folks to sample different combinations of food, and appreciate that the world does not run on chicken, corn, and potatoes always...and some meals do not have the metrics that support them, yet if your logic supports this new knowledge production with the food available, you might make the best meal for that unique situation. As long as we do not try to impose a mass-production TV dinner option on that individual success, we are good. Learn from what happened, but do not blindly imitate and create uniform conscription.

And eat everything on your plate, just like mom used to tell us...



Tue, 09/27/2011 - 3:00pm

Ben, kind of a busy day today so a short response. I think I am a Complexity Obstructionist. Think about this, all complex systems sooner or later break "down" not "up"! They go through a process of simplification, they reduce to the lowest common denominator and then start a process of replacement with something more robust and sustainable. Mankind can model that process or pattern and choose to Design robust systems on purpose or wait till nature takes it's course. Gotta go.


I think by searching for a word, phrase, or short description of Design Theory, you may be missing the holistic nature of complexity- you may be moving away from Design appreciation and towards the land of Design Obstructionists. The obstructionists are those that look for design to be explained in a short, digestible brief- or they want a clear example of Design working in real life that can subsequently provide the template for repetition and mass immitation. I am not saying you are an obstructionist, but seeking Design in a one-word or paragraph summary is part of that approach that they prefer.

There is no manual, doctrine, or short wikipedia entry for complex adaptive systems and gaining cognitive synergy through adaptation with critical and creative thinking. Even if there was, it would be irrelevant five seconds after publication because complex systems adapt- our own actions within the system generate emergence of which we may or may not fully appreciate until much later.

Perhaps there are signposts along the path, but the nature of the path changes each time. One cannot look for specific signs in an order, but learn to recognize signs as symbols, patterns- and seek discovery of unknown signs that provide new explanation. This is getting a bit philosophical- but that is sort of the point. There is no spoon, and there never will be a complete doctrine or book or video on Design.

Vitesse et Puissance-

Great points, and although I think we disagree about some elements of Kuhn's theory, I do not have my books at my current location to go into a precise discussion about paradigm shift theory. As I recall, he discussed them in a way that evoked for me a metaphor of high tide on a beach. The logic of the previous and flawed field or theory created problematic conditions- I think he used the term 'abnormalities'- and the field noticed them. Newtonian adaptations to correct faulty orbit predictions leaps to mind. Then, like a tide sweeping the beach- the paradigm arrives and, in my understanding- shatters the old logic. Perhaps 'shattered' is a word that does not match your understanding- I could go with 'replace' 'eliminate' 'render obscolete' or any other smattering of terms. Newtonian physics may be taught in high school, but that does not mean it is 'valid.' They unfortunately teach a lot of things at school that may or may not be value-added... Perhaps it is taught because launching into General Relativity would be too difficult for 9th graders? I never grasped it until much later... Maybe, despite Newtonian physics being faulty logic, it still possesses utility in explaining some other concepts that establish a foundation that prepares the student for a future where he will subsequently be prepared to understand STR? More importantly- why does our society continue to cling to Newtonian theory? This leads to the second point I had:

Rifles and muskets. The better question is not why did rifles replace muskets, but why did muskets take so long to be given up? Along with them, the older European tight formations, and other elements that composed period warfare? I would argue that organizational theory's concepts of 'root metaphors' and 'field assumptions' of an institution's or society's self-preserving logic prevented the emergence of the paradigm from transforming the complex system too quickly. The same happened from 1910-1940(ish- don't have my books to get the exact date on relativity confirmation ref. sun's gravity bending light of stars; was confirmed in WWII in South America by an expedition to measure a solar exclipse)- it took decades for the majority of scientists to replace Newton- and there were hold-outs until the last second, as Kuhn warned about. But rifles did replace muskets over time, as STR eventually replaced Newtonian Physics. Arguing about the paradigm brings up my original concern about this article; and why I wanted to use a non-military metaphor about horse carriage industry collapse rather than a military example.

