Expecting Uncertainty: Approaching security environment complexity with humility and conceptual flexibility

Author: Robert Lummack

Abstract: This article discusses the complexity of the Global Security Environment. It argues that uncertainty within the global security environment should be expected. It argues that the concepts of Wicked Problems, Systems Theory and Complex Adaptive Systems provide a useful theoretical framework for evolving understandings of this space, useful for all actors trying to make sense of it and who are called to act within it. Note that these concepts are complex in their own right and their discussion is in no way meant to be exhaustive. The overall logic is that there is value in conceiving of multifaceted problems in diverse forms as ‘Wicked Problems’, that Systems Thinking offers several useful ways to account for complexity and actors within this space can be considered Complex Adaptive Systems; finally, that Design processes offer a wide range of advantages to guide action due. Here, I am referring to Design versions such as US Army Design Methodology (School of Advanced Military Studies, 2012). Calling for the inclusion of these concepts is not new as there is a vast literature within military and government communities in their quest to improve approaches to complex problems (Schmitt, 2006; Lauder, 2009; Scott, 2009; Zweibelson, 2011; Bentley, 2013; School of Advanced Military Studies, 2012). This paper rather seeks to contribute to these discussions and to publicize the relevance of these concepts to a wider audience. Note that examples provided are not meant to represent a comprehensive analysis of an issue using the respective concepts but rather serve to illustrate their potential application and utility. Secondly and crucially, it argues that humility and cognitive flexibility are required qualities within individuals and organizational cultures, due to the urgency of global problems and the difficulty in making sense of security environment complexity.

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Note: this reproduction is a copy of the version available at Government of Canada: http://www.cmrsj-rmcsj.forces.gc.ca/cb-bk/art-art/2017/art-art-2017-1-eng.asp

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