Wednesday, February 8th, 2023 20:19:12

The 15-Dimensional National Security for 5 Trillion Economy A Wicked Problem

By Navneet Bhushan
Updated: February 12, 2020 11:50 am

India’s National Security for the target of achieving USD 5 Trillion Economy is turning out to be a “wicked problem”,   assuming it was a complex problem but not wicked so far. The main characteristics of wicked problems defined first in 1970s in the context of urban planning are that these cannot be formulated definitely and are in fact symptoms of other deeper problems that reveal on aspects based on the attempt to solve them through the specific lens or approach chosen. Further, there is no immediate or ultimate test of solution to a wicked problem. It is perennially mutating and evolving organism.


Economic Growth as National Security 

Given the minimal increase in Indian yearly defence Budget for many years now, one perhaps can infer that India has chosen to achieve its economic target of USD 5 Trillion with such velocity that the growth rate will minimize the need to spend on national security.  This despite the calls by all defence forces for fulfilling their specific and urgent needs for new equipment, platforms and systems for replenishment and keeping pace with the needs of the modern warfare, operational readiness and defence preparedness.

One can only interpret the minimal increase in defence budget to difference in terms of definition of what constitutes national security and what should be our strategy to achieve it, in a world that not only is churning out unprecedented contours of technological and political disruptions but also expanding the character of war or perhaps transforming and shaking the Clauswitzian truth about the Invariance of nature of war.

Perhaps Indian planners believe that the wars that are emerging will not require the use of conventional ways, methods and capital-intensive hardware dominated armed forces, as the characteristics of warfare and even nature of war itself is up for a reformat in 2020’s. Therefore, the focus should be on rapid economic growth.


This of course, is one view.

However, if one cares to look at the world in 2010’s one can see that this can be considered as the decade when a new wave of creative destruction has emerged.  We call it the sixth wave of innovation, differentiating it with the fifth wave, driven by software and digital networks that is ending this year. 2020’s will usher in sixth wave of innovation warfare that calls for new ways and new approaches to understand and respond in increasing dimensions of warfare that are opaque to traditional defence planners and policy creators. In this decade, the warfare is metamorphized into at least 15 dimensions that we have identified elsewhere . Further, the sixth wave of innovation requires us to change our lenses to view how wars are changing and what new forms are emerging. In fact, we proposed in our earlier article, that globalization vs anti-globalization conflict of 2010’s, rising, assertive and expanding China, emergence of cyberspace as a battleground and expansion of warfare into 15-dimensions, calls for Indian security and defence establishment to,  “Develop a New Theory of War, Warfare and Combat for the Sixth Wave of Innovation (2020-2045), Systems Approach to discover, define, describe, develop, design and deploy and operate the new forces and also how will India fight these wars, and political reasons or goals that will need us to go to war in a dimension against a particular adversary”.

An attack scenario on India in the new world was painted in an article  wherein Pakistan attacks India with bio-warfare weapons acquired from China. Little did we realize that such a situation may emerge for the whole world as the new corona virus that has emerged from Wuhan, China. There are reports that it was indeed a bio-warfare weapon that  accidently released and now threatens to engulf the world.

If the above doesn’t wake us up to the grim reality of opaqueness and deniability of “military” attacks by cunning foes, nothing will. A proactive India needs to discover, define, design, develop and deploy its own national security architecture and design for 2020’s.

Wickedness of National Security Problem

When we analysed the evolution of the world economies from 2009 to 2019 and how they designed and spent on their defence and national security a clear trend emerged. For example, China was a USD 4.2 Trillion economy in 2009 with USD 61 Billion defence budget and with more than 2 million active soldiers. In 2019, however, China with USD 13.5 Trillion economy has a defence budget of 168 Billion USD however number of active soldiers were reduced to less that 2 million with further reduction in the pipeline. We further proposed, “… we will need to invest more in capital intensive systems with high technology components in Space, Cyber and above all in Maritime capabilities. It will not increase the number of active soldiers but will require new type of soldiers for maritime, space, cyber and special forces” .

