The most recent (September 2017) issue of the Military Operations Research Society’s Phalanx contains a thoughtful piece by CAPT Robert (Barney) Rubel on the role that wargame rules and adjudication can play in encouraging—or stifling—creative thought:
One of the more trite phrases one hears today is the injunction to “think out of the box.” The intent of the phrase is to stimulate creative thinking; to come up with ideas that perhaps do not conform to existing frameworks. This, of course, is easier said than done, the attempt to do so being akin to trying to make a list of things you would never think of. There are any number of individual and group techniques that have been developed to facilitate the process of brainstorming, but perhaps overlooked in the literature is the potential for wargame rules to act as catalysts for out-of-the-box thinking.
The subtle, nonintuitive, and perhaps threatening information and ideas that can emanate from a game can be termed “whispers.” Games often produce more information than their designers intended or expected, often equivocal and open to interpretation. When that threatens organizational equities, ears are deadened to the whispers. Game sponsors, players, umpires, and even analysts are almost never objective about their games, so it requires an appreciation of how novel thinking can emerge from a game in order to take the steps necessary to achieve sufficient objectivity to detect the whispers (Rubel 2006).
You’ll find the full piece here.
At the Information Dissemination blog, Captain Robert C. “Barney” Rubel—former Dean of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the Naval War College—addresses how to reinvigorated wargaming so as to better support innovation within the US defence establishment.
In a recent department-wide memo announcing the Defense Innovation Initiative, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel calls for accelerating innovation throughout DoD. Among other elements of the program, “A reinvigorated wargaming effort will develop and test alternative ways of achieving our strategic objectives and help us think more clearly about the future security environment.” The Secretary’s use of the word “reinvigorated” implies that some aspects of the current wargaming program, whether in DoD proper or throughout the Services, requires improvement. Since each of the Services has in place a robust program of wargaming, the Secretary either is calling for additional effort in the joint and OSD arenas or is leery of the objectivity of Service gaming and wants more oversight of the process. Whatever the Secretary’s true intent, an effort to improve wargaming support to innovation will face any number of pitfalls. Just throwing money at the problem almost guarantees failure. If this initiative is to bear fruit, wargames must be conducted under the proper circumstances by the right people using correct techniques. Although not specifically called for by the memo, the implied task for the Secretary and his staff will be to establish a DoD-wide policy and strategy on wargaming. This article will set forth some considerations and principles for doing so.
Read the rest of his thoughts here.