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On the Psychology of Military Incompetence Paperback – 15 Jan 1982

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Paperback, 15 Jan 1982
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Product details

  • Paperback: 447 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere; New edition edition (15 Jan. 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0007C3PKS
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 89,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Perren on 25 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
Everyone who manages anyone should be required to read this book. By focussing on the military Dixon has written a book crammed with examples that show the drastic consequences of incompetence.
In management situations it's seldom a matter of life and death (despite the way some bosses act) but the consequences are still there: demotivated, under-utilised, confused and stressed staff.
So if you're the boss and this sounds familiar you should read this book and learn it's lessons.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 Sept. 2004
Format: Paperback
The author's central hypotheses is that incompetent decision making stems not so much from a lack of technical knowledge or theory, but rather personal inadequacies that prevent someone in a leadship role from making appropriate decisions under pressure,i.e. they freeze up.
Also discussed are the possibities of why such personality types are attracted to those roles involving such high pressure decision making, where the consequences of the wrong decision can be dire.
Unlike a lot of 'psychology' books, the author presents a critcal and convincing chain of reasoning to support his hypotheses.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By AK TOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
Dixon does a good job of examining both social and individual psychological / structural reasons for military incompetence. The author does not folow the approach of finding individual scapegoats, or blaming the individual's knowledge or prowess for failure but looks for systemic explanations for failure. These are to be found in the socialisation of people who are drawn to the military career (individual psychology), reinforced by the organisation of military establishments.

It's a very solid piece of systemic research and dos a good job of showing the interdependencies and causal loops between individuals drawn to the authoritarian organisation and those individuals, once in power, cementing the authoritarianism further. On top of that Dixon also shows a good case of how developmental psychology of a type of individual influences the development of institutions.

The book starts with a section on case studies of military disasters, follows on to the main thesis of the systemic issues bringing about military incompetence and closes with a section on trying to fit individual commandersi nto the framework - the way they are chosen the framework is largely confirmed.

The book is also written in a light, witty style and the author will probably not rub many people the wrong way even if they find some of the theory preposterous (not uncommon if unkind things are being said about you or an organisation you identify yourself with) because of his self deprecating manner.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By CJ on 2 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
This book contains some superb information regarding the personality types behind military success and failure, along with considerable evidence and anecdotal support. Dr Dixon's knowledge of both psychology and military history is breathtaking, and his prose is precise and warm. This is not a difficult book to read or enjoy at all, in spite of its subject matter and the academic nature of the subject. Very highly recommended.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 April 2002
Format: Paperback
I was lent this book by a retired friend who had risen to a high level in the RAF. He told me that it had been required reading at Staff College.
As soon as I finished it I immediately bought my own copy (from Amazon!) and tried to persuade as many of my work colleagues as possible to read it.
It is a study of the authoritarian character and its need to rise in an hierachy. A rise that is usually totally unwarranted. Just to limit this to a military context is to miss the chief benefit of the book. It should be required reading in every management school.
It also has the advantage of being a very entertaining book (despite the title).
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 24 Aug. 2003
Format: Paperback
Dixon's work extends far beyond the realm of the military. It's a wonderful guide to the psychology of organisations and projects of all kinds, especially those where objective progress is hard to monitor.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bill Krouwel on 26 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
I was first introduced to this book in 1979 and it struck an immediate chord with me. Since then, I have seen examples (too many to list) of the incompetence Dixon ascribes to the media in commercial management, government and education.

The book's central thesis - the Freudian idea that those who aspire to leadership are frequently anally-retentive (surely Dixon is responsible for the current popularity of this term?)authoritarian change-resistors - seems to be borne out by, for example, the collapse of British manufacturing and the propensity for governments to interfere in the affairs of other States before being aware of the consequences of so doing.

Perhaps the state of English education is most closely reporesentative of Dixon's fears, with old, failed, ideas such as times-table recitation and payment-by-results being promoted as the way forward, and micro-management of the system by politicians and administrators relegating teachers to the role of form-fillers and deliverers of prescribed content.

Yes, Military incompetence is alive and well ... read the book and have your critical faculties switched-on. It's more relevant today than when originally published...
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