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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Let’s Get Smaller: Why the U.S. Needs to Think Smaller to Achieve its Objectives

Note: I wrote this over five years ago, but never posted it. I'm not sure why. But after reading it again, I realized it still pertains to the problems of "group think" and institutional behavior in the U.S. 

Straight lines, like the walls that hold up our houses make us feel safe and secure.  Right angles and symmetry are pleasing to the eye as well.  Most prefer a balanced checkbook and an efficient engine that does what it’s supposed to.  But, there’s a time when linearity and large institutions can also bring a nation down.  This thought came to mind recently while, of all things, watching a show on PT boats on the History Channel - that during WWII, when there was a draft and more of the general public served in the armed forces there was a mixture of all types of people – inner city, rural, coastal, Southern, Midwesterners – a giant diverse slice of what makes this country great.  There was also innovation.  By crafting a smaller, wooden, maneuverable ship, we were able to change our tactics, go into more intricate places, and deliver unexpected attacks.  The boat itself attracted a kind of maverick that might have brought a certain spirit to the US military. 

In the age now of specificity, departments and polarization, these types of mixtures might be missing from large institutions like the pentagon.  Has anyone stopped to think that large institutions, though solid and patriotic, might not be attracting a wide enough array of personality types?  What if the problem with, for example, fighting the insurgency in Iraq was really a matter of bringing different, innovative, non-linear and creative types into the Pentagon.  Instead of acting like a behemoth, a slow moving empire that wins by force alone, we could act like the insurgents that we are fighting.  Of course, the policy that created the war might have been crafted differently too, had more people been involved in the decision-making process itself.  Now, we find ourselves searching for creative answers to an old, rigid and unimaginative policy.  This rigidity keeps the "creative class" on the outside, unable or uninvited to lend a hand. 

Note: some portions were edited before posting here.