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Understand the Bad, Leverage It for Good: What Gen. McChrystal Learned from Al Qaeda
Al Qaeda in Iraq took advantage of information age innovation to take hold and subvert counter-terrorism measures. Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal's team had to adapt in order to contain this new enemy.
Stanley Allen McChrystal is a retired United States Army general, described by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates as, "perhaps the finest warrior and leader of men in combat I (have) ever met." His last assignment was as Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A). He previously served as Director, Joint Staff from August 2008 to June 2009 and as Commander, Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008. McChrystal was reportedly known for saying and thinking what other military leaders were afraid to; this was one of the reasons cited for his appointment to lead all forces in Afghanistan. He held the post from June 15, 2009, to June 23, 2010.
McChrystal has since joined the Yale University faculty, teaching courses in International Relations. His latest book is Team of Teams.
Stanley McChrystal: Al Qaeda in Iraq really intersected with the rise in the information age and so suddenly they were able to leverage video, they were able to leverage cell phones, the Internet so that they could create an effect of one part of Iraq and suddenly get value from that action in a place like Mosul almost instantaneously. So what it allowed them to do with this networked approach almost, franchised like approach, was to be very agile, very lethal and constantly adapting. And so we found that against that foe our traditional efficiency, as good as it was, wasn't enough.
We changed our structure to create from a team to a true team of teams, not a single team commanded up by a hierarchical reader, but a team of teams that were networked together that had an organic relationship underpinned by something we called shared consciousness, which is this shared contextual understanding of everything that's happening and everything we're trying to do and then that empowers people, small teams and individuals at lower levels, to make decisions on their own. Because we found that in today's environment where things are so much faster and interconnected, you have to make decisions close to the point of action because that's where people understand what's happening and that's where they can operate fast enough to be relevant.
When we first came into this situation in Iraq we wondered whether it was unique to war or unique to that particular situation? What we found is it wasn't really a cause of Al Qaeda in Iraq being special, they were focused and they were dedicated and they were pretty good, but in reality it was the environment which we run into. And it was the two factors, it was this vastly increased speed, physical speed but more than that the speed of digits and information moving, and also the interconnectedness of everything. And what that produced was a situation which complexity ruled the day. And what I mean by complexity, the basic quality here is not that it's complicated, that's different. It's complex to the point where things are not predictable. And when things are not predictable and uncertainty rules the day adaptability becomes the coin of the realm.
And so as we studied this, from that was our experience, we went to businesses is we found the speed and interconnectedness and the resulting complexity are exactly what businesses and other organizations face today. Those 19th and 20th century organizations that look good on organization charts, that have silos, they have set processes and checklists are fine to create organization in a predictable environment. And they can be very, very efficient but they're far too ponderous and far too slow and far too able to agilely change with constantly shifting seas in today's environment. And so today's businesses and organizations that don't make this kind of shift find themselves vulnerable to those who automatically have.
Al Qaeda in Iraq took advantage of information age innovation to take hold and subvert counter-terrorism measures. Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal's team had to adapt in order to contain this new enemy. In this Big Think Edge preview clip, McChrystal explains how a strategy hinged upon shared consciousness can help teams and teams of teams accomplish important goals.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.
Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.