Trust, and How to Gain It: QMN051

Martial Mental Models: The Quartermaster, Monday, 15 July

(This week’s report is a 12 minute read)

NOTICE: We’re back with a new format and frequency. Along with a book review and gear review (or link to an Instagram gear review as CPP did this week), we’re including a guest post with every newsletter. This week’s guest post is Gulf War veteran, paratrooper and Experience Design Executive Christopher-Ian Reichel. I met CI when we were both at IBM years ago and it was stunning how old interests die hard post-Army. This week he argues that today at work the truth can be hard to find- so you’re best off going right to the source for it.

Here’s a quick roundup of this week’s writers:

- Chris Papasadero (CPP)

- Christopher-Ian Reichel (CIR)

- Brady Moore (BJM)

- KS Anthony (KSA)

BLUF: Trust can be an operating model, no different than Agile or Six Sigma. This operating model for functional trust requires building a trust battery with your teammates through a few key components beyond the high-stakes profession of warfighting, and we’ll introduce them here.

Chris P. here. The internet was designed to democratize information, but instead has become a place of exploitation, outrage, and toxicity - which is a terrible state for our public square to be in, as it lowers trust in our society. 

This is what happens to a public square if you don’t build the whole thing out of marble and bolt down some grinderminders and a few rules around the structure of the debate. Navigating information now requires a suspicious lens; agenda can be simple bias, foreign interference [Pg. 10, SORO Pyramid], or a dark pattern

And the internet is just a symptom of a greater lack of trust, extending nigh into every human experience; the very act of finding a spouse has been relegated to swiping on one’s phone. Getting a job – where you spend the majority of your time and energy – now requires AI approval

I’ve tried to create trust strategies to separate the wheat from the chaff, but it’s all just too much work for anyone with priorities in meat space. I’d argue that trust is at a record low across every demographic and psychographic that matters. 

One place I was able to find high trust, however, was during my time in the military, on a twelve-man ODA. Setting aside the dangerous operating environment that made trust a critical value, I saw these small teams able to operate without guidance or support primarily because they trusted each other to do their job, watch each other’s back, and speak up about problems with the team or the approach.

I think trust can be an operating model, borne of pure function, and that this functional trust can and should be transposed from the Green Berets and into business.

So lets toss out the definition of trust as an emotional, information-qualifying tool and look at it from a functional strategy for a second; let’s talk about trust like we might Agile or Six Sigma or the Toyota Production System; as a strategy to make high quality decisions

Like Agile or the OODA loop, the idea behind functional trust is that you can efficiently cut through bullshit and see the critical path to achieving the mission. An ODA is designed to achieve the mission, an engineering department is for building products, a business is for making money. These are all simple in outcome but complex to achieve, and require a system like Agile to iteratively surface issues, overcome blockers, and break complexity down into digestible parts; “A six sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of all opportunities to produce some feature of a part are statistically expected to be free of defects.”

Same with trust; in fact, I would argue that you can’t have an Agile methodology if the team is afraid to point out problems, and you can’t have an effective business if you’re blind to pitfalls and gaps. Trust enables candor, and candor allows the team to feel safe in identifying things that will interfere with achieving the mission. 

Functional trust isn’t just about culture and values, it has an impact on the bottom line. 

Paul J. Zak, Harvard researcher, Founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and Professor of Economics, Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University, and author of "The Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High Performing Companies," says there are quantitative results of a trust-based culture. Zak concluded that those working in high-trust cultures:

- Enjoyed their jobs 60% more

- Were 70% more aligned with their companies' purpose

- Felt 66% closer to their colleagues

- Had 11% more empathy for their workmates,

- Experienced 40% less burnout from their work

- Earn an additional $6,450 a year, or 17% more than those working at low-trust organizations

The Green Beret operating model for functional trust requires building a trust battery with your teammates through a few key components beyond the high-stakes profession of warfighting:

- Keep it “team internal” and watch each other’s backs

- Respect rank and hierarchy in execution – but democratize planning to make high quality decisions

- Handle issues at the lowest level

- Dispassionate professionalism

- Recognize excellence

- Unity of Action/Autonomy of Effort - “Tell me what you think your job should be”

- Tight, regular communication loops

- Booze, blood, or tough training (shared hardship)

Each of these components I’ll address in forthcoming Quartermaster Newsletters (CPP)

P.S. The Quartermaster is the brainchild of members of the Special Forces Association of NYC, the “William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan Chapter”. 

Follow our Instagram for unique and unseen Regimental history, weekly battle-tested gear reviews, and to keep up with our chapter events, jurgas, and hijinks.

Interested in linking up with the SFA Chapter 58 for professional networking, range days, and hearing more about how a Green Beret is better than any Ivy League MBA? Drop me a line at chris@sfa.nyc

*****

FOR BETTER DECISIONS GET OUT & TALK TO YOUR CUSTOMERS

CI here. In our current digitally-driven world, we often hear professional conversations around topics which include big data, deep analytics, IoT, algorithms, machine learning, and AI. We also live at a time when nearly anyone can type a query into Google and get a seemingly endless list of related articles. This near immediate availability of data and content can give the illusion of solid research and the ability of getting correct answers, but does it really? 

