The #Human Dimension Paradigm

The paradigm shift is perhaps one of the most overused terms in the blogosphere, academic literature, and classroom discussion. Thomas Kuhn, author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, states that paradigm shifts are “by nature: non-linear, not rapid, not individualized and generally only occur once a large body of respected individuals accepts a theory.” The Human Dimension White Paper does not represent a paradigm shift, and that is not a bad thing. There are those research papers that propose an answer (argumentative), and those that provide new way to think about a particular problem (analytical). The white paper is the latter, and that has disappointed people. The effort however, is not a failure. The fact that I, along with others are analyzing it, writing our opinions, and sharing them indicates thought provocation through multiple lens. Peter Berger, coauthor of The Social Construction of Reality, states “everyday life presents itself as a reality interpreted by men and subjectively meaningful to them as a coherent world.” Our realities our socially constructed by our experiences, interactions with others, educational experiences, and serves as a multi-tool in the human dimension kit bag. Tapping into this resource is what the white paper postulates, and aligns with the human dimension paradigm. I will leave literary criticism to others, but as the paper has caused me to think about some of the problems it identifies, I will offer my thoughts.

Precision Talent Management. “The Army will transform its Industrial Age talent management processes to better align its diverse talents to requirements and capabilities.” Such an undertaking has been due for some time, and will not occur rapidly nor without the wailing and gnashing of teeth from those cemented in the current talent management model. At this moment, Human Resources Command can identify me through a query that will highlight a DLAB score, that I have completed air assault school, and that I have an MMAS from a sister service command and staff college. They cannot identify the regions in Iraq or Afghanistan that I served in, the name of the provincial governor or kandak commander I advised, or the tribal leaders with whom I developed and maintain a relationship. The white paper proposes a collection and interpretation of a “broad set of data on Soldier aptitude, performance, and potential” for the purposes of talent management. Let us take it a step further and maximize the human dimension. As flashpoints erupt, or have the potential for escalation across the globe, the right tool for the job can prevent unnecessary expenditure of our national treasure, the Soldier. Creating a database to reflect such experience is no easy undertaking, but there is another way to view this. In theory, the F-22 is designed to defeat an adversary’s integrated air defense system, the A-10 to perform close air support and destroy armored threats, and the C-130 to transport troops and materiel. The right tool for the right job reveals itself easily for the Air Force, but the case is not the same for the Army. The white paper makes the case for harnessing the human dimension, and as such, we cannot begin to do so unless we can identify the right tool in the shed.

Total Fitness. One night over scotch, a close friend who serves as an infantry officer in the British Army pointed out the hypocrisy of the Army’s approach towards physical fitness. He noted that we ask each Soldier, male or female and regardless of branch, to maintain a certain degree of physical fitness to enable them to perform their job in harsh and demanding environments. Which MOS then, specializes in physical fitness? The white paper advocates the Master Fitness Training Certification course, (a school that provides an additional skill identifier to a Soldier who already has a job) but there is nothing new about this approach. If the true definition of madness is to do the same thing, but expect different results, why then do we continuously return to this methodology despite major advances in health sciences and fitness? My friend explained to me how his company level physical fitness NCO managed unit fitness by individual, to include physical profiles and calendar events. His experience of witnessing the mass of US Soldiers on profile or poorly managed during PT while serving on a US Army division staff shocked him. Adopting a similar approach and providing such capability at the battalion level or below would cause continuous change from within the system, and gradually shift the accepted norms.

The Human Dimension White Paper has made its impact whether we like it or not. Oftentimes the greatest discoveries are made by accident, separate from the designed purpose of an experiment. I believe that this paper serves as a proposed theory rather than a prescriptive order. As it is with most things concerning war and warfare, the great Prussian theorist Carl von Clausewitzcan leave us with a way to view theory, and a lens to view the white paper for the positive:

“Theory cannot equip the mind with formulas for solving problems, nor can it mark the narrow path on which the sole solution is supposed to lie by planting a hedge of principles on either side. But it can give the mind insight into the great mass of phenomena and of their relationships, then leave it free to rise into the higher realms of action. There the mind can use its innate talent to capacity, combining them all so as to seize on what is right and true as though this were a single idea formed by their concentrated pressure — as though it were a response to the immediate challenge rather than a product of thought.”

James Bithorn is an infantry officer in the U.S. Army. The views expressed here are the author’s alone and do not reflect those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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