The Reading List of Colonel T.X. Hammes

The Armed Forces Journal cover story features Colonel T.X. Hammes giving an an “outside the box” reading list to change traditional thinking in defense circles:

Read different

Although the wider academic and business communities are coming to grips with the fact that many of these advances are changing the way we understand the world, the defense industry does not seem to see this as an issue. We still tend to view the world as responding to linear approaches applied by bureaucratic entities.

Fortunately, over the past couple of decades, a number of books have provided thought-provoking new theories of how the world works. Unfortunately, these theories do not align with the planning processes we use in the defense industry. The first step in fixing our planning processes is to examine how science’s understanding of reality is changing.The authors of these works highlight aspects of how the world has changed. This forces us to change how we frame problems, how we organize to deal with them and even how to get the best out of our people. For instance, if one still saw the world as a hierarchy, then one looked for the “leadership” of the Iraqi insurgency in 2003. Yet if one saw the world as a network in which emergent intelligence is a key factor, then one quickly saw the networked insurgent entities as they evolved an emergent strategy in Iraq. Our ability to adjust to the rapidly changing future security environment will, to a large degree, depend on our ability to understand the world as it is rather than as we have been taught to understand it. Reading these 12 books should help.

Here is the list, and it is a good one. I’ve read several, have some of the other books in my “antilibrary” and a few are new to me. You can go to the article to get some commentary regarding each book by Dr. Hammes:

Chaos: Making a New Science

Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means

Commander’s Appreciation and Campaign Design ( U.S. Army pamphlet)

Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business (Collins Business Essentials)

The Wisdom of Crowds

The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why

Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity (Helix Books)

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

An excellent list but one to which I think we need to add a few more. While any comments are welcome, I suggest that readers also chime in and nominate a couple ( 1 or 2) worthy reads that fit the spirit of Col. Hammes’ intent. My nominations are Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century by Howard Bloom and Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson.

5 thoughts on “The Reading List of Colonel T.X. Hammes”

  1. Taleb’s “Fooled by Randomness” is IMNSHO better than his “Black Swan” (the latter is on the list but somehow didn’t make it into your post)

    Also, “The Innovator’s Solution,” by Christensen & Raynor, is a much better book that Christensen’s “Innovator’s Dilemma.”

    “Artful Making,” by Austin & Devin, is about what managers can learn from theater troupes.

    Drucker’s “The Age of Discontinuity” was published in 1969, but is still very thought-provoking.

  2. “Taleb’s “Fooled by Randomness” is IMNSHO better than his “Black Swan” (the latter is on the list but somehow didn’t make it into your post)”

    D’OH! The code must have had a broken script or something. Have to go back later and remedy that.

    Good choices David. I need to read some Drucker given his enormous influence, not having firsthand knowledge of his ideas is a blind spot

  3. I would recommend Order Out of Chaos by Ilya Prigogine. Its the granddaddy of all the emergent order books and explains how the physics of these systems work on a fundamental level. Other works often make emergent order seem like some kind philosophical outlook as opposed to a subset of physics.

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