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Conceptual Skills of Future Battle Commanders

Shawn Noble
Kansas City, KS

Over the last year I have been challenged with the task of identifying the key conceptual skills that future U.S. Army battle commanders should possess.

This topic has sparked much interest due to the recognition that commanders will face an environment that is much more complex than in the past.

One reason that complexity will be increasing is because digitization is quickly heightening the flow of information to an incomprehensible rate. In addition, future commanders will be involved in operations that consist of: multiple missions, increased activity with joint forces, increased interaction with outside agencies, and an open environment that consist of media and civilians that are seemingly everywhere. Also, the commanders will be asked to complete their operation with fewer soldiers as the Army continues to downsize.

Thus, I am exploring how an individual navigates through the complex probabilistic environments described above. To help represent some of the important conceptual skills for leadership success, I have developed a framework called the S3 (S-Cubed) Model for Enhancing Thinking in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous [Army Buzzword]) Environment.

The S3 model has three major cognitive processes that influence the goal: Situation Understanding, Simulation, and Self-Regulation. It has been well documented that Situation Understanding and Simulation are important components which help aid decision making in naturalistic environments (Klein et al.).

However, missing from the central components is the aspect of Self-Regulation. Preliminary research suggests that Self-regulation can be advanced as a central component. Furthermore, it is suggested that Self-Regulation may act as a switching mechanism that helps decision makers transition between an intuitive process and one that involves synthesis.

(Obviously this representation differs from the CCT view that we are able to move between intuitive and analytic modes. Currently the Army teaches a highly analytic tool that seems to contradict how officers actually think. It should be noted that the switching process in this model is conceptually similar to that described in Hammond, Hamm, Grassia, & Pearson, 1987.)

Future research hopes to develop a prescriptive approach that is based on naturalistic research (i.e., not based on normative theory) that is collected in a representative design. This approach will differ from MCPL as techniques such as feedforward will not be effective in environments in which a clear right or wrong answer does not exist.

Contact Shawn Noble

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