It is my opinion that when it comes to Design discussions, we quickly lose sight of the abstract concepts and complex theories and descend upon that which is often more comfortable, more certain, and within our experience- military history and foriegn policy. Most design articles that provide a historical vignette do not generate discussion about the design concepts within them, rather many readers seek to debate the military details...which are just the metaphoric vehicles to convey the deeper Design theory content. That said- one must get the military details right- especially with the SWJ audience- or risk the slings and arrows...

I agree that saying rifles were the paradigm shift from muskets is oversimplification of the evolution...but the paradigm shift that possessed rifled barrels within the tornado of transformation as it ripped up the conceptual landscape of interiority for western society in the 19th century did follow this article's overarching concept. Lucky for me, there are few horse carriage historians prowling the SWJ website right now!

Do the abstract concepts of interiority and exteriority assist in some application of conceptual planning for military campaigns and plans? I would argue that they are value-added; if done in the right process, with a small group (OPT) that has some exposure to the logic- and the Design deliverable MUST be translated into a product that loses all of the high abstraction and problematic language. Behind planning doors, they offer a gateway into deeper understanding- but the process leads to a result that must be provided to detailed planners in a format and language that everyone can grasp. that might be the trickiest part of all; operating in the interiority whilst understanding in the exteriority.

Just some thoughts- greatly appreciate the comments and discourse by all.



Mon, 09/26/2011 - 4:33pm

Small wars are operations undertaken under executive authority, wherein military force is combined with diplomatic pressure in the internal or external affairs of another state whose government is unstable, inadequate, or unsatisfactory for the preservation of life and of such interests as are determined by the foreign policy of our Nation.

-- Small Wars Manual, 1940

Is this not truly an elegant definition of military design?


Mon, 09/26/2011 - 4:30pm

"Excellent comments and good for further discussion. Am I correct in saying that what you're hitting at is essentially the same as those that say: "Design is MDMP done right."? posted by bumperplate

I am starting to be of the opinion that it is nothing more than the Small Wars Manual in an updated form.


Mon, 09/26/2011 - 4:27pm


I probably should have said "Design is a Paradigm Shift done on purpose", it is proactive not reactive.
The General systems theory and the Design movement all came about at roughly the same time early 1930's. So I agree it is fairly recent thinking framework, however I think you can reduce Design down to one word or at least a few of them. Design is nothing more than a process simplification by replacement.
Later Slap


Mon, 09/26/2011 - 3:27pm

In reply to by Vitesse et Puissance

Excellent comments and good for further discussion. Am I correct in saying that what you're hitting at is essentially the same as those that say: "Design is MDMP done right."?

Vitesse et Puissance

Mon, 09/26/2011 - 2:45pm

Reading through all of this, I am reminded of B.F. Skinner's "Beyong Freedom of Dignity" - one can reduce any system to impersonal forces if one operates over a long enough time frame. If that is the case, what is the point of social science at all ? One achieves a deterministic and predictable outcome - by reducing the possibility of human choice to nothingness. At what price is adaptability achieved ? On the one hand, there are the very real costs incurred by entering the battlefield unprepared and unready for what one will encounter; on the other, history teaches us that military science - including its technological component - moves at variable speed. What I often see in conversations such as this is a desire to force the system into a paradigm shift. Perhaps there is some truth to the notion that paradigm shifts are a function of "exteriority" rather than "interiority" - but how is this in fact different from what Kuhn wrote in "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" ? Likewise, if one has a problem with the application of the scientific method in military decision making - what is the value added of all this - I hate to use the term, but if the shoe fits - scholasticism - in contrast to simpler and more accessible arguments made along these lines byh Paul Feyerabend in "Against Method". In other words, why go for a abstract and overly complex theoretical basis of "Design Theory" when simpler and more accessible ideas are available and more easily adapted to doctrinal discourse ? Here is an example of misinterpretation of post-modern thinking:

"[This} paradigm shift shatters the previous logic; Newtonian physics was eliminated by Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity in a paradigm shift in the early 20th century"

In point of fact, the "paradigm shift" described above did no such thing. It did not "shatter" the "previous logic". It pointed out that the previous logic was in fact an approximation of reality, which breaks down under certain conditions". This is why Newtonian physics is still taught in high school...


