The days of the Cold War scenario are long gone when we understood our enemy tactics. We often hear our seniors harken back to a time when we knew our enemy, their order of battle and perdict their actions based on their formation or equipment. Today’s fight is a thinking man’s game, a chess match requiring constant thought and analysis to match wits with our ever-evolving opponent. Critical and creative thinking skills are an essential set of skills that every leader must employ and eventually master to succeed in today’s modern operating environment.
The purpose of this paper is to argue why critical and creative thinking skills are essential for today’s Field Grade officers and how these skills will translate into success in next ten years of our career. The unique problems such as the drivers of instability faced while operating in a Counter Insurgent (COIN) environment over the last decade has forever changed the way we conduct warfare. Leaders with critical thinking skills are necessary to understand and frame complex problems. Furthermore, problem solving skills and the ability to determine the root cause prevents unnecessary effort being squandered solutions with little effect. Developed creative thinking allows for the development of “out of the box “solutions to the problems at hand. The bottom line to problem solving must be systematic, qualitative, quantitative and encompass a holistic approach.
Gone are the days when we knew our enemies based on our doctrine and training. Fighting in irregular warfare or counter insurgent scenarios are complex and requires constant thought, adjustments and refinements to the plan, with no guaranteed metric for success. Understanding that the operational variables, political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure (PMESII) are each unique areas of study requiring specialized skills. Each area requires a specialist, often with an advanced degree and training to effectively address the issues. Platoon leaders or commanders often find themselves serving in this capacity and having critical thinking and problems solving skills are necessary requirement. As leaders we understand the importance of developing our team and with the complexity of these issues requires a combined effort. Field grade officers are expected to provide level of direction and lead the staff through mission analysis and course of action development. Critical analysis is critical to understanding the complexity adaptive systems in planning and essential element to your success.
Operating in an asymmetric environment is challenging and requires continuous thought. When I entered service in 1985, the Army’s training and doctrine centered on fighting Soviet tactics and understanding their capabilities; we trained to attack and defend against their threats. Our doctrine went so far as having metrics to calculate our chance of success. But in the counter insurgent operations this last decade at war confirmed there is...