"Organic Design for Command and Control" - by John Boyd
[find in the list at http://dnipogo.org/john-r-boyd/ ].
My slight re-wording of Boyd's message is that group "Command & Control" is more usefully described as "Situational Appreciation, and Flexible, Distributed Leadership".
Many have since further summarized the process of actually developing those attributes, in both individuals and groups, as OBT&E: "outcomes based training & education."
Task-Based Organizational Development seems even more obvious. "TBOD"
(TBOD is also, quite conveniently, a pun on a Boydian phrase, "To Be or Do", summarizing the organizational struggle to let component alignment "be" diverted into locally static assets that dissociate organizations, vs actively focus them to "do" what's necessary to evolve endlessly higher levels of dynamic value in organizations, through increased net system liquidity.)
Implicit in either "Situational Appreciation & Flexible, Distributed Leadership" or evolutionary "TBOD" is selection for an unending tuning process, one that continues Adaptive Evolution by accelerating Adaptive Rate.
The conceptual spiral further implicit in driving unending acceleration of Adaptive Rate involves nested methods for tuning successive tuning methods, within a surrounding, changing Options Space. The lessons learned by practioners constantly acclerate agile, implicit distribution of shared lessons from ongoing net outcomes.
Preparing Students to Conceptualize TBOD/GOBOD*, and Thereby Extend Their Capabilities Beyond Prior Group Size Scaling Limits.
Cursory review of past & present & emerging evolutionary history provides some perspective on the nature and axes of our Options Space, and the agility of groups who have operated in that space.
One reference involves energy as a reference for "Resource Taxis" - i.e., the relentless ability to harvest and utilize available energy or resource gradients. We are far from exhausting that organization reference, and hence our own evolution still seems to be dominated by a race to access and utilize continually discovered resources. The guiding "T" or task in TBOD is always to obtain access to additional resources, and the options which manipulation of additional net energy opens up. All of our tasks can be descrimed in terms of optimally growing the options available to context migrants, i.e., as a Traveling Entrepreur Task. *Hence, some may prefer the term GOBOD; Growing-Options-Based Organizational Development.
At this point it may help the typical student to visualize our population as a band of Context Nomads migrating through Options Space, involved in a grand journey demanding constant invention of methods for quickly accessing new Option niches as soon as possible. That exploration process provides an adequately simple world view encompassing all known observations plus a currently adequate framework for enjoying the challenge of exploring it. Disseminating such relaxed, encompassing views among all students would do much to provide the required orientational simplicity and behavioral flexibility that Boyd noted as prerequisites for our continued cultural success.
One immediate consequence of resource access as a dominant orienting feature is establishment of organizational expansion - i.e., sustained teamwork growth - as the still most prominent way to advance along that particular orientation axis.
While continuing this ancient and continuing "Resource-Taxis" race, increasingly capable organizations - i.e., "species" - have appeared, including examples as disparate as quarks, molecules, bacteria and human cultures. It seems that there is always room at the top, and that our most rapidly enlarging evolutionary "front" extends along the resource-harvesting axis. Further, the rate of advance along that axis is dominated by accumulating methods for tuning increasing net capabilities of adapting "species," which keep growing their nested organizational self-tuning capabilities, in the process also branhing out and adding species diversity.
Human culture reached it's organizational zenith in the genius of the incredibly agile, pass-through, tribal structures exhibited by all humans, worldwide. It is easy and fair to say that many of our current organizational problems arise simply because our population numbers have temporarily outrun the limits of exquisitely evolved tribal methodologies. We need new, more scalable, organizational methods - far more than we need more technological tools. We are still producing optional tools and practices faster than we can practice and perfect ways for groups to wield them. To reiterate, we need new methods. Specifically, self-tuning methods that scale better than ever before.
Accelerating Context-Migration by Tuning Organizational Expansion.
