Facing future: CNO Richardson, former CHINFO Kirby

Review by Bill Doughty

At last week’s Surface Navy Association (SNA) Symposium in Virginia, someone asked Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson what he’s reading.

The CNO reminded the questioner, “Y’know, I actually have a reading list.”

After the crowd chuckled and applauded, the CNO answered that — in addition to the Navy Professional Reading Program (NPRP) list — he has been reading two books that are “future-looking” and not on NPRP. Richardson recommended books that reinforce each other’s subjects into a congruent theme.

He suggested “Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future” by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson (W. W. Norton & Company, 2017). The book is a follow up to the authors’ “The Second Machine Age.” Anyone curious about technological singularity and artificial intelligence will be interested in informed theories about how the world — and the Navy — will change in the decades ahead.

Richardson also recommended “Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age” by Edward D. Hess and Katherine Ludwig (Berrett-Kohler, 2017).

Barnes & Noble published a “Humility Is the New Smart” recommendation by former CNO Adm. (ret.) Gary Roug-head: “The forces of the Smart Machine Age are already upon us, and like time and tide they cannot be held back. Hess and Ludwig are out front with this insightful, practical, and compelling guide to navigating, transforming, and leading organizations for this new age in which the nature of work and the workforce will be dramatically different.”

Discussion at the SNA symposium included a focus on the future and on the importance of humble, confident leadership to counter insecurity and hubris.

CNO Richardson advised reading about history, especially World War II history.

“Read well-written history,” he said, “Horn-fischer, Toll … Pick up any book by those folks and start reading.”

On Thursday, Jan. 11 at the U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs Symposium at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, keynote speaker Rear Adm. (ret.) John Kirby — former Chief of Navy Information, Pentagon spokesperson and State Department spokesperson — not only recommended two books but also read passages to make his points.

He also is interested in the future — and how the future has already arrived for communicators and the military.

Kirby recommended “War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Re-shaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century” by David Patrikarakos (Basic Books, 2017) and “Overload: Finding the Truth in Today’s Deluge of News” by Bob Schieffer with H. Andrew Schwartz (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017).

Kirby, who helped put together former CNO Adm. (ret.) Mike Mullen’s Navy Professional Reading Program and shared his own reading list, which was featured on the unofficial Navy Reads blog several years ago, is now a commentator on CNN.

Kirby advises: “Read widely, read well.”

On his reading list Kirby recommended the best book for writers, the late William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well.”Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future” by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson (W. W. Norton & Company, 2017).Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future” by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson (W. W. Norton & Company, 2017).

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Category: News