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S U M M A R Y
DIARY: April 17, 1995 07:04 PM Monday;
Received information on MacNamera's book re defining "knowledge."
2...Knowledge is Experience
3...Eternal Vigilence is Unpopular - Does Not Feel Good
4...Information is Not "Knowledge"
5...This shows the difference between the power of knowledge and the
6...Blinded by Knowledge of Leaders, A Nation Takes Wrong Path
7...Best and Brightest, Arrogance of Power, Aided by Communication Metrics
................moved too fast to permit adequate analysis,
8...Sometimes we have to slow down in order to succeed faster under the
9...Smaller Government Means Less Disastrous Mistakes
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SDS Theory, Knowledge
Arrogance of Power
Executive Mind Set/Practice
In Retrospect, Robert MacNamera
Learning (builds experience)
Fragility of Knowledge, Fades
Distinct from Data, Information, Wisdom
1010 - ..
1011 - Summary/Objective
101201 - Follow up ref SDS 9 0000.
101203 - Heard this evening support for the POIMS concept of the difference
101204 - between knowledge and information, supported by article in Newsweek
101205 - Apr 17, 1995 p. 40, ref OF 1 line 10.
101207 - If someone tells us something we get "information." When we
101208 - connect it up to our experience and values (subjects, paradigms,
101209 - biological drives) we create "knowledge."
101211 - ..
1015 - Analysis
1016 - ..
101601 - This evening Robert MacNamara was interviewed on McNeil, Lehrer
101602 - about his new book "In Retrospect" which is reviewed in Newsweek at
101603 - ref OF 1 line 12 by Jonathan Alter, and excerpted at ref OF 1 line
101604 - 123. Mr. MacNamara says he and his colleagues in the Kennedy and
101605 - Johnson administrations made significant errors of judgement pursuing
101606 - the war in Vietnam.
101608 - ..
101609 - The errors he identified this evening on McNeil, Lehrer were:
101611 - 1. The Administration overestimated the threat of global communist
101612 - insurgency, and by extension the threat to our allies and
101613 - ultimately to American interests.
101615 - Mr. MacNamara seems to feel now that this threat was not
101616 - sufficient to warrant intervention by the US. Thus, he now
101617 - rejects the "Domino Theory" cited by proponents of US
101618 - intervention that said ambition and successful aggression grow
101619 - stronger and bolder if unimpeded.
101620 - ..
101621 - 2. The Administration underestimated the political
101622 - determination of the North Vietnamese as a function of their
101623 - willingness to pursue a cause of political dominance in the
101624 - South.
101627 - ..
101628 - Mr. MacNamara said the Administrations he served believed the Soviet
101629 - Union and China were so committed to support the North Vietnamese as a
101630 - result of sharing communist ideology that they would have attacked the
101631 - US with conventional forces, and that this would have led to nuclear
101632 - war, if the US attacked with ground forces the North Vietnamese above
101633 - the 40th parallel, including occupying Hanoi. This calculation caused
101634 - the administration to forbid US forces from pursuing victory in
101635 - Vietnam in the tradition set in World War I and World War II, ref OF 1
101636 - line 1271.
101637 - ..
101638 - Mr. MacNamara did not cite this judgement as an Administration
101639 - "error."
Psycyologically Burdenson Metrics
Lessons Learned, Common Business
Vietnam Small Problem Overkill Proactive Problem Handling Work on Sma
Big Problems Executives Ignore Small Problems Resist Proactive Proble
Small Problems Ignored Overkill Slippery Slope Cover-up Fear Accounta
200801 - ..
200802 - Knowledge is Experience
200804 - Mr. MacNamara said that he, Kennedy and others (in the Best and
200805 - Brightest Administration) came to political life from the experience
200806 - of World War II, and so knew the history following that war, where
200807 - Russia dominated Eastern Europe, and seemed to form a condominium with
200808 - the regime in China seeking to extend political and military control
200809 - throughout the world.
200811 - ..
200812 - Role of history in forming knowledge was reviewed from research in
200813 - cognitive science on 900303. ref SDS 1 3016
200816 - ..
200817 - Eternal Vigilence is Unpopular - Does Not Feel Good
200819 - MacNamara indicated that the "lesson" of WWII was that it is better to
200820 - confront emerging tyranny, before it grows strong enough to dominate
200821 - and thereby lead to another conflagration with loss of millions of
200822 - lives. This lesson held that the US and its allies erred during the
200823 - early 1930's by permitting Germany to grow stronger and fuel its
200824 - ambitions by conquest; rather Germany should have been resisted at a
200825 - time when it could have been stopped at less cost in human life. Mr.
