I just finished reading L.A. Noir by John Buntin, a history of the Los Angeles Police Department, and was struck by the similarity of Stalin’s reaction to the German invasion of 1941 and the Police Chief Thomas Parker’s reaction to Watts riots in the 1960s.
First some history – in 1941 Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa – an invasion of the Soviet Union. At first the Germans took far more territory than expected. One of the primary reasons for the success, if not the primary reason, is that during the first days of the invasion Stalin refused to believe the invasion was happening and did not mobilize the Red Army. Once he realized that the Germans were actually invading he seemingly had a nervous breakdown and did nothing at all. As Stalin micromanaged the Soviet Union to the finest detail, his paralysis meant that Red Army did nothing while the Germans rolled across the border. It took a matter of weeks before he was able to start issuing even halfway decent military orders again.
The Germans were able to go far further into the Soviet Union than they otherwise would have if Stalin were a competent leader. To make matters worse, Stalin had warnings from credible sources (his intelligence services and others) that the Germans were planning to invade and still did nothing. Why? He intended to invade German territory 1-2 years into the future, and believed that the Germans were preoccupied with the British and would not strike to the East. He did not want to tip his hand and let himself believe that the invasion was a pointless border skirmish. He continued to believe this through all of the warnings from spies, and then all of the very obvious German troop movements to his way. As there was no one in a position of strength to talk to Stalin, the Germans stomped them into the ground for quite some time.
Fast forward 20 years. Before the Watts Riots in the 1960, Police Chief Thomas Parker of the LAPD believed that his force harbored no racial animus (for it’s time, the LAPD did well on that score, but standards were low) and that race riots occurred only in the deep South. Therefore the residents of his city of the future, Los Angeles, would never race riot. Also, Parker had set up the position of police chief to be accountable to no one (for an American police chief anyway). Parker was also warned from credible sources that a riot was imminent, and did nothing. When the riot did happen, he made few decisions and disappeared for a little while. The riots were not contained and the rioters did damage that could have been prevented by competent and present police work.
What does this have to do with Stronico, and visual contact management? At first glance, not much. However, the purpose of Stronico is to visually model one’s social network to aid in decision making. Stronico helps the “Orientation” portion of the OODA Loop. Stalin and Parker were not able and unwilling to update their orientation (defined as making sense of available facts) and so were paralyzed for quite some time. Stalin and Parker had no meaningful feedback in their functions as functions as leaders and thus could be quite wrong before external reality made their errors clear. Likewise, when managing the complex network for friends, acquaintances and contacts there is not much meaningful feedback to be offered, since it is, personal. Since the point of Stronico is to improve Orientation the question occurred to me, how do we synthesize the function of a trusted adviser that would have an all powerful ruler of a country (Stalin) an organization (Parker), or a social network (the eventual customer) know that their orientation was off?
Sorry if this post is jumbled, the idea is still fuzzy in my mind.
This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog
||Written By Steve French|