Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Action versus planning

Tyler Cowen, economist and author, observed "The more information that's out there, the greater the returns on just being willing to sit down and apply yourself.  Information isn't what's scarce, it's the willingness to do something with it."

Think of all of the meetings you have sat through where page after page (or worse, PowerPoint slide after slide) is pushed in front of you with mind-numbing amounts of data.  Not real information by the way, just shear numbers, graphs and charts.  You spend 2 or more hours with your fellow inmates hearing the same information rehashed and repackaged in the hopes that it will reveal some new reality.  Instead, you often leave with no greater charter or purpose than when you first plopped down in your seat.

You would think the one place relatively immune from this practice would be the military but alas you are mistaken.  My experiences in the Air Force and Air National Guard increasingly was spent producing inordinate amounts of data just to sit in meetings to pretend like we understood what we were looking at (the one service I found even more hamstring by this phenomena is the Army National Guard.  Good lord can those soldiers pile data onto a single PowerPoint slide!!).

What all of this sitting around and staring at data meant was there are any number of highly trained, highly qualified senior officers and NCOs sitting around talking instead of doing.  Oh if you think there are any renegades out there, understand that ANY and EVERY decision a commanding officer or NCOIC makes has to be backed up by copious amounts of data.  No 20 plus years of experience doesn't matter…did you base you decision on all of the PowerPoint slides provided to you?  And in-turn, did you provide all of YOUR PowerPoint slides in advance BEFORE taking action?

Mr. Obama strikes me very much as a thinker versus a doer.  He seems very uncomfortable working without a script.  Action to him is the absolute last recourse, much better to hold meetings and give speeches than to actually have to make a decision.  Corporate America, and its collusive partners in academia, have all conspired to create the great information age but in so doing also created the great age of inaction.

ISIS has had profound impacts on the public's psyche mainly because they act without planning!  Oh my, how can this be?  In today's age, shouldn't we need meetings to form committees to form action plans that need to be approved by the board of directors?  How can some Third World, heathens condemned to living in a place where summertime temps go above 120 degrees Fahrenheit act with such reckless abandoned?

And this is the whole reason we have seen ISIS continue to grow and become more active because the reaction by the West to these attacks continues to be "Let's have a meeting and discuss a plan of action".  ISIS, and other groups as well, has figured out they can act faster than our decision-cycle allows us to react.

Mr. Obama and his cabinet appear loathe to act without "buy-in" from all of the required players (to which you need to ask, "and just who the hell decides that?"  Another meeting of course!).  ISIS has figured out how to reach new recruits virtually and activate them within the country they want to target.  There is no tell, virtually no "chatter",  and as long as the recruit has no prior-record none of the current analytical models will be triggered.

TSA is still looking to stop the next 9/11 by screening all passengers before going on board an aircraft…completely ignoring that by doing so, they are creating a target rich environment for the next terrorist attack.  Mr. Obama can't bring himself to call out radical Islamists because none of his data shows that this is a solution.  So instead, he appears to be a man of inaction and without realizing it contributes to furthering the very chaos he wishes would just stop.

The Orlando attack worked because the venue, a loud night club, prevented people from realizing what was happening (and possibly taking on the attacker) before it was too late.  ISIS has found a model that works and is going to keep running with it.  In the meantime, our data-driven society will continue to hold meetings and look at graphs and charts and worry about the next attack.

It is time to act and stop analyzing!

No comments: