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Tactical Thinking as Problem Solving: a paradigm for development of tactical thinking ability?
Swedish National Defence College, Department of Military Studies, War Studies Division.
Swedish National Defence College, Department of Military Studies, War Studies Division, Sektionen för markoperationer (KV Mark).
2012 (English)In:  , 2012Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The classic definition of tactics proposed by Clausewitz (1976, p. 128) was that “tactics teaches the use of armed forces in the engagement”. Clausewitz in a similar way of thinking defined strategy as “the use of engagements for the object of the war”. Clausewitz´s definition of tactics is still basically in use in several doctrines around the world although often a bit more developed. So, for example, in the Swedish Doctrine for Ground Operations (2005, p 36) tactics is defined as “the ability to use military forces in conducting battle or in support of battle”. The definitions of tactics are often implicitly (e.g. Clausewitz, 1832/1976) or explicitly (Swedish Armed Forces, 2005) focused on the ability of someone to use military units in order to win an engagement. This someone is a military officer. Studying military tactics is one of the main subjects for officers in military academies, yet, what constitutes tactical thinking ability and how it can be studied and trained has not been under much scientific attention. 

One way to view tactical thinking ability is to frame it as problem solving activity. This has been done partly by the US Army (2005, 2010). The advantage with this is that problem solving research offers several different avenues to how tactical thinking ability can be studied. First, it offers a general classification of types of problems that could be applied to the typical military tactical problem. We propose that a proper understanding of the general military tactical problem facing a military officer is key to understanding how tactical thinking ability can be developed. We also propose that tactical problems generally are dynamic problems, and “formally correct” solutions to dynamic problems cannot be identified in advance.  Another advantage using a problem solving research perspective is that it also offers a set of different theoretical frameworks for studying officers solving tactical problems.

In this paper we present a new approach, at the Swedish National Defence College, to study and develop tactical thinking ability in military officers. We start by classifying a generic tactical problem facing a tactical commander. Secondly, we survey different possible problem solving theories or paradigms that could be applied in order to study, and later also develop, the ability of officers to think tactics. Finally we discuss how a research program for studying and developing tactical thinking ability with a problem solving research approach could be designed. 

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URN: urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-3124OAI: diva2:580261
International Society of Military Sciences 2012, Kingston, Canada, October 23-24
FoU Krigsvetenskap
Available from: 2012-12-21 Created: 2012-12-21 Last updated: 2013-01-04Bibliographically approved

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Thunholm, PeterHögström, Ulf
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