To date, additional resource access has been dominated by simultaneous physical expansion and increased organization of systems, leading - in our case - to existing human cultures and nation states. Per the review above, evolution of system-tuning is proceeding along an oblique mapping front. In any given situation, systems manage to grow, by exploring the minimal shared alignment signals that can be disseminated the most widely as the spectrum of cofactors eventually affecting a "tuning polynomial" shared across an increasing number of system components. We solve our toughest tasks soonest by generting more indirection, based on more options, based on increased capabilities and/or population - while struggling to scale organization of the capablities and/or popualation that we need. Success, obviously, requires efforts in an orthogonal direction, one that lowers the time-energy cost of self-organizating on a larger scale.
Given an adequately simple "function" definition for a given species' Tuning Polynomial, then migration of the species or system through Option Space involves exposure to altered situational feedback, and complete freedom for the constantly altered context information to ripple through its intrinsic "tuning polynomial." Each species - including our present US culture - exhibits an intrinsic Tuning Polynomial which itself retains enough recombinant infrastructure at every stage to slowly build up the net variance required to shape the species to any conceivable Options Set it encounters. The Tuning Polynomial infrastructure possessed by different species, of course, bestows a different Adaptive Rate on that particular species, thereby imposing a selection gradient. It is the instrinsic tuning methods which determine rate of generating adaptive outcomes, either adequately, or too late to matter.
Having gone through this example, one might visualize a constantly growing amoeba slowly devouring it's environment, and wondering if there is a limit. Although such a visualization might turn out to be useful, long term, we are so far from detecting any limit to our recombinant Options that our only choice is to continue probing for those limits. We may find them someday, or we may not. We do, however, have to keep going. As always some may not, while others will always continue on. As far as we can tell, it eventually doesn't matter who does or doesn't continue.
Existing Choices. How to enjoy exploring our immediately expanding options.
If our task to explore our expanding Options Space boils down to re-mapping our instantaneous situation and letting the feedback freely ripple through our Tuning Polynomial in any way required, then we must admit, embrace and leverage some simple messages. Our existing "culture" is, quite literally, defined by our Tuning Polynomial, and our cultural Adaptive Rate is quite literally defined as our rate of relaxing barriers and shaping tolerance limits so as to adaptively tune our own Tuning Polynomial. To retune all our disparate interactions to optimal net resource access, we need a pass-through tuning process, not just a pass-through economy. Agile evolution of our culture quite clearly requires infinite flexibility in and freedom to explore all options at all levels, for all fuctioning system components.
It is useful to recast our distributed flexibility task more usefully as an extension of our more general Recombination capabilities. Obviously, dynamic recombination occurs at quantum, atomic, chemical, molecular, genetic, cellular, organ, behavioral, sub-group, regional- and national-cultural levels. Once restated that way it is easier to ask how and why we should restrict some particular recombinant rates while actively pushing to increase others. It's clear that our Adaptive Rate is a function of our "Recombinant Rate Envelope," or the pattern of agile recombination we can generate in response to different situations. In general, there is a view that the rate of chanage of "old" evolutionary infrastructure steps should be gradually reduced and briefly "frozen." For example, a national highway right-of-way system may briefly be as fundamental to national commerce as mitochondrial genetics remains to human cellular biology. Whether roadway surfaces remain concrete or aphalt, or retun to grass may matter less. Similar, there is a view that an entire spectrum of recombinant rates should be present at any time. In human cultures, the rate of change in segments from infrastructure construction, basic R&D and "skunkworks," to active military defense should vary accordingly. Similarly, in human physiologies, the dynamic rate of change in, say, liver cells, germ cells, hyper-mutation zones and immune systems all vary accordingly, at dramatically different rates, all ultimately set by deeply entrained processes built up as the result of past experiences - i.e., our implicit but very real set of system Tuning Polynomials and their recombinant cultual tuning cofactors.
As a national culture, our common "US" job and overwhelming responsibility, is to actively participate in the "TBOD" or "GOBOD" which clearly dominates our common fate. As Boyd and countless others have repeatedly noted, it is laxity in making these simple rules apparent to an adequate proportion of group members that generates the frictions limiting the agility of our group outcomes. To accelerate the rates of tuning our cultural Tuning Polynomial, we have to achieve a shared orientation to that as a task, then share all feedback while exploring optimal ways to continuously tune our own system-tuning challenges. This can be natural, fun, easy and fast, or it can be disjointed, painful, arduous and slow. It's our choice, but ONLY if we actively select to even make a choice! Selection occurs only as a consequence of the will to build Situational Awareness and sense potential.
