The Systems Research Laboratory's Air Defense Experiments

  • Chapman R
  • Kennedy J
  • Newell A
 et al. 
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Abstract

The "off-the-top" findings of the air-defense experiments conducted in RAND's Systems Research Laboratory between 1952 and 1954 were the training principles that are the basis of the system training program being implemented by the System Development Corporation. There are, however, other theoretical and methodological implications. The desired performance of complex systems can be realized only through designing and managing them for operational flexibility. This can be done by harnessing the learning ability of men in organizations. Conditions for encouraging men to adapt system's resources to most efficient use follow from the organism analogy-a key notion for explaining the behavior of the four crews studied. In addition, the simulation techniques developed in the course of the research provide a means for continued "head-on" attacks on a crucial problem of the present day-that of better understanding the adaptation process in organizations, so that it can be used and controlled. The paper is in the form of a report of a scientific search. The story of experimental mistakes, modifications in method, and successive insights is presented to convey the essence of an ambitious investigation at the frontier of knowledge where the terrain is not well-mapped and the research tools are being developed as needed.

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Authors

  • Robert L Chapman

  • John L Kennedy

  • Allen Newell

  • William C Biel

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