200826 - MacNamara said this "lesson" was applied by him and colleagues to the
200827 - Vietnam situation. He now feels in retrospect this judgement was
200828 - incorrect. He did not say how the WWII model is distinguished from
200829 - Vietnam, nor how this distinction could have been ascertained
200830 - prospectively, rather than in retrospect. How do we know that a
200831 - little problem will not grow, if left unattended?
200832 - ..
200833 - Biological drive to ignore small threats was reviewed on 920229.
200834 - ref SDS 2 5903
200836 - [On 951103 "debugging" management illustrates challenge of
200837 - vigilence. ref SDS 13 8447
200839 - Mr. MacNamara did not address the point that there was a strong
200840 - view within US academy and the wider intellectual community,
200841 - particularly the emerging "media," that communism could not be a
200842 - threat because it was a great benefit to all mankind. A popular
200843 - view in these circles during the 60's and 70's was that communism
200844 - was a force for good, ensuring fair distribution of "production"
200845 - along with a place in the sun for those who could espouse the
200846 - correct view, and that it was the Capitalist West that was the
200847 - real evil to be stopped at all cost. This view was that the North
200848 - Vietnamese were not ambitious to conquer neighbors, as was the
200849 - case in Germany in WWII, but rather was merely trying to help
200850 - people achieve the benefits of communism.
200851 - ..
200852 - Thus, during the Vietnam war era there was not wide
200853 - consensus among "consensus makers," about who the enemy was. Some
200854 - thought those who opposed the Communist North, i.e., the US
200855 - Administration was the real enemy because the US was denying
200856 - people the opportunity of self-determination to benefit from
200857 - communism.
200859 - ..
200860 - MacNamara, also, did not mention that the experience from WWII may
200861 - have informed him and his colleagues, incorrectly, that US power
200862 - could defeat a far larger force than the North Vietnamese could
200863 - muster in the jungles of SEA, and this could be done with less
200864 - than full commitment and resolve of US opinion. What may have
200865 - been overlooked in the calculus for aiding Vietnam is that the US
200866 - administration was unable to gain popular support for entering
200867 - WWII to aid England, France and the whole of Europe, until after
200868 - the US was attacked, causing massive loss of life and property.
200869 - ..
200870 - This national experience reflects the challenge of leadership to
200871 - use good management (governance, national security) practices
200872 - consistently, in the face of temptations to ignore danger and avoid
200873 - unpleasantness, in order to enjoy momentary pleasures.
Information Converted into Knowledge
Knowledge Experience Preserve
270601 - ..
270602 - Information is Not "Knowledge"
270604 - A nation strives to relearn its "lessons" through a vigorous culture.
270606 - Formal education "teaches" history. But to young minds that have not
270607 - experienced the pain of historical mistakes, lessons from books seem
270608 - unreal compared to the evident ease of satisfying the immediate drives
270609 - of biology. For the new, young, inexperienced mind, "history" is mere
270610 - information, rather than actual "knowledge."
270612 - ..
270613 - Art, music, fables, cliches, movies, festival and ceremony help
270614 - preserve hard won lessons, but they too gradually evolve toward a
270615 - seeming new reality with each new generation, until the buble bursts
270616 - and the old lessons must be learned again through pain, suffering and
270617 - loss. Religion provides a longer term guide for living, but in good
270618 - times, its lessons also seem staid and dated.
270619 - ..
270620 - Following MacNamara's discussion, a panel of 4 people were
270621 - interviewed separately for comments on Mr. MacNamera's
270622 - representations. One was George McGovern who was a presidential
270623 - candidate in 1972. Another panel member is today a respected
270624 - journalist who was an "activist" during the Vietnam war period. The
270625 - journalist said that it was disingenuous of Mr. MacNamara to claim he
270626 - did not "know" about the two points, because he and the administration
270627 - were given information during the period by respected political
270628 - leaders, journalists, and others.
270630 - ..
270632 - ..
270633 - This shows the difference between the power of knowledge and the
270634 - seeming irrelevance of information under certain circumstances.
