Naval Historian Discusses Innovation, Evolution of Fleet at NWDC


Story Number: NNS190730-08Release Date: 7/30/2019 12:51:00 PM
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By Michael A. Brown Sr., NWDC Public Affairs Officer

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Award-winning naval historian Trent Hone, author of “Learning War, The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. NAVY, 1898-1945,” discussed innovation and the evolution of the fleet with Navy Warfare Development Command members and guests April 25. The speech focused on lessons in the period between WWI and WWII.

Learning War examines the U.S. Navy's doctrinal development from 1898 to1945 and explains why the Navy in that era was so successful at fostering innovation. A revolutionary study of one of history's greatest success stories, this book draws important conclusions that give new insight, not only into how the Navy succeeded in becoming the best naval force in the world, but also into how modern organizations can exploit today's rapid technological and social changes in their pursuit of success.

After the speech, NWDC Commander Rear Adm. Marcus A. Hitchcock thanked Hone for "Helping us think a little bit better. Our Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) asked that we all read the book and that's why we brought Mr. Hone here. CNO has come to the conclusion that we need to be more agile in a lot of ways, and this presentation helps us in terms of being more cognitively agile and in fostering divergent and integrative thought.”

Hone, who received the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) Author of the Year Award on April 25, is a managing consultant with Excella.

“It was an honor to come and speak to NWDC,” Hone said after his presentation. “My main takeaway is how committed NWDC and its partner organizations are to finding ways to improve how the Navy learns and innovates. That was very exciting for me. The level of engagement, the interest in real problems, and the dedication to solve them were contagious.

“I'd like to thank everyone involved for their interest in my work, the attention they paid to my speech, and the work that the command undertook to make my visit so smooth and easy,” he continued. “There are not many openings in my schedule, and it was great to be able to make this work. I'd love to return for a more in-depth follow-up.”

Working with organizations, Hone strives to improve their art of practice, increase effectiveness, and accelerate learning. Practice, effectiveness, and learning are the reasons he came to NWDC.

“I tried to convey the points in the book that are most relevant to the Navy today,” Hone said. “I focused on some of the mechanics (of operations) to help people identify new ideas and integrate them into current naval strategy. In the years before WWII, the Navy created a learning system. Two periods in our history are particularly relevant to understanding how it worked: from 1919 to 1939 and the first year and a half of WWII. By looking at those periods, I can give insights into how learning was fostered then and how people might think about accelerating learning today. I’m less familiar with how the Navy is doing things today, but I can offer some suggestions.”

Hone said the timing of this presentation is a learning experience for him that will inform his writing now and in the future.

“I’ve been thinking about how to encapsulate ideas in a way that would be more applicable to today’s Navy operators, who can benefit from the presentation in two ways,” he said. “One is a greater appreciation of some of the traditions that the Navy has in learning and innovation. A lot of the literature, both with history and management theory, stresses the importance of modern techniques; the past is considered less relevant. The focus is on how new things are, or that this new direction is where we have to go. Yes, we think of our challenges as new, but there are antecedents when we look at the past that are valuable to the search for answers. This gives today’s officers an anchor to rekindle and recapture the past.”

“A second benefit is to give people a description of how things were done in the past and to explain the underlying principles,” he said. “Then we can think more effectively about how to use those principles or similar procedures. Today’s context is very different from the past. We can’t just reapply old methods, but we can find ways to look at history and tease out new ways to address the challenges of today’s operations.”

Trent Hone can be reached one of three ways: via Twitter, @Honer_CUT; at trenthone.com; or on LinkedIn.

NWDC develops and integrates innovative solutions to complex naval warfare challenges to enhance current and future warfighting capabilities. Command professionals are focused on operational-level concept generation, warfighting development, and cross-domain integration to strengthen U.S. Navy warfighting power.

 

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