Here are some things to think about: 

In 2016, 89% of large companies believe that customer experience will be their primary basis for competition. In 2011, that number was 36%. (Gartner Predicts a Customer Experience Battlefield)

Additionally, 95% of customers have taken action as the result of a bad experience (The Customer Experience Impact report, RightNow and Harris Interactive)

But only 35% of CxOs claim they understand their customers today (IBM Global CSuite Study: The Customer-Activated Enterprise)

These numbers are only going to skew higher with each successive year. 

As a young infantryman, one of the very early, and sometimes painful, lessons was around the concept that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” This quote comes from nineteenth-century Prussian military commander Helmuth van Moltke in 1880, who in turn was reflecting a bit of real-world battlefield knowledge that predates Marcus Aurelius. 

It is important to remember that people seldom ever intend to make bad plans — but in the time and distance between plan and implementation, a world of hidden variables can completely undermine any planned outcomes.

In business, much like the military, the people who write the big checks want results and not excuses. Specific to being a successful business — identifying a specific problem or customer opportunity can be the single most important factor for success. If you’re addressing the wrong issues, you’re not giving your customers what they need, and they will not hesitate to go elsewhere. 

In 2017, the IBM Institute for Business Value released a rather bold bit of research titled The Experience Revolution: Digital disappointment – Why some customers aren’t fans. The numbers show that many of the biggest companies in the world are missing their mark. 

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The big lesson from this research: more researchers and strategists need to get out of the office and directly communicate with their customers in the real world. Real qualitative research, from boots on the ground, can make the difference between winning and losing in the marketplace. 

*****

WHY DON’T WE LEARN FROM HISTORY? by B.H. Liddell Hart.

Book BLUF: At 125 pages, this book is a quick read but packed with insights that come from a lifetime of studying conflict firsthand. Liddell Hart finds history to be the search for truth and clarity: in trying to find out why something happened, you end up finding out what actually happened. Though he intended the book to have a military theme, his points are often directly applicable to life in general. He’s got a good writing style and by the time you reach the end you'll find yourself wishing the book was longer. If you are a strategist of any kind this is a must read. Liddell Hart uses his experiences as a soldier, strategist, theorist, historian, advisor and author to confirm some long held beliefs about strategy and correct others. After reading it and considering his points, I guarantee you'll see things a little differently than you do now. 

Brady here. After hearing this book recommended by both Ryan Holiday and Shane Parrish, and knowing that Liddell Hart was a strategist and a historian, I knew it was something I’d have to read. What I didn’t expect is how much it'd speak to our current age with our obsession with information operations (aka propaganda) and artificial intelligence. The fact that much of it was likely written 70 years ago tells you that many of our problems and trends that seem new in many ways are timeless.

Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart was an infantry officer in the First World War, and survived blast concussions and a gas attack at The Somme to become a journalist and military theorist following the war. He was one of the first to advocate for combined arms battle during the inter-war period, which became the hallmark of land conflict in Europe during the Second World War. He was an advisor to the leadership of Allied forces during that war and had a significant impact on Britain’s role in land conflict. 

The premise of the book is the eternal return - as humans we seem compelled to repeat the mistakes of the past in spite of our ability to identify and explain them. What Liddell Hart believes is that an insufficient commitment to the truth, and a disbelief that we are bound by the truth, allows us to continually put faith, expediency and self-advancement first. We know we’re supposed to eat our vegetables but we like ice cream better - except in this case the outcomes he’s talking about aren't inches on our waistline but the slaughter of hundreds of thousands in armed conflict. This sad reality is generally understood well enough today if still not practiced, but Liddell Hart’s firsthand experience gives his points weight and texture you won't find many other places.

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The first time I read this book I was working on a concept around artificial intelligence for battlefield commanders - the idea was to use natural language processing to have a system consume historical documents about thousands of past conflicts, so that a commander could understand and apply past lessons learned in situ. Reading Liddell Hart’s explanations of the many lies he found built into official histories (“After twenty-years' experience of such work, pure documentary history seems to me akin to mythology.”), and why they were built-in, made me realize that the concept would be a much bigger undertaking if one wanted a reliable product. Interestingly, this same accusation of self-serving manipulation of historical facts was leveled at his work some years after his death. 

WHAT I TOOK AWAY

I found a few key takeaways from this book: 

1. Make sure that whatever solution you come to, it doesn't lead to more problems. Liddell Hart witnessed the negative outcomes of the First World War lead to the Second World War and seemed to be concerned about the same happening with nuclear weapons at the start of the Cold War. In short, victories are often reached so severely that within them lies the seeds of the next defeat. His examples fit with the Green Beret admonition to consider second and third order effects, though his focus is strategic and the Green Beret one at least starts as tactical.

