The Foundation for an Adaptive Approach: Insights from the science of complex systems

Author: Alex Ryan

Abstract: Many who have studied the issue agree that warfare is becoming more and more complex. Yet, while the complexity of war is certainly increasing, our perception of the problem is also coloured by our increasing consciousness of war’s complexity. Coping with this situation has proven difficult, as the long—and still-continuing—learning process witnessed in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrates. The Australian Army has risen to this challenge with the release of Adaptive Campaigning and the launch of the Adaptive Army initiative. Providing the theoretical foundation of these approaches is ‘complex systems science’, a type of interdisciplinary research into complexity. While many in the Army are familiar with Adaptive Campaigning and the Adaptive Army, few are familiar with complex systems science. The purpose of this article is to provide an accessible introduction to complex systems science, and demonstrate how its principles are reflected in the Australian Army’s adaptive approach.

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