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Beyerchen on disruptive innovation (amplification)

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Innovation SIDEBAR to: The Warfighter Insurgency: Focus on kinetics, coupled with resistance to stability ops, threatens US success in future war

Beyerchen has much to offer on understanding the boundary of change: technical change expanding to operational change and finally a sweeping technological change. His ideas apply universally to change, be it commercial or military.

As Beyerchen's seminal 1996 From Radio To Radar is not readily accessible online, I have gathered two sources that will give you the gist of his thinking on innovation:

From Greenwald's UNDERSTANDING CHANGE: AN INTELLECTUAL AND PRACTICAL STUDY OF MILITARY INNOVATION:

The Structural Relationships of Military Innovation

Regardless of whether military innovation is evolutionary or revolutionary, its impact derives from how well it solves a series of problems, exploits emerging advantages, or assists an organization to better perform its mission. These challenges exist at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels and may involve respective equipment, procedural, or contextual solutions. A model aligning these relationships is useful for understanding the impact of a specific change and the difficulty one might expect in implementing it. The greater contextual impact a change brings, the more difficult it may be to implement.

Context <--> Technological Change <--> Strategy

Procedures <--> Operational Change <--> Operations

Equipment <--> Technical Change <--> Tactics

"Technical change" is a function of equipment or physical devices whose contribution lies primarily in the realm of tactics. Issuing a service a new airplane, radar set, or antiaircraft artillery gun are examples of "technical change." When a military force adopts new procedures for existing equipment or new equipment combined with new procedures for their collective employment, then "operational change" has occurred. As Alan Beyerchen explains: "To envision radar as the technique of detecting targets by means of radio echoes, generating a range of devices and practices, is to focus on operational change." "Technological change" occurs when the context of warfare changes as the result of interaction of technical and operational change with each other and with the current operating environment. Radar working within a "system" that also included ground and fighter based air defense platforms transformed the context of air combat over the United Kingdom, helped win the Battle of Britain, and ended Hitler’s expansion westward expansion. Combined arms maneuver warfare that linked armored formations, air power, and radio communications with well-trained units, mission-type orders, and bold leadership changed the context of ground combat in Europe beginning in 1939.

And a quote from From Radio To Radar:

It took real imagination to sort out the possibilities of something so new [as radar]. ... The key to the timing that turns a discovery or invention into successful innovation lies in whether laymen can envision its possibilities. ... [The developers of radar] blurred the boundaries between technical and operational change, as they pressed for operational innovation that would spur technical advance. ... Technical innovation emerges not just from an additive combination of technical and operational change, but from their interaction. ... The fluidity of circumstances, the feedback processes with entrainment, and the general feel of the onset of technical change, are more akin to weather systems or biological (or historical) processes than to mechanical structures.

And it is always good to keep in mind Beyerchen's Clausewitz, Nonlinearity and the Unpredictability of War whatever your field of endeavor.

UNDERSTANDING CHANGE: AN INTELLECTUAL AND PRACTICAL STUDY OF MILITARY INNOVATION
U.S. ARMY ANTIAIRCRAFT ARTILLERY AND THE BATTLE FOR LEGITIMACY, 1917-1945
Dissertation
By Bryon E. Greenwald
Ohio State University
2003
NOTE: If asked what app to read the item, select PDF

10. Nonlinearity and a modern taxonomy of general friction.(Clausewitzian Friction and Future War)
Barry D. Watts
McNair Paper Number 52, Chapter 10, 01 October 1996
National Defense University
Mirror

From Radio To Radar: Interwar Military Adaptation to Technological Change in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States
By Alan Beyerchen
In
Military Innovation in the Interwar Period, Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett, eds.
Cambridge University Press, 1996

Clausewitz, Nonlinearity and the Unpredictability of War
By Alan D. Beyerchen
International Security, Vol 17: No 3, pp. 59-90 (Winter, 1992-1993)
doi:10.2307/2539130
Mirror
Also reprinted as Appendix 1 in Tom Czerwinski, Coping With the Bounds: Speculations on Nonlinearity in Military Affairs (Washington, DC: National Defense University, 1998), and in French as "Clausewitz: Non Linéarité et Imprévisibilité de la Guerre," in Theorie, Littérature, Enseignement, 12 (1994), pp165-98.

Gordon Housworth



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