"the rifled barrel eliminated smooth-bore muskets and tight standing-formation firing from military tactics"

Literally speaking, this is both anachronistic and historically inaccurate. Rifles existed well before the demise of close order formations. They coexisted with smoothbore muskets for well over a century. By itself, the rifled barrel did not cause the effects claimed for it - it took the onset of percussion caps - and later, the development of reliable breechloading mechanisms to eliminate close order formations from the battlefield once and for all. Even so, the history of tactical doctrine from the American Civil War through WWI shows a groping for answers, a trial-and-error process that transcended individual commanders whose tactical innovations evolved into normal tactics - only to be replaced by further experimentation, sometimes in peace, more often in war. As it stood, the 1914 era infantry open order formation had adapted little from the skirmish orders of Moore and Bonaparte. The idea that a platoon or squad could do the task once given to a battalion or regiment did not occur to those who, however inspired, considered the future of land warfare. A closer reading of Kuhn and Feyerabend reveals that scientific discoveries are frequently accompanied not just by self-interest, but by accident...even or perhaps most often when they are needed.


Mon, 09/26/2011 - 12:34am

In reply to by slapout9


I don't think we necessarily agree on the content of my article then. Design does not equal paradigm shifts- a paradigm shift is one aspect that design EXPLAINS better because design theory approaches complex systems holistically. I think it is a bit superficial to equate Kuhn's concept of how new knowledge forms in his theory with Design's wide range of what is essentially a different logic; a different combination of methodologies that changes and evolves.

Paradigm shifts have occured throughout the history of human knowledge formation due not to holistic approaches, but problematization paired with creative thinking at critical periods. One might venture that paradigm shifts occured in many instances, be them in pre-Industrial or pre-Iron Age. Design did not necessarily exist then, but the core logic of problematization did. Confusing the two results in the popular Design counter-argument of, "we have always been doing this thing Design- it is when a good commander does Commander's Intent correctly." I fear that these misconceptions move the discourse away from 'what does Design mean' and towards, "we can describe Design in a paragraph, a sentence, [or in your example]- a word."



Sun, 09/25/2011 - 2:48pm

Ben, I told you you could do better and you have. Paradigm shift=Design. Design dosen't fix bad systems it REPLACES them with entirely new systems.
Later Slap


Sat, 09/24/2011 - 3:16am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill- agreed; the US economic crisis would be excellent to apply Design to. That said, with these concepts of interiority and exteriority- even with my application of a different, largely inapplicable problem with an earlier paradigm shift in transportation (horse carriage to car), does the valid application of these post-modern concepts work? Can you consider existing military applications where they may sort out in conceptual planning? If so, then despite our disagreements, hopefully I made some sort of case for some concepts more often than not dismissed, even by Design "enthusiasts." The neat thing is that I had the chance to use these in a real world application; in the future perhaps an article or chapter will come out that features this in a format more within the lines of your suggestion, which I fully agree with.


Bill M.

Fri, 09/23/2011 - 10:45pm

Use another complex problem not directly related to security issues where we have classification concerns. Two examples come to mind, the U.S. economic crisis and the EU economic crisis. If I understand the purpose of design and I may not, I thought is was focused on understanding the problem and all its complexity with its interacting variables. I can't think of a more complex problem set than our economic problems. The challenge is getting people who understand design and those who understand economics together. I suspect there are other unclassified problems that could addressed (use the UN to look for examples). Perhaps look a development assistance program or peace keeping effort where most if not all the information is unclassified.


