Identifying and Exploiting Fleeting Opportunities in Complex Systems

June 2022 No Comments

Speaker(s): Bicknell, J. (More Cowbell Unlimited)

Date: 7 July 2022

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with Mr. John Bicknell (CEO & Founder, More Cowbell Unlimited) as part of its SMA General Speaker Series.

Modern strategic competition is forcing decision-making to occur more quickly in an increasingly cluttered information environment. The competition to attain more information and process it effectively is not only an information arms race but an evolutionary phenomenon of the strategic landscape, data management, and information processing systems, Mr. Bicknell stated. It is important to understand the information environment and broader ecosystem while processing data, identifying boundaries, and making decisions. Moreover, individuals’ cognitive abilities to manage information in the ecosystem and the decision-making process are important to the success of decision-makers. Process mining is a methodology that will allow those decision-makers to understand the information environment and an adversary’s actions.

Mr. Bicknell added that to conduct process mining, operators need both a process case and activities to measure. Collecting satellite data and mapping it to satellite operators’ activities can be used as an example. By collecting data on satellites, it is possible to map out when satellite operators are spending time on coordination and planning, leading to a low level of activity. Using this type of information, it is possible for an actor to manage an ecosystem or erode adversaries’ actions and processes. Another example was used for identifying the building blocks, boundaries, and opportunities of an ecosystem: China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Ultimately, process mining can help decision-makers a) exploit fleeting opportunities, b) build the necessary competition mindset, and c) steer or even control the modern competitive environment.

Speaker Session Recording

Briefing Materials

Recommended Resources, Provided by Our Speaker

J. Boyd, “Destruction and Creation,” 1976, Accessed: Dec. 05, 2021. [Online]. Available:

W Ashby, “Requisite variety and its implications for the control of complex systems,” Cybernetica, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 83–99, 1958.

MCDP 1 Warfighting. Available:

Blasch, Erik, Tod Schuck, and Oliver B. Gagne. 2021. “Trusted Entropy-Based Information Maneuverability for AI Information Systems Engineering.” In Engineering Artificially Intelligent Systems: A Systems Engineering Approach to Realizing Synergistic Capabilities, edited by William F. Lawless, James Llinas, Donald A. Sofge, and Ranjeev Mittu, 34–52. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

I. T. Brown, A New Conception of War: John Boyd, The U.S. Marines, and Maneuver Warfare. Quantico, Virginia: Marine Corps University Press, 2018. Accessed: Dec. 07, 2021. [Online]. Available:

J. Bicknell and W. Krebs, “Process Mining Organization Email Data and National Security Implications,” in Unifying Themes in Complex Systems X, Cham, 2021, pp. 225–242. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-67318-5_15.

IPA Cognitive Crucible Episode #47 Yaneer Bar-Yam on Complex Systems and the War on Ideals:

IPA Cognitive Crucible Episode #43 Tod Schuck on C2 and the C-OODA loop:

IPA Cognitive Crucible Episode #25 Alan Kelly on Mapping the Strategies of IO Actors:


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