[January 24, 2015] There’s a concept in sports, business, and the military that postulates that if your decision-making cycle is faster than your competitor, you can win. It’s called getting inside the decision cycle and it’s all about being a champion and winning. That may seem harsh … but failure is rarely a good option.
My experience is largely based on insurgency warfare and I’ll use an example from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to illustrate this point. The most well known insurgent tactic was the use of the IED (Improvised Explosive Device).1 Coalition forces were taking unexpectedly high casualties and initially we reacted by using add-on armor to our light-skinned vehicles. As the Coalition vehicle armor became more effective, insurgent IED destructiveness increased as well.
This leapfrogging of technology went on for the entire war. The question became who could surpass the other in technological innovation to get the upper hand. Both were trying to get inside the decision cycle of the other. In addition, different tactics were used by Coalition forces and the insurgents; this evolved over time as well. For example, at first we went after better protective armor, then after those who planted the IEDs, then to the insurgent network which designed and built the IED, and then to some techniques that are still classified by the military.
In other words, we used many methods and continued to improve upon them. We worked feverishly to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle to design, build, and employ better IEDs. This meant directly attacking the insurgent combat forces and support systems. This was merely the military part of the equation. The U.S. President and Congress were increasingly putting diplomatic and economic pressure on the country of Iran which was supplying most of the sophisticated IEDs.
Getting inside the enemy’s decision cycle meant the IED killer was less effective and the Coalition could do its job better. It also meant that U.S. strategic objectives were likely to succeed.
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 The IED began rather crudely and were not powerful enough to penetrate most metal plating. Later, the destructiveness and the complexity of these IEDs grew enormously and required sophistication designs and production, often in other countries like Iran. The IEDs themselves were also used with different triggering mechanisms and planted in unique locations to avoid detection. All this was to make detection and protection from them as hard as possible.