2. Self preservation can make cowards out of us. Liddell Hart echoed Sir William Slim’s advice to commanders saying “you can't be afraid to lose your job”

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I find this the military version of the “Yuppie Nuremberg Defense” coined by Christopher Buckley in Thank You For Smoking - where the main character Nick Naylor explains away the moral quandaries associated with lobbying for tobacco by saying “I’m only paying the mortgage.” It's tough, but doing the right thing can and often does hurt. We have to be prepared for that if we intend to be moral leaders.

3. Information Operations are likely more important than we think. Liddell Hart posits that today’s Special Operations Forces that were born in the Second World War (and which exist today in the form of Green Berets, the Special Air Service, the CIA and MI6, et al) all came from Winston Churchill having been deeply moved and impressed by T.E. Lawrence's stories of the First World War. Telling your story and telling it well could be the key to your survival and even success in the future. Learn how to do that and commit to doing it continuously.

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4. We frequently misapply historical maxims and use them to supplant critical thought. The example above has justified untold amounts of military spending and posturing in potential combat zones, when “prepare for war” could be better interpreted as studying historical precedents and outcomes both desired and unintentional. Liddell Hart makes the case repeatedly that we don't really understand war to the level we think we do, and we continue to pay a price for it. 

Finally, I was left with the question that if being a historian is about finding truth, what happens to our societal ability to discern truth if we stop teaching and studying history, especially of the military genre? The decline of academic military history has been documented for decades, but now its expanding out to western history in general. We bemoan today’s poor military, diplomatic, and political decisions, but do we have a citizenry that can identify and refute these poor decisions?

If you deal with strategy of any kind this book is a must read. Liddell Hart uses his experiences as a soldier, strategist, theorist, historian, advisor and author to confirm some long held beliefs about strategy and correct others. His lessons learned span the personal and professional and deserve to be on the same shelf as Meditations, The Prince, and The Art of War. After reading it and considering his points, I guarantee you'll see things a little differently than you do now. (BJM)

*****

BRING ON THE SINGULARITY ALREADY: Neuralink: Elon Musk’s Elusive Brain-Computer Firm Just Made a Big Reveal( 2 min) I’m gonna save you a click because Inverse.com is, quite frankly, famous for putting out this kind of Clickbait nonsense and you’re deserve better than that. The “big reveal” is this: on July 10th, Musk’s company Neuralink tweeted that they will be having an event in San Francisco on Tuesday, July 16th, to reveal some of their research findings. The event will be livestreamed as well. Musk has been notoriously close-lipped about the company which can only mean that he’s got something even cooler than flamethrowers coming up. Guess we’ll find out. (KSA)

EVERY SALES PRO SHOULD READ THIS: An Alternative Framework for Agent Recruitment: From MICE to RASCLS (20 min) Brilliant piece with a terrible title outlining both the history of recruiting intelligence assets from the OSS (“From the first give him an impression that we are part of a powerful and well organized body—prestige counts heavily”) to present day and some analyses of the whys and wherefores of the tactics employed in that particular game. Skip right to page 12 if you’re not into history and read about the agency’s interest in leveraging the work of psychologist Robert Cialdini. From the text: “(Cialdini’s) six “weapons of mass influence”— reciprocation, authority, scarcity, commitment/consistency, liking, and social proof—provide a better foundation for agent recruitment and handling.” (KSA)

CONNECTION BETWEEN HR & OPERATIONS: Reforming the US Army: can be done, must be done (8 min) “Reform is complex not just because it’s difficult, but due to the many second and third order effects that must be understood for success. There is much we can do now, such as reforming the 1980 Defense Officer Personnel Management Act (DOPMA, mandating the “up or out” system), gradually reducing the number of officers (especially at the top), and improving the Army’s education and training programs.” (BJM)

IT’S ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL IT GETS HACKED: Court rules Pentagon can award $10B 'war cloud' contract later this summer (3 min) “A federal judge ruled on Friday that the Department of Defense (DOD) can move forward with its plan to award a $10 billion "war cloud" contract later this summer, which will be likely given to either Amazon or Microsoft, knocking down a legal challenge by cloud-computing competitor Oracle.” The military’s obsession with Star Wars rears its head once again: of course, the war cloud is named JEDI. Why not just call it the “War Cloud?” Guess they want to reinforce that they’re the good guys. Is this going to affect the price of Amazon Prime? (KSA)

CONVENIENCE ENABLES THE SURVEILLANCE STATE: Hong Kong Protests Show Dangers of a Cashless Society (5 min) “In Hong Kong, most people use a contactless smart card called an "Octopus card" to pay for everything from transit, to parking, and even retail purchases. It's pretty handy: Just wave your tentacular card over the sensor and make your way to the platform. But no one used their Octopus card to get around Hong Kong during the protests. The risk was that a government could view the central database of Octopus transactions to unmask these democratic ne'er-do-wells. Traveling downtown during the height of the protests? You could get put on a list, even if you just happened to be in the area.” (BJM)

Remarks Complete. Nothing Follows.

KS Anthony (KSA), Chris Papasadero (CPP) & Brady Moore (BJM)