Sat, 09/24/2011 - 12:11am

In reply to by bz

Thank you for the comments. Not intending to make this a two-person discussion so I'll try to make my response suitable for the article and your comments.
1) The article is pretty far into the weeds, as some have pointed out. That being said, if Design is to take off, I think that may be necessary. If for no other reason than to properly flesh out the particulars and assess for fit into our planning methods.
2) Deep into the weeds is something I'm seeing a lot from Design advocates. What I'm worried about is that Designers are taken aback and infatuated with the rigor and depth of the material and Design becomes an academic pursuit for its own sake and its own reward - but not for its utility in planning and aid to mission accomplishment. The Army certainly doesn't need its own version of "trekkies" when it comes to planning methodology. It will only serve to make Designers into outcasts and will hurt future efforts to refine planning.
3) The vernacular of Design does cross over. That's a bad thing, albeit unavoidable. It'll get fixed but I'm sure it's frustrating for Designers.
4) I think it's a bad sign that, apparently, 90% of the understanding within the Army of Design resides with SAMS graduates.
5) Finally, I think some of these articles that are hard enough to digest, speaking of exteriority and so forth are going to take a bigger hit as Design becomes more wide spread. I say this because eventually people are going to start researching this and they're going to come across things like the 'tools of the trade' paper written by Dr. Kem. This is bad because Dr. Kem uses GEN Ridgway's actions in Korea as an example of Design principles. That's probably going to lead people to say, 'See, it's all about good leadership'. Designers will likely retort with Design being applicable for ill-structured problems. Well, damn near everything in war is ill-structured. That's why we place such a premium on good leadership.

In any event, all this Design talk will hopefully increase our abilities as leaders.


Fri, 09/23/2011 - 2:34pm

In reply to by bumperplate


Just a quick anecdotal point on the issue of what is taught at SAMS directly, and indirectly.

Some of the core books that this article use are sitting in the CGSC CARL library, in the SAMS section, unused. Right now (unless something changed in the past few months), Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's book 'A Thousand Plateaus' fills a shelf with around 100 copies. They were purchased a few years back, entered the SAMS Design program, and were subsequently removed because, according to a good mentor of mine, "everyone complained that they could not understand the concepts." So the books sit, and other books replaced them. There is plenty of good in that- some books enter the program, some stay, others move out and different concepts replace them. I have no issue with that.

Now, I was guided to Deleuze and Guattari, along with several other quite interesting yet challenging reads from some very special mentors. Many other students were guided to other directions, to other books. If you notice the context of this article, those popular SAMSster buzz-words "interiority" and "exteriority" are defined- or at least, I hope that I conveyed them as such. With really abstract concepts, it is hard. Superficially, many folks that get the initial exposure to Design Theory either through schooling, doctrine, or real-world experience will first learn the vocab (the buzz words- framing, complexity, adaptive, map the mess, etc) but may not get to the deep understanding of the many, many concepts out there. I fear that 'interiority' and 'exteriority' are the red-headed stepchildren in Design Theory that get tossed around in conceptual planning discussions with reckless abandon. Do we even understand what we mean when we say these words?

Interior and exterior are used in the Intel community for threat-based considerations; they are used in the literal sense and not this post-modern sense. This creates tension in collaborative conceptual planning. I am experiencing this right now real-world.

They are used in Design, but for different reasons- sometimes correctly, but more often than not, I think they get misapplied by good intentions with a lack of intellectual rigor. To apply post-modern concepts often requires one to study post-modern philosophy, not simply apply what was offered in doctrine or the "learn Design in 50 powerpoint slides"- or other less rigorous means. In other words, this article is around 28 pages, which is 13 pages LONGER than FM 5-0 chapter 3 design in total (15 pages for the entire design doctrinal concept). This article only addresses 4-5 abstract concepts, whereas FM 5-0 CH 3 spans the entire process from start to finish. Are we swimming in the deep end of the pool, or the shallow end? And does it matter? I think that Design offers some great insights into complex systems that the military frequently faces- and we can use it to deliver superior detailed planning. But we need to do it better than what we offer currently in our academic, doctrinal, and real-world applications (generally- of course).

Just my two cents worth.



Fri, 09/23/2011 - 1:47pm

One thing I'll throw out there, just to be an ass...well, not for that reason, but it may look that way, and I apologize if it does:

But, I keep reading a lot of these Design papers and listening to a lot of SAMS graduates speak about various issues. I'm noticing a lot of similar references, similar catch phrases, etc. It seems to me that perhaps SAMS is the somewhat like a vortex, giving its attendees some sort of "a ha" moment and many of them are running with it, talking in their ninja SAMS code etc.

The point of design, from my perspective, is to get us to the ground truth and an accurate perception of reality, so that we may accurately define problems and find the right solution to the right problem. If there is any sort of pigeon-holing going on with regard to what's being pushed academically, aren't we just moving to on a parallel track within the same paradigm whereby we run people along a specific process?

