Sunday, September 30, 2018

A man to remember

The same officer who supervised the miraculous evacuation of the British Army at Dunkirk was also the officer responsible for deploying the Mulberry Harbors at Normandy and laying the cross-Channel PLUTO pipeline.*

Meet Captain William Tennant

There is a poetic symetry to his career. Grit and determination in the dark days of the war. Perseverence in the face of defeat.. And, after four years of trials, he gets to make an outsized contribution to victory .

As Professor David Gelernter wrote:

History is inspiring. Bravery is inspiring. It is shameful we no longer teach this to our children.
* I wrote about the critical role the Mulberries played in the defeat of the Wehrmacht here:

"If we can’t capture a port, we must take one with us.”

Friday, September 28, 2018

One more reason it is OK to distrust advice from academic experts

Why much of academic business research remains irrelevant for business

Much of the evidence we gathered suggests that academic research is largely self-referential because the system of prestige, funding allocation and career progression remains largely centred on notions of scholarly impact related to publications. To put it bluntly, authors are faced with two options: undertaking socially impactful research (i.e. research that solves critical problems for businesses, governments or civil society organisations) or writing academically impactful publications (i.e. based on research that fits into popular academic debates and is likely to be cited by those engaged in those debates). The latter option merely requires a thorough knowledge of the literature. By contrast, the first option requires a good understanding of practical problems; some connections with non-academic organisations; and often the time, ability and desire to negotiate and manage long-term research collaborations that may or may not result in four-star publications. It may well be, as Catherine Durose has argued previously, that “some commentators see academic practice as a refuge from engagement”, but for many others the return on investment simply does not stack up.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Speaking of hard-boiled detectives

Max Allan Collins:

Mickey Spillane at 100

This was something entirely new in mystery fiction, and Spillane quickly became the most popular—and controversial—mystery writer of the mid twentieth century. In addition to creating an eye-for-an-eye hero, the writer brought a new level of sex and violence to the genre. He was called a fascist by left-leaning critics and a libertine by right-leaning ones. In between were millions of readers who turned Spillane’s first six Hammer novels into the bestselling private eye novels of all time.
Mike Hammer paved the way for James Bond and every tough action P.I., cop, lone avenger, and government agent who followed, from Shaft to Billy Jack, from Dirty Harry to Jack Bauer. The latest Hammer-style heroes include an unlikely one—the vengeance-driven young woman of the Dragon Tattoo trilogy—as well as a more obvious descendent, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.

So long, pal. Mickey Spillane, RIP

Friday, September 21, 2018

Hard-boiled versus cozy mysteries

Jay Catherman:

In a cozy mystery novel, you have an amateur sleuth standing over a neatly laid out corpse, with a cat sleeping on the mantel, and water on the boil for tea.

In a hard-boiled mystery novel, the detective is some sort of professional sleuth, the mutilated corpse is hanging from the fireplace and the cat is boiling in the kettle.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Battle of Britain

During the long, hot summer of 1940, over the wheat fields and orchards of Kent and Sussex, strategic theory encountered logistical and organizational reality. It was not just the emotion-charged images -- of aircraft's vapor trails entangled across a clear blue sky, of St. Paul's Cathedral standing out above the flames, of Churchill visiting the bombed-out houses of Londoners -- that counted. The struggle also consolidated the resolve of the British to soldier on, and had enormous effects upon foreign opinion abroad, especially in neutral America. Strategically, it was also the first time the Nazi juggernaut had been checked.
Paul Kennedy,
Engineers of Victory


Six weeks that saved the world

The forgotten man who saved the world

Field Marshal Dowding's verdict on the Battle of Britain

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Remember General Stanley McChrystal?

General McChrystal’s military career ended after Michael Hastings revealed that his staff was contemptuous of many leading figures in the Obama Administration. All right thinking Journolisters agreed that no healthy republic could tolerate this challenge to the duly elected President.

Now we see the legacy press and the Beltway punditcracy celebrating career bureaucrats working to thwart President Trump. Somehow, mocking Joe Biden a threat to our democracy, but bureaucrats actively working trying to overthrow an election is just fine.

"Senior Administration Official" Admits There's a Deep State in the White House "Thwarting" Trump
One could draw the same contrast between Gen. David Petraeus and James Comey. Both mishandled sensitive information. Only one faced criminal penalties; the other became a hero to the MSM for breaking his oath.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Patrick Blackett and the innovation trap

When the search for technological breakthroughs is nothing more than way to avoid hard work and difficult choices.

Patrick Blackett was not a congregant in the Church of the Next New Thing. In 1941 he warned Britain’s war leaders against a pernicious form of Magical thinking:

"New weapons for old" is apt to become a very popular cry. The success of some new devices has led to a new form of escapism which runs somewhat thus-- "Our present equipment doesn't work very well; training is bad, supply is poor, spare parts non-existent. let's have an entirely new gadget!" ... In general, one might conclude that relatively too much scientific effort has been expended hitherto in the production of new devices and too little in the proper use of what we have got.
This is a remarkable assessment from a man whose work as an experimental physicist earned him a Nobel Prize.

It also has the advantage of being true.

The search for “breakthrough innovations” is often an expensive way to avoid dealing with difficulties in the here and now: A charade that wastes time and money with no chance for a payoff.

It is appealing to think that a few brilliant people can come up with an idea that will save an organization. (How did that work out for Xerox?) It is even more tempting to think that such an idea can come from a random collection of people using the latest fad for idea generation.

After reviewing the successes and failures of military innovation between the world wars, Allan Millett came to this conclusion:

The key to technological exploitation became not so much the revolutionary character of inventions and processes, but creation of a management and logistical system that made the application of technological advantage possible.
Simply put, the greatest technical breakthroughs in the world cannot overcome organizational weaknesses in strategy, doctrine, management, or logistics.


Why corporate change is hard and failure almost inevitable (Part Two)

Conquest's Law

That vision thing