This article is primarily about war planning. However the description of uncertainty applies to everything. Well worth a read
Dealing with uncertainty is not a new problem for military planners, though, and research on military innovation may provide an answer for the way forward. For example, Stephen Rosen’s classic book on military innovation, Winning the Next War, identifies two types of flexibility for dealing with uncertainty. According to Rosen, “Type I” flexibility relies upon developing capabilities, such as the aircraft carrier, that have great utility over time, particularly as such can be modified as mission certainty increases. “Type II” flexibility involves buying information on weapon systems and then deferring large-scale production decisions. This usually involves bringing systems to the prototype stage and permitting military testing in field or fleet exercises. Rosen describes how this strategy was used successfully in the development of guided missile programs. At the end of World War II, it was not clear how to proceed with missile technology, as this was a period of great uncertainty both technically and politically. The Joint Chiefs of Staff adopted a hedging strategy in the late 1940s that focused on investing in the basic research and, as the operational demands of the Korean War increased, the Pentagon was able to quickly shift into full-scale missile production.
Can the Type II model of flexibility be turned into an operational advantage? This is not a new idea, but has yet to be given a fair shake by the U.S. military. In the 1990s, one U.S. Army officer predicted that this approach to capability development would result in an operationally significant concept he termed prototype warfare. In The Principles of War for the Information Age, published in 2000 and prior to the onset of the trends that Hammes discusses, Robert Leonhard argues that to create or to maintain a technical advantage in the information age, successful militaries need to adapt their economies and military doctrine to prototype warfare. He observes that technological change in the industrial age occurred at a moderate tempo and as a result, military doctrine was based on the fundamental premise of mass production. He concludes, “future warfare will feature a constant myriad of technological advances that come at a tempo that disallows mass production.”