I like the dialog and conversation from this Design "stuff", I just wonder if it is, or will end up as, an open & collaborative process to the degree that many Designers state as a purpose.

Just throwing this out there and it's not intended to chip away at MAJ Zweibelson or his efforts - not in the least.


As always, insightful and inciteful :)

I wish the Army wasn't so prone to closure; otherwise, "design" could still be a professional issue in the community. Instead, it seems the message is (as usual), "Well, that decision has been made, let's move on to something else."



Thu, 09/22/2011 - 2:35pm

Ben, I agree with Bill you can do alot better than this. Comlexity serves no one. Plus your essential argument is wrong IMO. It was not an inside or outside probelm, it was the failure of humans to understand the critical "Inputs" to the system. Input information showed that buggy sales were declining but the human in charge failed to adapt his system to the operational environment changes. Again you can and have done a lot better in the past. Later Slap


Fri, 09/23/2011 - 2:09pm

In reply to by Bill M.


we may agree to disagree on some of the points, but in the end, I think we agree on more than not. I also appreciate the time and energy that you, Slapout, and others make at SWJ in these sorts of discourses. Now, allow me to fall on my sword on just one of your points.

The historical vignette option for design is just not feasible for application in my opinion. There are two elements here I would like to address- one might apply current design theory (such as using the concepts of interiority and exteriority to enrich a conceptual planning effort) by drawing from a previous military planning event in history, say the planning prep illustrated beautifully in the movie 'A Bridge Too Far'- I love the scenes where the intelligence leads to Monty getting shown slides of a few German tanks in the forest- and ultimately he dismisses them and subsequently gets the intel officer treated for mental problems; one might try to argue the concepts of interiority and exteriority with that military example as a backdrop- a set piece. But we have done this before, and time and time again, it falls apart because the forest is not seen for the trees (pun intended). Instead of the Design concepts getting explored and discussed, many (not all) readers focus in on the set piece. If using Market Garden, those with extensive WWII knowledge would begin to pick apart the metaphor, not for the Design application, but how the metaphor was not correctly aligned with their understanding of history. This occurs whether you apply Design theory retroactively to WWII, Vietnam, COIN in general, Mexican Drug Cartel networks, or any other relevant area.

The second way one might apply Design theory is to do as you suggest, a 'real world example.' I would love nothing better- if I could just experience one. Now, fingers crossed, I might be in one right now, but classification issues prevent further discourse for now. Looking out across the military landscape of the past decade or so, aside from the 2005 Hezbollah "SOD" incident that is problematic at best, there are few 'Design real-world examples' that cut the mustard. Now, there likely are some out there- done at a lower level, perhaps behind closed doors in a planning shop, or within an ODA at the tactical level, or in places where the classification prevents us from even knowing about it- but getting an authentic Design example that we can raise over our heads as an intellectual 'proof of life' has eluded us.

Using a non-military example such as the American horse carriage industry's collapse is unorthodox. It is 'out of the box'- but as a metaphor is only conveys the greater abstract concepts in a way that does not trigger the military vignette bias issue that troubles me...and lacking any actual unclass real-world design examples for now, we are left with an impasse.

If the abstract concepts of interiority and exteriority are valid for conceptual planning, we should be able to demonstrate it without running to a military vignette. I feel that, like any good concept, one might express it with any suitable metaphor. With MDMP, I think one could use the metaphor of how original Easter Island society planned and executed monument construction through island-tribe conflict and cooperation, despite that not being what a purist would classify as a military example. To take another direction that I did in the past, one might explain current Joint Planning Doctrine through French 19th century Gastronomic Philosophy...if the concept is valid (or value added as you stated), we should be able to convey it in any useful narrative. That of course requires it to be valid. So, I try to argue that some post-modern concepts are useful sometimes, in some Design applications. If I was unable to, perhaps they are not. Or, perhaps I am unable to appropriately articulate their value.

Regardless, this discourse is value-added for me professionally.

Always a pleasure-


Bill M.