270636 - Information has an immediate use; the rewards of knowledge are
270637 - deferred; but, knowledge is derived from information by a mysterious
270638 - "intelligence" process. People feel they need more information, and
270639 - are unwilling to invest time to support knowlege creation, because it
270640 - occurs automatically.
270642 - [The human trait this reflects is discussed at ref SDS 11 9499.]
270643 - ..
270644 - The information Mr. MacNamara received conflicted with his
270645 - "knowledge" (i.e., his experience) of the world. He and his
270646 - colleagues "knew":
270648 - 1. US fire power defeated Japan and Germany; these seemed more
270649 - formidable military challenges than the Vietnamese forces. US
270650 - military capability was more formidable in 1963 than in 1942.
270652 - ..
270653 - 2. Communism was on the march and conflicted with US interests
270654 - and values.
270656 - ..
270657 - 3. If the US attacked North Vietnam, the Russians and Chinease
270658 - would come to the aid of the North Vietnamese and either
270659 - defeat the US or cause unacceptable nuclear conflagration.
Psycyologically Burdenson Metrics
Blinded by Knowledge of Leaders
Best Brightest Need Time to Think, SDS
Kennedy Administration Best Brightest Failed Mental Biology Overwhelm
360801 - ..
360802 - Blinded by Knowledge of Leaders, A Nation Takes Wrong Path
360804 - The human mind discards conflicting information. It seeks to create a
360805 - coherent picture, consistent with its experience and its values (which
360806 - are shaped by experience and culture).
360808 - So here we have an entire nation blinded by the "knowledge" of its
360809 - "best and brightest" leaders, taking a path that conflicted with the
360810 - experience of its youth (see also analysis at ref SDS 5 0089.) The
360811 - leaders made certain connections from their past to their present,
360812 - which the majority of those being led could not make because they
360813 - lacked the experience of those who tried to lead.
360815 - [See later example of corellary condition where leadership is
360816 - blinded by common sense because there is not enough time to
360817 - understand. ref SDS 18 6006
360819 - ..
360820 - [On 970829 "data explosion" impairs communication. ref SDS 19
360821 - 2878
360822 - ..
360823 - This does not however mean the Vietnamese endeavor was wrong.
360824 - We were attempting to enable a free people to avoid the yoke of
360825 - communism and the fate of the Russians, the Chinease and later the
360826 - Cambodians.
360828 - ..
360829 - To say that we misjudged the threat and the strength of the enemy, is
360830 - nothing new. What is not clear is why Mr. MacNamara is so quick to
360831 - conclude these were the errors in judgement, rather than what seems an
360832 - equally plausible error in judging the strength of the Chinease-Soviet
360833 - condominium" and their willingness to aid North Vietnam at all cost,
360834 - or that China and/or Russia could have posed a serious threat to US
360835 - interests.
360837 - ..
360838 - There seems more evidence today that neither the Soviets nor the
360839 - Chinease would have risked major action against the US, had the US
360840 - invaded North Vietnam to end the war. In that case, US forces would
360841 - not have been standing by allowing its enemy to renew itself and
360842 - attack at the place and time of its choosing. Perhaps this analysis is
360843 - incorrect, but so far Mr. MacNamara has not made that case. Instead,
360844 - he says we should have stood by and permitted 3 million citizens to be
360845 - slaughtered, as occurred after the US pulled out in 1975. Where lies
360846 - the more urgent argument?
360849 - ..
360850 - Best and Brightest, Arrogance of Power, Aided by Communication Metrics
360852 - One of the lessons we are re-learning is the price of hubris.
360854 - ..
360855 - While many regard Mr. MacNamara as contrite and sympathetic today in
360856 - an 11th hour mea culpa, the larger question is can anything be done to
360857 - improve the partnership between leadership and technology that speeds
360858 - information, and so weakens decisions? How can understanding and
360859 - follow up components of communication empower leadership to "connect
360860 - the dots" faster and more accurately to make more effective decisions?
360862 - ..
360863 - Experience shows that investing time to write down new information and
360864 - integrate it by making connections to prior experience, i.e., history,
360865 - it is easier to see the starkness of conflicts at a time when changing
360866 - course is viable. This suggests a role for "Communication Metrics" to
360867 - strengthen understanding and follow up, i.e., listening, that enables
360868 - leadership to avoid mistakes caused by the arrogance of power, and
360869 - compounded by the compression of time and distance that encourages
360870 - impulsive, spontaneous decisions due to accelerated information, cited
360871 - by Henry Kissenger on 940609 as the cause of continual bumbling.
