Decision making in complex world – from Royal Marine Major to TSBE EngD students

EngD students at the TSBE Centre had a unique opportunity to gain an insight into the diverse experiences of a Royal Marine and learn how military grade decision making techniques are applied to solve complex situations. Gareth Tennant is a serving Major in the Royal Marines Commandos and he specialises in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance techniques. Building on his experience in combat operations and involvement in development of management strategies for the military, Gareth is now working on delivering information exploitation techniques to the commercial sector to support decision making in the context of increased connectivity of systems and the rapidly growing availability of data.

Turning data into intelligence. Photo by Dr Harrison.

For the TSBE centre, Gareth presented on the different types of problems drawing on examples from his experience on combat operations, highlighting the existence of “black swan” problems – the unforeseen instances of problems with high impact. Using an analogy of climbing a mountain, he explained the difference between strategic direction and tactical application, where strategy is setting the goal of getting to the summit and tactics is the act of climbing.  He then introduced us to practice of operational art, which is how the military ensure that tactical decisions have strategic results. Gareth then presented to the TSBE Centre a framework of 7 factors designed to support decision making through information exploitation: from turning data into actionable intelligence, to developing strategy for making the decision, taking into the account the culture and heuristics within the problem, and ultimately the consequences of the decision.

This thought provoking seminar has laid a foundations for EngD students to adopt some of the hard fought lessons of the military approaches to decision making, in the management of their research and industry projects. Here is what one of the students have said about the seminar:

“It is fascinating to get an insight into experiences of a Royal Marine and learn about how complex problems are dealt with. These techniques offer new approaches to maintaining the long-term objective of the research throughout the EngD and prepare for dealing with challenges and taking opportunities presented by the Big Data as we carryon into industry.“

The TSBE centre is organising further joint activities to enhance the decision making skills of the EngD students and take advantage of the proven information exploitation techniques.

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