Fri, 09/23/2011 - 12:43pm

In reply to by bz


Another point worth considering about design or any methodology that promises to be "a better way" is the collective bureaucracy which is largely fossilized. Most of your comments are directed (indirectly) at individuals being the source that are resistant to change, which by the way is not my experience. The real obstacles that hinder us from changing on a dime rather than a half dollar coin is the system we all work within. Our planning process feed a hierarchial system, and each level expects to see certain things. Of course we can take initiative and apply design thinking at the lower levels and inject our enhanced understanding/findings into the prescribed planning processes, but it seems to be design is much better suited for the operational and strategic levels. Any operational level observations made at the tactical level are likely to be dismissed by operational level HQs. Not always, but the point is that implementing change is a lot harder than getting someone to buy your snakeoil or my snakeoil. You could probably apply design thinking to the Army to help identify where the impediments to change are.

I'm not dismissing the fact that are many (civilian and military, young and old) that are resistant to change. It is a behavioral law that won't change, and the BLUF is you'll either need a crisis (pending failure in Iraq) or a dynamic leader to push change. We had both in Iraq.

Finally, instead of coming up with rather off the wall abstract explanations, actually show a real world example at the unclassified level on why design is value added. If it is value added, then the lights will start coming on. If you can't demonstrate an example, then maybe the approach isn't ready for show time.


Thu, 09/22/2011 - 4:05am

In reply to by Bill M.


good points; perhaps my point about how a small minority of the horse carriage companies did adapt and become automobile companies is related to how there is a small minority in the military that are willing to adapt. What I find interesting is that in 1900, there were very successful horse carriage companies- very large ones; filled with educated, business-savvy people- and yet the majority of those companies continued on with their planning and business projections despite the paradigm shift happening around them. Clearly, by 1910, it was no longer a 'black swan'- it was obvious, and too late to adapt. So, is there a danger that too much of our military institution is similar to the successful horse carriage companies in 1900? Are there enough adaptive thinkers and leaders to steer us through what may be a paradigm shift in military strategy and 21st century warfare? I hope so, and if my article came off as too negative, then I agree that I must re-adjust my tone a bit.

Appreciate the feedback!


Ben wrote,

"Just as those major horse-centric organizations refused to adapt and went out of business after decades of prosperity, our military risks future relevance and effectiveness in the next conflict if we also fail to adapt and look beyond our preferred logics and beyond our self-bounded landscape of interior knowledge."

Of course this is true, but the assumption that our military does not and has not adapted continuously is simply wrong. There is definitely a place in the service for those who tend to think in the domain of exteriority, and there is good reason to focus on the interiority when we're in the fight (tactical level) and limit exteriority thinking. I see it all the time. There may be commanders and staff officers that only want to hear doctrinal terms and are enamored with process, I don't think we'll ever escape that, but there are many others in uniform who are conceptual Picassos.

I think you could actually start a conversation if the tone of your article didn't ramble on for several paragraphs on why military members are not receptive to creative ideas and get to the point. This was a long article, and half of it was focused on implying the force is too stupid or disinterested to get it. It may also help if you challenge your own assumptions about the Army, because they don't apply Army wide. Yes we had U.S. Army officers who wanted to fight the Germans with horse calvary in North Africa (according to the book "Army at Dawn"), but senior leaders didn't agree with their view on fighting the last war and directed the Army employ with the right equipment. The Army didn't embrace air power in the early years, when the Army first gave a computer it took up space on my desk and I refused to use it and now I can't recall how we functioned without them. All of us have a foot in the past, but most of us still think quite creatively about the future. Occassionally we even come up with some good ideas, but that is only 1% of the battle, trying to implement them is the real challenge.

Backwards Observer

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 2:31pm

This Design stuff probably befuddles me as much as the next schlub, but the tornado metaphor brought this to mind:

<blockquote>She said: What is history? /
And he said: History is an angel being blown backwards into the future /
He said: History is a pile of debris / And the angel wants to go back and fix things / To repair the things that have been broken / But there is a storm blowing from Paradise / And the storm keeps blowing the angel / backwards into the future / And this storm, this storm / is called Progress</blockquote>

(from <em>The Dream Before</em> by Laurie Anderson)

The Dream Before - Laurie Anderson - Live In San Remo - 2001 (Youtube)


Angelus Novus (1920) by Paul Klee - Wikipedia