Analyzing complexity in 4 steps

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Above: Systems Map of the US Govt plan to win war in afghanistan

This 3 minute TED talk explains how to analyze the mess known as the US Government’s counter insurgency strategy for Afghanistan :

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Focus on what you control in this messy complex map:

  1. Embrace complexity – the whole map shown
  2. Identify a specific goal: How do we win the hearts and minds of the people?
  3. Reduce it to a specific part: How many pieces of this map are less than 3 degrees away from the heart of the "winning the hearts and minds" problem.
  4. Define the nodes in this mess of information by types: actionable, military, non-actionable.

Doing that reveals that the whole strategy boils down to only two specific actions we can manage:

  • engagement with ethnic rivalries and relgious reliefs
  • fair, transparent economic development

The best means to accomplish the first task:

Bolster the Afghan CDCs (Community Development Councils): These are village meetings where local chiefs allocate aid money to what the community needs. Seems to work well, but according to an anonymous source things started going awry when Gen. Stanley McChrystal tried to get his military intel more involved. CDC leaders started getting assassinated. But when the US military pulled back a bit, they resumed with only a moderate amount of violence and graft.

The best means to acheive the second goal:

Resume Roshan’s mobile police salary payment programme, previously explained in my blog & podcast from September 2010’s tech@state meeting.

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