A Cumulative Strategy

The idea of a cumulative strategy is drawn from the work of a now little known military planner, Admiral James Wylie, whose career ended a few years before anyone began talking about wicked problems or complexity theory.

Though Wylie wrote about winning wars rather than winning the peace, he understood that conflicts as early as the late 1960s amounted to wicked problems. Not even the smartest general could hope to devise a single strategy that he (all generals were still men in those days) could use to plan a victorious campaign. Rather, in anticipation of what complexity scholars would discuss after he retired, successful campaigns for victory on the battlefield or anyplace else would have to combine long periods of trial and error, experimentation and failure.

Whether an individual initiative succeeds or fails, the critical take away is to learn its lessons so that the next one can be even more effective and, to use a phrase from the corporate world, be taken to scale.