360872 - ref SDS 4 4238
360874 - ..
360875 - Mr. MacNamara stressed this evening that events...
360877 - moved too fast to permit adequate analysis,
360879 - ...despite having the "best and brightest" in the Administration,
360880 - which is similar though larger and tragic than the problem Primavera
360881 - reported on 950412 concerning its failed project. ref SDS 8 3920
360883 - ..
360884 - It seems likely that the pace of events crowded out analysis with the
360885 - result that at the time decisions were taken by the US to escalate the
360886 - war, each matter from day-to-day seemed incidental, per Kissinger's
360887 - explanation of the New World Order reviewed on 940609, ref SDS 4 4238,
360888 - and Morris' concern on 921127 that inconsequential details later cause
360889 - big problems. ref SDS 3 0674
360891 - [On 950426 management training firm teaches the "20 - 80" method,
360892 - ref SDS 10 4022, and hiring "smarter" people are the best
360893 - solutions, ref SDS 10 2394, because managers like to work by
360894 - conversation. ref SDS 10 4392]
360896 - ..
360897 - [On 960311 Johanna Neuman's book, Lights, Camera, War, cites need
360898 - for managers to change their work practices to meet realities of
360899 - faster information technology. ref SDS 15 1696]
360901 - ..
360902 - [On 960430 cited MacNamera's book in an article for PMNETwork on
360903 - the Asilomar Conference for July, 1996, ref SDS 17 8845.]
360905 - ..
360906 - [On 970829 reviewed book on management practices that cites "data
360907 - explosion" that impairs communication, ref SDS 19 2878; due to
360908 - limited span of attention. ref SDS 19 7721]
360910 - ..
360911 - [On 971004 Stanford gave up on using best and brightest, closed
360912 - project management office because of continued failure.
360913 - ref SDS 20 0001
360915 - ..
360916 - [On 980815 article says "Intelligence" failures caused by too
360917 - much information, not enough knowledge. ref SDS 21 1173]
360919 - ..
360920 - [On 020504 study shows professional standards for communication
360921 - practices and requirements on good management specified in FAR,
360922 - ISO, Health Care, Covey, Drucker, law, contract notice
360923 - provisions, and 2,000 years of literacy for contemporaneous
360924 - documentation for alignment and feedback to work intelligently,
360925 - quickly, and accurately are ignored in government, business,
360926 - health care, every sector. ref SDS 22 NS6F
360928 - ..
360929 - Only by connecting the pieces together does the picture emerge of
360930 - significant importance, and it is this "connecting up" of the pieces
360931 - that Communication Metrics permits.
360933 - ..
360934 - Sometimes we have to slow down in order to succeed faster under the
360935 - rule "Haste makes waste," and "Look before you leap," reviewed on
360936 - 960319, ref SDS 16 6933, also at ref SDS 16 8490, and on Continual
360937 - Learning, Knowledge, Wisdom, Vision developed on 950830. ref SDS 12
360938 - 4888
360940 - [On 951229 General Hatch called the SDS process of connecting bits
360941 - and pieces of information together an "Intelligence" function that
360942 - is missing but needed for daily management. ref SDS 14 2036]
360944 - ..
360945 - The concern that there is not enough time to use Communication Metrics
360946 - is treated by the analogy on 950412 of "farming" as a powerful and
360947 - successful investment strategy, see ref SDS 10 4404. Only by taking
360948 - time to invest do we get a much larger harvest that permits everyone
360949 - else to have more time for meetings, phone calls, protest marches and
360950 - appearing on television. Investing intellectual capital should return
360951 - a comparable reward to planting turnips.
360955 - ..
360956 - Smaller Government Means Less Disastrous Mistakes
360958 - The other lesson is that smaller government is better than bigger
360959 - government; more checks and balances are better than fewer in order to
360960 - avoid those in power from imposing on everyone the folly of their own
360961 - blinded knowledge. It is not possible to get people who are smart
360962 - enough and sincere in really helping everyone. The world is too
360963 - complicated, for a few smart people in government to take care of
360964 - everyone.
360966 - ..
360967 - It may be a better strategy to spread out power and decision making so
360968 - that mistakes that are going to occur will have limited impact, and
360969 - permit time to recover.