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A full replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton stands in the entrance of Google Corporation's headquarters in Mountain View, California. Its jaw is open as it leans forward, stretching 36 feet from tail to nose. It looks every bit the hunter that we know from the movies. As intimidating as the T-Rex is, though, the joke’s on him. Google uses the extinct animal as a reminder that we must “innovate or die.”
This story isn’t entirely fair to the T-Rex. While our society praises innovation, reveres entrepreneurs, and studies innovative companies, there are lots of reasons not to be innovative. For starters, innovation can be dangerous.
The danger is not physical, but political. “Political danger” sounds soft, imaginary even, when compared to physical danger. Yet, as far as what drives human behavior and as far as what we feel, political danger is real. The danger stems from competition over status, or how influential we are in an organization. Competition for status creates winners and losers — there are only so many spots at the top. The more hierarchical an organization, the bigger the difference between winners and losers.
Being at the top feels good, as being at the bottom feels bad. The Greek philosopher Aristotle described humans as “political animals,” though more recent scholarship argues that because humans operate in groups, the pursuit of status is a direct proxy for the pursuit of life’s necessities. In the same way that we are “wired” to pursue food and shelter, we are wired to seek status. The “wiring” is emotional. We feel pleasure in gaining status and pain in losing it.
Innovation that challenges a position of status creates the prospect of emotional pain for the person being removed. An individual proposing a disruptive idea can be a threat to someone in a position of status, creating a reaction to attack rather than embrace. The same dynamic impacts military innovations with one added factor: military innovations entail groups more than individuals.
Military innovations — innovations in warfare — usually involve one group within the military becoming more important than another. Groups can represent a weapons system, favored tactic, or a grand strategy.
For example, as the Air Force transitioned to a focus on nuclear weapons at the start of the Cold War, bomber pilots displaced fighter pilots as more central to the Air Force mission. The same has happened in other services, as when aircraft carriers usurped battleships as the Navy’s primary means of projecting force.
In the Army over the past decade, the innovation of counterinsurgency created a debate over strategy — whether force should be employed primarily to destroy enemy forces or stabilize host societies.
Each of the above changes in warfighting meant that one group had to make room for another.
In the same way that we are “wired” to seek status, we are also wired to defend the groups to which we belong. Jonathan Haidt, author of “The Righteous Mind,” has shown that loyalty to a group is one of the foundations of human moral reasoning. The mind is “innately tribal,” designed to “enjoy doing the sorts of things that lead to group cohesion and success in conflicts between groups.”
According to Haidt, “the love of loyal teammates is matched by a corresponding hatred of traitors.” Just as supporting the groups we belong to feels right, so does opposing groups of outsiders. This feeling can range from trivial and fun, like cheering for a local sports team, to solemn and lethal, as in fighting for your country.
Groups in the military can take many forms: the service you belong to, a specialty within that Service, or the teammates you work with. The feeling of supporting the group can be the difference between saying “yes” or “no” to a new way of fighting. A change that challenges your group would feel inherently wrong, while the opposite would feel inherently right. This is what it means for decisions to be “political” — an innovation is right or wrong based on which group it benefits, not its mission impact.
Group loyalty and desire for status is why military innovation is so hard. More than 500 years ago in “The Prince,” political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli described the essential challenge of innovation. He wrote,
It should be borne in mind that there is nothing more difficult to manage, or more doubtful of success, or more dangerous to handle than to take the lead in introducing a new order of things. For the innovator has enemies in all those who are doing well under the old order, and he has only lukewarm defenders in all those who would do well under the new order. This lukewarmness arises partly from the incredulity of men who do not truly believe in new things until they have had a solid experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever his enemies have the opportunity to attack the innovator, they do so with the zeal of partisans, and the others only defend him tepidly, so that he, together with them, is put in danger.
Machiavelli’s warning may be dark, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Machiavelli bases his warning on the “partisan’s” emotional wiring, implying that the wiring is set in stone. He’s only partly right.
Our wiring is natural but not automated. We may have a natural drive for status and group loyalty, but what triggers the drive for status and group loyalty is subject to change. We can make innovation more likely by conferring status based on experimenting with new ideas, and by thinking of our group as everyone on the military team, not just one service or career field. Innovation can come from understanding what drives our behavior.
A former sailor who was busted buying firearms with his military discount and then reselling some of them to criminals is proving to be a wealth of information for federal investigators.
Julio Pino used his iPhone to record most, if not all, of his sales, court documents said. He even went so far as to review the buyers' driver's license on camera.
It is unclear how many of Pino's customer's now face criminal charges of their own. Federal indictments generally don't provide that level of detail and Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Jackson declined to comment.
It all began with a medical check.
Carson Thomas, a healthy and fit 20-year-old infantryman who had joined the Army after a brief stint in college, figured he should tell the medics about the pain in his groin he had been feeling. It was Feb. 12, 2012, and the senior medic looked him over and decided to send him to sick call at the base hospital.
It seemed almost routine, something the Army doctors would be able to diagnose and fix so he could get back to being a grunt.
Now looking back on what happened some seven years later, it was anything but routine.
The US military now has to ask the Iraqis for permission before giving close air support to troops in combat
U.S. forces must now ask the Iraqi military for permission to fly in Iraqi airspace before coming to the aid of U.S. troops under fire, a top military spokesman said.
However, the mandatory approval process is not expected to slow down the time it takes the U.S. military to launch close air support and casualty evacuation missions for troops in the middle of a fight, said Army Col. James Rawlinson, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
Army Spc. Clayton James Horne died in Saudi Arabia on Aug. 17, making him the eighth non-combat fatality for Operation Inherent Resolve so far this year, defense officials have announced.
Horne, 23, was assigned to the 351st Military Police Company, 160th Military Police Battalion, an Army Reserve unit based in Ocala, Florida, a Pentagon news release says.
The soldier who was arrested for taking an armored personnel carrier on a slow-speed police chase through Virginia has been found not guilty by reason of insanity on two charges, according to The Richmond-Times Dispatch.
Joshua Phillip Yabut, 30, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle — in this case, a 12-ton APC taken from Fort Pickett in June 2018 — and violating the terms of his bond, which stemmed from a trip to Iraq he took in March 2019 (which was not a military deployment).