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How to Engage Decision-Forcing Cases
On Tactical Notebook
Also known as an “historical map problem,” a “decision-forcing case” is an exercise that puts participants in the shoes a real person who, at sometime in the past, was faced with one or more difficult decisions. While usually engaged by a group of people who are engaging the problem at the same time, decision-forcing cases can also be worked through in an asynchronous manner. Here on Tactical Notebook, for example, a reader can read the background to the case, ponder the problem, and, if they like, use the comments feature to propose solutions. Having done that, he can compare his solution, and those of other readers, with the “historical solution.” Also known as “the rest of the story” (hat tip to Paul Harvey) and “the reveal,” the latter is an account of the way that the historical protagonist addressed the conundrum in question, and the real-life consequences followed.
The elements of each decision-forcing case presented on Tactical Notebook will be clearly marked as such. Thus, each problem will be bear a title that combines the name of the case (e.g. Sergeant Arent), the word “problem,” and a serial number. The titles of historical solutions will use the same formula, replacing “problem” with “historical solution.” Thus, Sergeant Arent (Problem 1) will be the first problem in the decision-forcing case based on the experience of the historical Sergeant Peter Nikolaus Arent, leader of the Third Squad of Assault Group Granite, in May of 1940. Likewise, Sergeant Arent (Historical Solution 1) will describe how the Sergeant Arent solved the first problem in the case.
In many instances, the piece that presents the first problem in a decision-forcing case will be preceded by an article that provides some background. This serves to keep the description of the first problem to a manageable length. At other times, the historical solution to the last problem will be provided at the start of the next problem.
Historical solutions will begin with a warning that resembles the following paragraph.
This article describes the historical solution to a problem preserved in a decision-forcing case. If you wish to garner the full benefit of that exercise, please refrain from reading it until you have read the problem and, whether in your own mind, on paper, on in the comments section, have proposed a course of action that addresses it.
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