Janusian Thinking and Acting   [open pdf - 830KB]

"While the concept of asymmetry has been presented often in professional literature, it remains ill-understood from the strategy::operations::tactics paradigm because this paradigm considers that we need better, not necessarily different, thinking and acting. . . What we really need is an alternative paradigm that gives us a new and better way of thinking and acting. . . . The preferred paradigm is Janusian. Linearly focused (schismogenic) thinking and acting--the methods of the current strategic paradigm--explains and rejects alternative hypotheses purposefully and sequentially. In other words, linear thinking and acting disallow the existence of contradiction. The proposed alternative Janusian thinking suggests that information processing is paradoxical, considers multiple time orientations, and is nonlinear. The basic Janusian model for thinking and acting is arranged in a four-square--A, B, C, and D--the arrows depicting the struggles for dominance in one or more quadrants. It provides a complex, four-way, interdependent, interactive model for thinking and acting that goes beyond the traditional linear processing associated with strategy, operations, and tactics and helps us understand what we could not decipher or comprehend. In today's conflict, terrorists control the environment, a B quadrant activity, yet the United States has been responding bureaucratically, a type D response. Forming the Homeland Security Office, tightening airport and airplane security, and screening mail are all bureaucratic responses to the type B environment. The Janusian framework requires formulating new and complex recipes for thinking and acting in multiple patterns rather than embracing a singular one. Instead of using a linear thinking model to decide between competing values, the trick is to find a positive zone among them by using a nonlinear thinking model. New forms of organizing, such as the highly flexible network organizations, require a new power structure, something that the military culture may find inconceivable: rank and hierarchical positional authority would have to give way to expert power and lateral forms of leadership." The authors maintain that the current U.S. approach to military operations--strategic, operational, and tactical--is too linear for today's contemporary operating environment. They argue that future warfighters must move beyond linear thought and action to a realm of thinking and acting that recognizes and accepts paired yet opposite ideas and actions: "Look before you leap" and at the same time understand that "he who hesitates is lost."

Public Domain
Media Type:
Military Review (January-February 2002), p.38-47
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