Connections Wargaming Conference Panel Announcements

Dr. Stephen Downes-Martin has put out a request for panel members for the panel he is chairing with Dr. David Banks. Rex Brynan has posted the announcement here at PaxSims.

The announcement for the panel I am chairing is below:

Wargames as a catalyst for innovation – Only if non-gamers are convinced of their usefulness!

Connections this year is taking on the topic of how wargaming can support changing the behavior of a target social system within the military. That is the essential characteristic of an “innovation” – adopters within a social system changing their behavior. Everett Rogers, in his seminal work “Diffusion of Innovations” characterizes the essential metric of innovation success as the percentage of the target social system whose behavior the innovation is aimed at changing, adopt it. The more “innovative” the element introduced, the faster the rate of adoption.

One of the panels at this year’s Connections deals with how wargaming can discover “failure modes” of a concept. Testing concepts – in essence hypotheses about how to synthesize capabilities to achieve an objective – is rigorously done when one attempts to collect falsifying evidence. The accumulation of confirming evidence of the hypothesis does not “prove it”, rather the lack of evidence DIS-proving it is what lends credence to its perceived advantage when implemented.

Another panel addresses developing wargamers who can change how other wargamers wargame – producing wargaming innovation and advancing the state of the art of wargaming.

In both cases, more wargaming must be done in more places, using a wider variety of wargame techniques and tools to “matter”.

There are however, only a very few places in the military where wargaming is performed and only part of that capacity is used to test concepts, and even fewer devote significant resources to “advancing the state of the art” of wargaming. For wargaming to truly impact the rate of adoption of other innovations, it must be perceived as an “innovation” in and of itself and “diffuse” more pervasively through military social systems. More correctly “re-perceived” as one, since it has gone through several cycles of adoption and abandonment.
Gamers “get it” having repeatedly experienced the “a-ha” moment when patterns observed over many games are perceived in a novel way suggesting a new hypothesis explaining “why” certain observations might have been caused. Being comfortable with abstract representations greatly simplifying a complex system into understandable chunks, gamers are comfortable thinking in terms less rigorous than induction and deduction, rather by “abduction” of the form:

The surprising fact, F, is observed.

BUT, if Hypothesis H were true, F would follow as a matter of course.

HENCE, there is a reason to suspect H is true and thus subject H to experimental scrutiny.

There is obviously much more to it than that, abductive insight being but one example of the means by which wargaming can contribute to the process of innovation. The question is, how does wargaming “diffuse” institutionally to create the plethora of venues and wide range of “wargame tools” required to permeate a sufficient body of adopters to achieve the desired goal of “catalytic” impact on other innovative concepts.

Discussion related to “Enhancing the Diffusion of Wargaming as an Innovation” is the theme of Panel 3 at this year’s Connections. Questions for prospective panelists to consider include:

  1. How do we design wargames more likely to overcome individual and organizational barriers to adoption? Particularly those related to cultural aversion to the value of “play” and “games”, together with the predilection to assume that “more abstract, lower fidelity” tools based on  “qualitative and subjective” assessments are less valuable – if not counter-productive – compared to “less abstract, higher fidelity” and “physics-based” tools.
  1. How do we employ wargames in a manner that more readily engages non-gamers in participating in the flow of “constructing the narrative” wherein the “a-ha” moments happen? Is there a difference if participants are from technical vice operational communities?
  1. How do we more effectively capture those insights and communicate them to those who did not participate in the game experience?
  1. How do we encourage and incentivize “adopters” to institutionalize wargaming and the “cycle of research” it is a part of within their social networks?

The above is not all-inclusive and those with other perspectives on the subject topic are encouraged to suggest alternative questions to address. The format will be the same as the other panels with 3 panelists, each having 20min to present their views, followed by 30 minutes of group discussion and Q&A. If you are interested in participating please submit an abstract of your remarks BEFORE FRIDAY JUNE 24th to:

I will notify the selectees by Friday July 1st and ask the selectees to provide a powerpoint presentation – with detailed talking points on the notes pages of each slide – to the email above by Friday July 22nd.

If you are interested in participating on one of the other panels, please contact Timothy Wilke at

About Paul Vebber

"If you read about something, you have learned about it. If you can teach something, you have mastered it. Designing a useful game about something however, requires developing a deep understanding of how it relates to other things."
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