Ender’s Game: Only a Teenagers Book? No! Strategic Thinking – Yes.

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Prelude

The genesis for this paper was an email exchange between the head of an agency and myself. This Director does not know me at all, as I am just one member of an agency amongst 10’s of thousands of folks working there… What also prompted this paper, is this is a book series I read, some years ago.

This Director had sent out, as usual, a weekly email to the entire work force but in this one was encouraging members: civilians, military and contractors to read the book “Enders’ Game”.

The Director was requesting members read the book because it was attempting to highlight thinking differently — creatively and strategically as well as elastically thinking. Primarily because another country was already attempting to emulate something like that in bringing in exceptionally bright children to train (not for space, we hope…).

In being one of the many thousands receiving that email, I responded directly back, per this Director’s open-door policy, that the book reading is an excellent idea because it does encourage a different angle of thinking. The only snag is in the reader’s mode of thinking. While reading the book, the reader has to look beyond the children and think about the underlying aspects of strategy, about what is needed to be a strategic and tactical thinker. One cannot simply be pragmatic and completely logical all the time for every venue. One has to stretch their current mindset and the possible roadblocks of whatever is holding you, the reader, back. Sometimes, you have to be creative with the ability to be elastic in your thinking.

Diverse and Strategic Thinking

This particular science fiction work (okay, we lost a few folks there, but it’s okay) by Orson Scott Card on Ender Wiggins and series that followed is one with a military bent (but meant for all to read). Earth had been attacked by an alien race called “Formics,” entities with 8(?) legs and bug eyes, a cross between Praying Mantis and Ants (albeit about 8 feet tall). The ensuing space fights had been going on for approximately 100 years at the point of Ender Wiggins’ character coming into the picture.

Earth, for a few decades at least, it is not clear how long, had decided to conscript children into the space military children because of their different and elastic way of thinking, how they react in zero-g and train them to fight, via space ships and space ship drones. Once training was complete, through the various levels of basic training, Battle School (tactical) and then Command School (strategic), the premise was for Ender to pass through those levels and take the battle to the aliens.

Okay, back to reality. What the books portray for those who look deeper into the content rather than just the superficial sci-fi gee whiz material is a great deal of food for thought.

The Ender books attempt to highlight individuals (even if they were children) using, primarily, multiple aspects of their mental capabilities:

from collaboration/team work, to leadership, to diverse thinking that springs from an open-mind and being willing to listen and entertain ideas from others, no matter who the other is.

That other could be:

  • Gay or straight,
  • Male or female (who knows at any point in time who has the best ideas),
  • A young E-2, a member of the custodial team, a librarian or even an older retired 4-star (just because the individual is old, young, working in a different job – it does not mean they may not have valuable synergistic aspects to contribute),
  • Someone of a different race than you (it could be highly complementary to what is going on),
  • Someone of a different religion than yours – or non-religious

The point here is, you ‘do not’ know in advance where a life-altering decision or innovative thought process/idea will germinate from. You ‘have’ to be open-minded to possibilities that emanate from someone else other than you.

You ‘have’ to be willing to soak up new knowledge, ideas and view points from others in order to be successful yourself. Too many people fall into the trap of a Filter Bubble by not expanding their own thoughts and doing their own critical thinking and analysis, so, read Eli Pariser’s 2012 book, “The Filter Bubble”, it will open your eyes a wee bit.

You ‘have’ to think multi-laterally of multiple possibilities for different situations – you simply cannot continue to think serially for everything you do or undertake. Sometimes, going from A, to B, to F and then to L may, mind you – it ‘may’ save you time, money, grief and possibly lives in the long-run – as long as that specific thought process hits all the necessary check points and does not cut out too much of the important meat so to speak. It has to be logical, strategic and likely even creative. Think of multi-lateral thinking as spiral thinking if that helps. You want to employ multiple avenues of thought, different aspects to consider and use – in thought and action. Try, try very diligently in using “both” hemispheres of your brain, the creative AND the logical sides…

Listen to others around you, let your ego go, you do not know everything you need to or should know. Open your eyes, ears and your mind – absorb and soak up as much knowledge and information from as many sources as you can. But, when you listen to others, compare that new information to what you already know or are aware of. Sift through that new/additional knowledge and do some critical and logical thinking as what is wheat and what is chaff (you do not want chaff content). Remember, you want the highest levels of confidence in what you absorb and pass on to others and you most assuredly want to obtain that content from at least 2 – 3 other sources, with 3 or more corroborating sources being an ideal parameter. Listen, and think before you speak…

Here is a snippet of my own personal background:

  • Strategic Thinking, courtesy of an MBA;
  • having learned several languages (reading, speaking and writing) – college Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, and self-taught Russian (don’t forget high school Spanish);
  • Political Science degree for globalization;
  • A week-long conference/seminar (many years ago) on opening one’s mind to other possibilities and at the same time being creative and innovative – as much as possible;
  • cyber security that causes one to think of multiple possibilities rather than what is the most obvious;
  • Cloud/virtualization (my IT background stems from many years and several areas of IT);
  • A short career as a federal Intelligence Analyst and Intel Officer until sequestration killed my growth (plan was to gain a GG-15 position and work on gaining an SGS role somewhere to have a large positive impact), so, I resigned and returned to the commercial world, still supporting an intel agency for the time being in a Cloud Engineer role; and
  • Having an open mind, all my life, to alternate possibilities for growth

The point I want to make by including that background is that individuals are shaped by their over-arching Cognitive Diversity. Over the years, I have been consciously trying to grow my own Cognitive Diversity.

Cognitive Diversity is what shapes everyone on this planet. Cognitive Diversity is how individuals see the world and how they in turn shape the world. Cognitive Diversity draws upon an individuals’ overall background – from Culture, Environment of where they grew up and where they work, what kind of work one does, the kinds of people individuals surround themselves with, how individuals engage and interact with others, to what kind of education one receives and what one does for fun. Cognitive diversity shapes the way one thinks and acts / responds. Cognitive Diversity helps you make important decisions, whether they are well thought out or snap decisions in high stress, time sensitive situations. The bigger that spectrum of your Cognitive Diversity, the better able you will be in how you respond to situations and engage with others. Again, let your ego go…

All of these elements make you who you are. (This paper is not the first one where I bring up cognitive diversity, it is that important to me that I have brought it up in other papers these last several years.)

Although, in the end, I am quite sure that Orson Scott Card just wrote the book for pure sci-fi entertainment and enjoyment…

Yes, there is a movie about Ender’s Game but reading the book(s) are much better to grasp what this Director and I are putting out there. The books are fast and engrossing reads. Sorry, I donated my series some time ago. You can google this book or go to Amazon or other book outlets to read more before you purchase them. The movie does not do justice to the book, not nearly enough. If you do end up getting hooked, there are about a dozen books in the series.