Having spent almost seventeen (17) years detailed to a police SWAT team (but never served in the military), I heard plenty of tacticalisms - the term I've assigned to the catch-phrases and platitudes that get tossed around among members of the tactical operations community.

These tacticalisms, however, aren't isolated to TacOps folks. They're within not only other aspects of policing....but other industries, hobbies, and walks of life. If you're a SWAT cop, you've undoubtedly heard these phrases. Heck, I've used them all!

Here are eleven (11) that make me cock my head and say Hmmmm:

Slow is smooth; smooth is fast. [We all know there is specific cadence, tone, and a pause required to say this one!] Simple logic puts this as slow equals fast. As a math and physics guy --- fake news! Maybe we should discuss movement in terms of velocity, direction, and acceleration. But range guys talking about vectors and coefficients of friction simply doesn't sound as cool.

Hood Drills & Sense-Making

I vividly recall the feeling when I popped out of the subway into Times Square. I had lost my bearings. No sense of direction. So many flashing lights, honking horns, fast-walking pedestrians. Hard to separate signal from noise. Our hotel was but a block away (as learned from studying a map), but I didn't know which way to begin. Aside from our luggage as a red flag, I must have had TOURIST written all over my face. 

Contrast this New York City scene with dropping me off on a corner of hometown Chicago and taking off my blindfold. A check of a street sign and some address numbers on a building might tell me exactly where I am. Other clues include: the people, architecture, landmarks, smells, the direction a river flows, the route name on a passing CTA bus, clues in a billboard, gang graffiti.  

The bits of stimuli begin to cluster together to help a person make sense of the situation. But they can only synthesize a hypothesis or answer based on historical knowledge. It requires an u…

Free Police Use of Force Workshops in Indiana in 2018

In and around 2015, I was fortunate to be a part of and design a Use of Force program through the Northwest Indiana Law Enforcement Academy (NILEA). The eight (8) classes totaled over 800 police officers, troopers, detectives, investigators, supervisors, command staff, prosecutors, and other law enforcement agents. 
My partner for the campaign was attorney Keith Karlson. He and I have a unique relationship and approach, in that we openly argue in front of and with the class attendees. The complex nature of police-citizen contacts and use of force is such that, while legal boundaries exist, no firm answers or procedures are possible. Case study and "red teaming" are effective formats to develop critical and adaptive thinking in our peace officers. Our approach to bring differing perspectives of street cop and police defense attorney prove to spark debates, challenges, and growth.
With that, Keith and I are back in Indiana in 2018 for a couple classes, very similar to those in 2…

Weekend Building Blocks - 09 MAR 2018

There's no value in collecting blocks unless you're connecting them to build something awesome! You haven't seen Weekend Building Blocks in a while for reasons I've stated before: There is a lot of crap out there. Barely worth sharing. However, this was a good week!

Repetitio est mater studiorum - aim to frame the game before playing.Jussi Jaakonaho wrote this piece, integrating: John Boyd, Albert Einstein, Amos Tversky, Dave Snowden, Fred Leland, Daniel Kahneman, Gary Klein, and others. Not going to sugar-coat it: This was a challenging read; not emotionally, but technically/grammatically/structurally. Pound through it. It's got nuggets for us complexity folk who talk in terms of OODA, Cynefin, non-linearity...Redefining Wrong in Poker, Politics, and Beyond.Annie Duke is a poker player. She talks about how we should adjust the way we look at decision-making. This was a good read, despite a couple of angles I felt needed to be addressed: finite vs infinite games; o…

Presentation Hack: The Looping Intro Slideshow

When it comes to using slides in my presentations or classes, I'm a minimalist. When I do use slides, they're purposefully and intentionally spartan in design. But that's not really the topic of this blog post; slide design is something altogether different. 

Minimalist also refers to the number of slides. One of the main reason I use such few is because I rely on direction from the workshop participants. I find the linearity of the slide deck narrows me down a particular path, in a particular order. The theme of many of my workshops is promoting non-linearity - which is in direct conflict with that sort of step-by-step process. I prefer whiteboards, flowcharts, chalkboards, and those huge sticky Post-It note pads -- each allowing the class to create the flow and connections between the various ideas in whatever manner they want to! 

The slide decks that I do maintain are used as infrequent resources to be called upon in whatever order is appropriate, not the order in which …

Probing Complexity

When I first saw Dave Snowden's Cynefin framework, I was still detailed to the police department's SWAT unit. Of the various terms in his diagram, PROBE was certainly one that stood out more vividly than others:

I immediately made a connection between probe and some specific strategies used in police tactical incidents. For my fellow SWAT knuckle-dragging operators out here, the practices of breach-and-hold, limited penetration, and of course stealth probing all came to mind. Let's use an example:
Imagine a gunman holed up alone his home. Negotiators have been out of contact with him for several hours. There is little intelligence on where he may be inside...and just as little on the layout or floor plan of the home. What to do next?  My advice: probe.

But what does probe look like in that context? It can take several forms (in as lay terms as possible):
launching chemical projectiles inside to elicit a response from the gunman;break a window or open a door to get a peak ins…

Looking at Adaptability Through Problems, Opportunities & Situations

My wife and I love to travel. It's common for us to arrive in a strange country or new city with little more than hotel reservations for the first and last nights of our trip. We approach travel by doing extensive planning, but making few plans. Rather than being pinned down to a single, specific timeline or route, we prefer to stay as flexible, adaptable as possible. 

There seems to be a general feeling in complex adaptive systems community that complexity is a negative thing. Maybe I am biased in my sensing this, as I do associate with a narrow sub-culture in the greater complex adaptive system community. Maybe I am reading it all wrong. But I perceive a theme where adaptability relates to a preoccupation with failure, pessimism, and hardship. 

Adaptability seems to be often discussed in the context of how to handle problems or hardships. The bulk of conversations revolve around making adjustments when solutions or interventions aren't "working" and being resilient i…