Napoleon was perhaps the first general of the industrial age. Not from how he equipped his army, but because it embodied the spirit of the age: concentration of people and power, hierarchy, and planning.
In his day Command and Control was exercised from the top of the nearest hill. He watched many battles unfold from some high ground. C2 was rudimentary and direct. He controlled the battle based on what he could see and signal.
Advances in communication and weapons technology made the battlefield much bigger. But it didn’t fundamentally change C2, it simply gave Napoleon’s descendents super powers. They could see and hear events that were well beyond their actual vision, and they could shout their orders for miles.
It’s as if the Hill Napoleon stood on was suddenly the tallest mountain in the world. In some sense nothing has really changed, Napoleon wouldn’t have understood the technology behind FBCB2, but he would immediately grasp how to use it. It is in a direct family line of from his way of doing command and control. He’s still on the hill, just a bit less fog.
But the industrial age is in transition. We are very rapidly entering the network age. Where computer networks make possible human networks unconstrained by time and distance. Where interests, intent, and ideology can coalesce without regard to geography or even language. The very notion of “signal” is going through a disruptive change.
This shift is causing other related shifts. In particular, the rise of emergent decentralized organizations that are coming into conflict with their planned, hierarchical, centralized predecessors.
Brafman and Beckstrom wrote a seminal piece describing these trends. Once you add the idea of decentralization to your set of mental filters, you see it everywhere, from how open source software is built to how the Iranian people are challenging their government.
One of the things this all adds up to, and what both Linux,wikileaks, Al Qaida, and Iranian protesters demonstrate equally well is that the network age is the age of the network empowered, self selected, five (six?) sigma individual (beliefs, skills, …). What craig’s list’s 40 employees are doing to the $B classified industry, the 20 or so people of wikileaks are looking to do to foreign policy.
The Army is taking advantage of this trend too. Apps for Army isn’t just a cute way to build apps for cell phones, it is a system for capturing passion, interest, and skills as a cognitive force multiplier.
From Napoleon standing on a hill to FBCB2 has been one long industrial age trajectory… but you are about to be asked to do something different. It’s not just about incremental improvement of C2 anymore.
You may think social networks are just the S2’s job. They analyze social networks of potential or actual adversaries and then we just exercise C2.
But as the French learned in Algiers, and we are learning in Asia now, it takes a network to fight a network. We have to build our own. The notion of NetCentricity started out with this understanding but got lost in the technology of systems integration and forgot the simple truth…
It’s about connections between people, irrespective of hierarchy. So, design systems for human connection, not for process. It’s no longer just about signals traversing hierarchy.
Sea Change: Signals are no longer just hierarchy-spanning C2; aninterface to the commander’s brain. They are a new brain, the neural connections of the collective trans-service consciousness.
At the risk of mixing my metaphors … and for that organization to be able to learn, they need to, like neurons, reconfigure quickly. Writing and deploying code in near real time is increasingly becoming maneuver in a way that even Napoleon would understand. This is most obvious in the context of cyber warfare, but it is applicable well beyond that.
Maneuvering in code requires the advent of the emergent enterprise. We still build “big C” capabilities based on CDD’s but we need platforms that support the emergent creation of “little c’s” in the field.
Of course, the difficult thing will be figuring out how to continue to do the traditional centralized stuff we do now, while adding in this new emergent / decentralized stuff.
But we have to focus on the emergent stuff to make it happen. We need to support open source, social coding, collaboration and presence, the creation of small world weak ties, …
Wiring the Post Industrial Army
Wiring the Post Industrial Army<br />Napoleon is Dead<br />