Alford and Head define  a fine-grained typology of problems that divides the problem space using two dimensions of inherent complexity of problem itself and stakeholder’s knowledge, interests and power. Using these two dimensions, we can define, the wicked problems to be those, when multiple stakeholders/parties,with conflicting interests, have unclear definition with limited clarity on what could constitute a problem or what could a solution be”.  We believe that national security of India in the 2020’s is turning out to be a very wicked problem – it has gone way beyond merely a complex problem. Let us see if the checklist of wicked problems proposed by Alford and Head supports our belief. The wicked problems have following key properties

Structural Complexity: Indian National Security in the new repolarizing world coupled with creative destruction of sixth wave of innovation has intractable structural complexity that makes our knowledge of interconnectedness, dependencies and impacts uncertain.

Knowability: In fact, the national security ground reality is further exacerbated .as the knowledge is not only uncertain but unknown as the connections are opaque and influences difficult to fathom with human fallibility to fake news, fake views and nudging with confirmation bias. Critical thinking – a key skill to thwart the cobwebs of misinformation and influence is alas, in short supply.

Knowledge Fragmentation: Wickedness of a problem is increased when the knowledge and holistic view and understanding is missing or is divided into specific views with multiple stakeholders who hold on to their view as complete. Further, all attempts to create and establish a common view with all views incorporated fails or are not even attempted. India’ national security indeed looks like the proverbial elephant in the hands of blind men.

Knowledge Framing: Barring a few, most Indians including our leaders, administrators, or even military professionals frame national security questions in a specific dimension that is visible to them. Further, based on the framing and salability of specific fragment of a view the focus is given to most loud or most projected aspect of national security that falls woefully short of a holistic response.

Interest Differentiation: Multiple stakeholders have specific interests or values that are in conflict with each other. That indeed is the case when we look at India’s National Security.

Power Distribution: When it comes to national security in India, saner, scientific, systematic and systemic views and analysis are subdued in the cacophony of noise. Skewed power distribution of decision making creates a further level of wickedness that is not easy to counter.

Given the above changes and analyses we suggest the following approach – India needs to describe in comprehensive details the 15-dimensions of warfare along with what capabilities we need to design, develop and deploy for 2020s. Perhaps along with the newly created organization structure of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) one need to establish an independent concept design and development agency that will involve all stakeholders and multiple experts to build the 15 dimensions of warfare architecture.


National Security Approach for 2020’s – Innovation Crafting

We propose an innovation crafting (  ) approach to National Security Wicked problem. The problems and challenges of innovation are that we tend to choose only those paths that we believe/perceive and upfront think that we know will be successful. In doing so, we reduce the innovation to a decision-making problem, i.e., of selection of a subset (usually one) of possible paths from a set of available paths. The problem is further exacerbated, as the set of paths that we must select from are usually those that have led to success in the past, based on certain criteria of success that are applied post-facto, i.e., applied after the attempts to create change through ideas yielded some form of change in some dimension. Usually, at the time of realization of change, we tend to forget those different false steps and failures we attempted or tried to create change that were either not needed or would not be valuable to the overall need. Innovation is a decision-making problem, i.e., choice selection, is partly true. The other part that is completely missed out and usually separated out from the decision-makers repertoire and scope of responsibilities – innovation is choice creation problem as well.

In a transforming world decision-makers need to become designers in equal proportion. As the change that is needed – the choices that are usually available for selection during decision-making process need to be created or designed. This combination of making new choices along with selecting choices – the interplay, iterations, experiments and explorations are an alien play for the national security decision makers or policy creators. Combining the ability to not only make choices but also create new choices at different points along the journey requires an approach that we call Innovation Crafting. Innovation Crafting (IC) is a systematic framework for successfully creating needed change through ideas. It provides for methods, tools, principles and techniques for

Defining, understanding and surfacing the needed change in any scenario, situation, system, process or activity at any level – policy, strategy, operational or tactical

Generating goals, success criteria and key problems for generating ideas, i.e., thoughts that can bring in the genesis of needed change (which include solution directions to the problems as well)

