Learning to Adapt With A Professional Reading Program

The Professional Reading Program is intended to save leaders that most precious commodity - time.

This post was inspired by a post at the Business Insider: General James 'Mad Dog' Mattis Email About Being 'Too Busy To Read' Is A Must-Read The General was asked by a colleague about the importance of reading for officers who often exclaimed they were too busy to read. The general’s response:

“The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.

Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.”

Professional development comes in many forms, formal training, informal training, direct and indirect experience and yes even reading. The intent here is not only for you to read but to also inspire some discussion on the different topics. A professional reading program is intended to provide a selection of readings that will support continuing education efforts within the Police department. A reading program will add depth and breadth to a police officer’s development at any stage of their career and is an important component of any leader development process.

The dangerous and uncertain world in which we live demands innovative thinking from the police officers in general, and from the Police department in particular, to support the efforts of officers to acquire the necessary skills to succeed. This is best accomplished in an atmosphere that welcomes independent thinking and encourages spirited professional debate.

“Perhaps if you are in support functions waiting on the warfighters to spell out the specifics of what you are to do, you can avoid the consequences of not reading. Those who must adapt to overcoming an independent enemy’s will are not allowed that luxury.” ~General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis

Officers will need a greater variety of skills and a wider breadth of knowledge to meet the challenges they confront, both in problem solving, handling conventional and unconventional crisis and in fighting crime.

Professional reading develops adaptability in officers focusing on five key attributes that enhance speed and maturity of decision making:

Intuitive-this enables rapid decision-making without conscious awareness or effort;
Critical thinker-the ability to achieve understanding, evaluates viewpoints, and solves problems;
Creative Thinker-equally important, called fingerspitzenfuhl or the feeling in the tip of one’s fingers. Other wise known as tactical judgment, recognition primed decision making or intuitive decision making.
Self-Aware-an understanding of one’s own strengths and weaknesses;
Social Skills-the ability, to assess people’s strengths and weaknesses, the use of communication skills, and the art of listening.

These characteristics are critical to being a good decision maker and adaptive individual. The characteristics listed above have been talked about in the law enforcement profession for years—let’s develop and etch them at the forefront of our minds by conducting valuable training and setting high standards that focus on these characteristics.

One way of enhancing professional development is through reading, professional journals, periodicals and books that help us better understand our law enforcement history and learn from histories lessons.

Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty. Uncertainty is a factor we deal with daily in law enforcement and to bridge the gap between uncertainty and rapid decision making we must increase our knowledge which in turn increases our abilities to prevent and respond to crisis situations.

“As commanders and staff officers, we are coaches and sentries for our units: how can we coach anything if we don’t know a hell of a lot more than just the [Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures]? What happens when you’re on a dynamic battlefield and things are changing faster than higher [Headquarters] can stay abreast? Do you not adapt because you cannot conceptualize faster than the enemy’s adaptation?” ~General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis

Learning is synonymous to the process of creativity. Creativity, innovation grows from our ability to intuitively see how to deal with problems, using superior situational awareness that leads to insight and solving tactical problems. Without any premeditated overall design or goal, reading from varied topics such as; use of force, conflict and violence, strategy, operations, and tactics, investigations, non-verbal communication, philosophy and physics and science and other disciplines, sharpens our orientation and lays the foundation for a deeper understanding and keys to how to think, how to compete successfully, and how to adapt and survive. This impacts directly on how we perform and improves our effectiveness and whether we win or lose.

Here is a link to several books to start your professional reading program with.

Stay Oriented!