tives. It continued to make the best steam locomotives
until the day it went out of business, having been
eclipsed by diesel-electric locomotives.
Pilling explained that when the company’s leaders
asked themselves the question, “What business are
we in?” they concluded that they were in the “steam
locomotive business,” not the “rail transportation
He added that, had the company’s leaders asked the
right question and carefully thought through the
answer, they might have decided to migrate to diesel-
electric locomotives and “mag-lev” super trains, and
still be in business.
The implication here is that if the Navy asks itself,
“What business are we in?” it becomes easier to distinguish bright shiny objects from developments with
lasting significance. But, at the end of the day, it is not
quite so easy.
Even with the same answer to the “what business?”
question, one person’s fad may be another person’s
So, what to do?
After asking and answering the “what business?”
question, the best approach may be that of successful
venture capitalists: Don’t bet the entire farm on non-market-tested approaches. Rather, invest with discretion and market test with a vengeance.
For our Navy, the equivalent of “market testing” is
experimentation. And, just as during the storied
“InterWar” period of the 1920s and 1930s, our Navy
should fully leverage the benefits of experimentation
— from the SpecOps platoon to Carrier and
Expeditionary Strike Groups. That is how we can best
address the implications of the changing character of
warfare for the U.S. Navy. ■
R. Robinson “Robby” Harris, a retired U.S. Navy captain, is
senior analyst at Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors.
“A Point of View” is a Seapower forum wherein experts and analysts express their views on a variety of thought-provoking topics. It
is edited for Associated Press style and length, and publication is at
the editor’s discretion. The views expressed here are the author’s
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