Assistance in generating ideas, developing them into concepts and themes, and solutions to problems in fulfilling the need, creating the needed change and/or exploiting an opportunity. Typically, the ideas will be not be regular run of the mill, invariable we have seen original, inventive and unprecedented ideas emerging through these interactions

Assistance in explorations, experimentations and development of the solutions keeping the potential constraints and failure modes

Assistance in broad basing, socializing or marketing of the solutions

As could be gleaned from the above there are three key phases of the IC framework

UNDERSTANDING In this phase we have four stages which we call See, Observe, Understand and Live (SOUL) – by following these four stages, one can reach metaphorically to the soul of the system to surface the needed change in complete, comprehensive and unambiguous (CCU) terms. A set of CCU need/opportunity/problem statements is the key goal and output of this phase.

IDEATION In this phase focus is on generating ideas to meet the output of phase 1. Here we use an integrative thinking that has nine dimensions – Analytical, Logical, Value, Inventive Systems (ALVIS) and Scale, Computational, Algorithmic and Network (SCAN) Thinking. Humans have developed analysis and logic through utilization of mental faculties over many eras. It has stood the test of time and especially for last few centuries it has given us deeper understanding of the world around us. The success of analytical and logical thinking however has given relatively less importance to other three dimensions of thinking that humans have developed- these are Value, Inventive and Systems thinking. The sixth wave of innovation needs the new way to think using Scale thinking, Computational thinking, Algorithmic thinking and Network thinking (SCAN). The ALVIS-SCAN thinking phase creates stronger solutions which has higher potential, value, inventiveness and utilizes multiple dimensions to explore the problem and generate ideas. The ideas need to be combined and constructed to build concepts, solutions and potential systems as ways to solve problems or meet needs or exploit opportunities keeping the goals in view.

CRAFT In this phase there are stronger points of failures. As typically the solution creators are not necessarily a good salesmen or marketer of their solutions. This phase requires the solutions to be broad based, marketed and sold to potential users or consumers of the change. It also requires tinkering or adaptation of the solutions to the specific needs of individual users. CRAFT involves – Communicate, Relate, Allow for experimentation, Follow-up and Turn-Around stages.


Innovation Crafting requires a person or a team to operate with a different mindset, skills and tools needed at each phase. The three mindsets

SIMPLETON in Phase 1: UNDERSTANDING In this phase the operating phrase is “I don’t know”. An open mind of a pure and simple novice who is keen to learn without any preconceived notion of the ground truth is the required state of mind. A child like curiosity, innocence and ability to question the basic assumptions and axioms requires an “Alice in the wonderland” mindset.

SCIENTIST in Phase 2: IDEATION In this phase the simpleton needs to become a scientist. He/she need to hypothesise, create experiments and explorations, and design usage stories by exploring all 5 dimensions of thinking – the ALVIS thinking thereby combining the analytical with inventive and abstract thinking with value thinking. Its systematic exploration of “whole brain/mind” to generate ideas that can stand the test of time and of course create the needed change in the most robust manner.

SAINT in Phase 3: CRAFT In this phase the simpleton who graduated to be Scientist need to transform into a Saint of the system that he/she created. He needs to preach and enable others to adapt-to and adopt the solution that has emerged and yet he/she need to know when to retract his/her own ego of being the creator. This is the phase where the needed change attempt potentially becomes the Innovation – successful creation of change through ideas.



India’s national security for 2020’s is a wicked problem that cannot be defined in well-established ways. Further, increasing repolarization, and entropy of the world, forces us to view national security in 15 dimensions and their interplay. We have proposed few characteristics of national security as a wicked problem and also an approach that we call innovation crafting – that combines decision making with design approaches to innovate for national security. We hope and wish that this article can trigger a debate on how we are addressing our security as we build our economy to USD 5 Trillion. We sincerely hope and wish that in the urge, speed, enthusiasm and focus on race to USD 5 Trillion we will not miss this dimension, as, national security is an essential ingredient for robustness of participation in the competitive race


By Navneet Bhushan

(The writer worked as a Scientist in DRDO  from 1990 to 2000.)

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