The typically hidden cultural tuning cofactors governing the actual rate of change are alternately referred to only obliquely and infrequently, if at all. Terms such as the "gearing" or "tendency" or "externalities" of organizations, economies and cultures crop up in the literature, but are certainly not yet widely shared, universally understood nor rapidly disseminated in any coherent manner.
What can we do to continually accelerate achievement of both the "simplicity of orientation" and the "rapid, flexible reponses" that together define rate of progress in our nomadic exploration of Options Space?
For surety, one is forced to advise students to ALWAYS challenge themselves - as a group - to most simply and succinctly summarize both group Situational Awareness and options for full group alignment, in sequence.
An annual National Situational Awareness Challenge might work wonders.
In addition, efforts by responsible "leaders" to study, grasp and continuously better enunciate the benefits of focusing on our greatest adaptive opportunities - simplicity and agility - might do wonders for the USA.
We never need to hear more about what we're doing wrong. The more simply a better way is enunciated, and the more flexible people are about allowing it, the faster everyone drops what they're doing to get on board. No one wants to be wrong, but everyone wants to be right. Keep the door between the two wide open.
However, there is also a caveat. To honestly prepare for unpredictability, we must also acknowledge the possibility of significant, even complete, dead ends in even our most carefully explored plans - and therefore retain complete retreat paths. One can see the overwhelming evidence for this reality in the incredible diversity AND fractious nature of all evolved systems. It is as though evolutionary systems are audacious enough to tackle all options. Yet they are also determined enough that, in the event of complete and absolute initial failure, they will leave some range of recursive seeds in that particular Options Zone, to start from scratch if necessary, before rebuilding success in terms of the unexpected twists in regional options. Relentless is an undeniable feature of adaptive systems that also allow for 100% recursion upon demand. Humans, for example, are quite capable - and half are willing it seems, to return to our stone age (or earlier), seemingly knowing full well that we'll be right back, knocking on the same gate, within 10,000 years - or less. THAT, my friends, defines being relentless. We still can't tell whether we are in an original unbroken or a re-started development process, and it hardly matters now, either way. Further stops and restarts, however, absolutely do matter. As Napoleon noted, we can never recover lost time. At least not in our currently accessible dimensions.
We are driven, therefore, to conclude that Context Nomads exploring Options Space continuously recombine through even increasing dimensions of diversity, starting over where necessary, so as to cover ALL outcomes as the wavefront of Options Exploration proceeds. Thus it frequently occurs that wildly regressed and/or recombinant variants from the same initial stock may eventually meet again, and not recognize one another. Then it is always a question of either recombining the recombinants, to enlarge their net stock of variance, or to proceed with one or the other choice, as the ultimately more flexible and recombinant tool and tool-tuning set. Once conceptualized, avoiding lost time in the recombinant race counts more than any other consideration.
The conclusion of these abstractions is that all imagined outcomes are ok, and we should be comfortable with them. Our ultimate challenge, at present, is therefore to traverse these sub-challenges as graciously and quickly as possible, as abstract but real puzzles, rather than obstinate - and exceedingly wasteful - life or death struggles. It's a constant challenge is to grow out to and occupy our current abstractions.
Enjoyment and Public Purpose as Focusing our Greatest Talents on Our Greatest Opportunities.
Our greatest opportunities are to accelerate net exploration of our expanding options faster/better/cheaper than before. Simultaneously, our greatest talent is our intrinsic ability to be increasingly clever in our nested tuning efforts - in how artfully we recognize, disseminate and collaborate on improving the net system tuning methods which alter our sharable system "gearing." No matter what we do, there is always an even better way that will someday deliver even more options, and we should rejoice in enjoying that challenge, not recoil from it. No matter where and how we wander in Options Space, as Context Nomads, we can enjoy the migration to the fullest of our imagination.