"Winning": Strategic Thinking and Bias in the Hurtgen Forest Campaign

April 11, 2019
11:15 AM - 12:15 PM
Cultural Enrichment
Corn Auditorium

Dr. George Cressman, Camp Blanding Museum and Historical Associates President and Senior Historian, discusses how strategy development is often seen as a methodical and rational analytical process. In the ideal state, strategy makers set goals, develop own position and own capability analysis, gather intelligence and analyze the enemy’s capabilities and intent, and define desired outcomes to produce a “winning” strategy. But evidence indicates strategy development rarely achieves the ideal state. Strategy makers’ prior battle experiences, prejudices and ambitions come together in a set of decision biases that shape strategy – and strongly influence it in non-rational ways. This presentation will identify decision biases critical to the strategy process and illustrate their impact through a review of the World War II Battle in the Hurtgen Forest. The Hurtgen Forest Battle illustrates an example of the “importance” and the “extrapolating from a limited set” decision biases, as well as illustrating how losing sight of the objective can lead to ineffective and wasteful strategy. The presentation concludes with recommendations for mechanisms to cope with decision biases.