"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Academic Freedom and Max Performing a Culture

In his speech given to the "Leadership and Intellectual Center of the Air Force," Secretary Gates spoke of the need for critical cultural reflection to change elements that no longer proved useful while maintaining cultural elements that give strength and provide motivation. My cultural analysis of the fighter pilot culture indicates that there are multiple cultural elements in which the line between strength and weakness is thin indeed. On one side is strength garnered by pride while on the other is blindness reaped from arrogance. The motivation garnered from an intense emphasis on social life carries the potential downside of group think. And so on...

It is apparent to me the fighter pilot community is max performing their culture as they max perform their jets. They should be commended for this aggressive attitude and their mission hacking perfectionism that seeks to squeeze every inch of motivation from their people during challenging times of do ___ with less.

But the line has been traversed, it seems to me, and the air has already started to seperate from the wing. The community is no longer max performing its culture. Instead, they are stalling it out. It is evident to me that instead of maximizing people for the betterment of the mission, the aggressive fighter pilot culture is failing to supply the creativity, debate, and discussion necessary to help the Air Force recover from a deep stall (some might argue a spin). Instead, the homogenized community is "staying the course" with the assembly line talking points and refusal to engage in serious discussion--in much of my experience at any rate.

It can't be easy to max perform a culture. But we need to keep the fire trucks from rolling.

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