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War’s Didactics

A Theoretical Exploration on how Militaries Learn from Conflict

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War’s Didactics

A Theoretical Exploration on how Militaries Learn from Conflict

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Over the last decades the field of “military innovation studies” has proliferated tremendously. In particular, adaptations by armed forces in wartime have received extensive academic attention. The merit of military innovation studies is that it identifies the attributes of military organizations with regard to how they learn and change. It contributes specific driver, factors of influence, manifestations and impediments to how armed forces learn from war. From these attributes a frame of reference can be distilled. However, as of yet the process of how militaries learn and change based on experience from conflict is not clearly understood. Although the literature on organizational learning is increasingly applied to military adaptation, it remains underutilized. This research paper posits that organizational learning theory can provide a good starting point for studying learning processes in armed forces as the literature is concerned with the process of incorporating experience and knowledge to enhance the organization’s performance in relation to its environment. Therefore, a synthesis between military innovation studies and organizational learning theory that builds on their respective strengths is in order.By exploring both fields of literature this study finds that there are essentially three related strands of learning in relation to conflict: informal adaptation during deployment at the level of units or national contingents to overcome operational challenges that does not require organizational resources or attention; formal organizational adaptation seeks to address performance deficiencies with the support of the institutional level; institutional learning that leads to structural changes after the latest war has ended. Distinguishing between these three strands allows for analyzing their distinct dynamics. Ultimately, these strands are incorporated in an analytical model that seeks to help understand learning from conflict more holistically. The main addition of this model is that it recognizes the distinct dynamics of learning in conflict, and retaining those lessons afterwards. However, it also shows that these processes are inherently related. The model with its strands and the frame of reference of attributes can be utilized in further empirical research.

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OrganisatieNederlandse Defensie Academie
AfdelingFaculteit Militaire Wetenschappen
LectoraatKrijgswetenschappen
Gepubliceerd inResearch Paper 117 Faculty of Military Sciences; Netherlands Defence AcademyMinistry, Breda
Datum2020-12-01
TypeBoek
ISBN9789493124097
TaalEngels

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