From the US Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership and The SecDev Group comes “Bullets and Blogs: New Media and the Warfighter” (2.7mb PDF). The report is based on a three-day workshop that took place at Carlisle Barracks in January 2008, one of the best events I have attended. It is required reading for anyone (e.g. more then than the Defense community) involved in the modern information environment.
This report is rich with soundbites and recommendations supported by examples, including operations where the insurgents were the first to write the first draft of history, the draft that usually sticks especially when a factual challenge is not made within days or weeks. It will be required reading for my upcoming class as well as a class I’ll likely be teaching in the spring (details to be announced).
This report deserves a better write up, but for now, download and read it yourself and comment below. More information can be found here: http://www.carlisle.army.mil/dime/.
One thought on “Bullets and Blogs: New Media and the Warfighter”
Bullets & Blogs provides an excellent analysis of the modern communication environment, the challenges it presents in warfare and the change needed to survive and thrive against tech-savvy opponents. It was particularly refreshing to read open discussion regarding the fact that communication by its very nature involves influencing perception.The doc also highlights several cultural habits we’ll need to break in order to make the necessary leap forward. Proven best practice is to focus on the receiver before the medium, yet our discussions about communication remain media-centric and tend to focus on means of delivery rather than first sorting out (1) what to communicate about and (2) who to communicate with. Bullets & Blogs provides some terrific case studies that head in that general direction but we haven’t quite made the leap yet.
Frequent use of the term “conversation” in this document is a good sign — but is neutralized to great extent by repetition of the labels “audiences” and “targets.” This indicates our mindset of communication as monologue/delivery remains firmly intact. I don’t anticipate we’ll see the real culture shift needed until our thinking shifts to a dialogue/exchange mindset when it comes to about communication.
Speaking of communication, it is also worth noting that the label we defaulted to is “Global Information Environment” rather than “Global Communication Environment.” This alone is a powerful cultural indicator of how we approach the issue both individually and collectively.
These factors definitely shape (and arguably limit) our thinking. For example, the need to push information out quickly (speed) is a primary learning point highlighted in Bullets & Blogs. This is a media-focused learning point that differs significantly from the concept of timeliness, which has to do with who needs what information when. It’s easy to get distracted by the “wiz-bang!” of the communication environment and forget that a message doesn’t have to get there FAST — it just needs to arrive on time.
This is not to suggest that speed is not a factor in the new battlespace, just that it should not be a primary focus. There are several things we should be better at than speed. Credibility, trust, accuracy, timeliness, unified voice, privacy, intentional communication, delegation, security — and balanceing them against one another — come to mind.
I’m concerned that by trying to outpace the enemy we may be missing the very point we continue to highlight as the core element of “modern” warfare: We don’t need to crush the will of the enemy, we need to build the will of the people, which is about WHO we need to communicate WITH, rather than HOW we need to send information TO someone.
The importance of credibility and trust were also mentioned several times but not addressed fully, which provides another example of the current focus on the medium ahead of the receiver. I wonder: would we need to be faster than the enemy if we were consistently more credible and more trusted than he is? How would our approach to communication change if our goal was to preserve and strengthen credibility and trust rather than to push info faster than the bad guy?
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