June 22, 2018
The five decades between the Spanish-American War and the end of World War II were a time of revolutionary technological change. Navies struggled to assimilate new ship types—dreadnought battleships, destroyers, aircraft carriers, and submarines—and integrate them with new technologies, like analog fire control computers, radio, and radar. The U.S. Navy stood out in its ability to harness those new technologies and develop them to expand the fleet’s fighting power, exploiting them with remarkable effectiveness in World War II. What qualities enabled the Navy to be so adept at this?
In Trent Hone’s new book, Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898–1945, he argues that the Navy was successful at leveraging change because it created a sophisticated learning system. This system allowed naval officers to evolve their tactical doctrine, adapt faster than opponents, and successfully harness new technologies. During his talk, he will discuss several of the Navy’s innovations from this period, analyze the conditions that enabled them to emerge, and illustrate the opportunities they created. By considering the Navy as a complex adaptive system, he draws new and valuable insights for how organizations evolve, innovate, and learn. These are just as relevant today as they were a century ago.
Trent Hone is an authority on the U.S. Navy of the early twentieth century and a leader in the application of complexity science to organizational design. He studied religion and archaeology at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He works as a consultant in Arlington, Virginia, helping a variety of organizations improve their processes and techniques. Mr. Hone writes and speaks about tactical doctrine, organizational learning, and complexity.