Spring 2018 - 60554 - PA 325 – Topics in Policy
We live in an age of enormous flux and great uncertainty, which makes strategic planning difficult, but these same factors make it essential. Precisely because we cannot know with any level of confidence what the next few years will bring, we need to develop habits of strategic thinking that are both rigorous and flexible.
This seminar, a Foundation Course in the Public Policy BDP, will expose students to the discipline and art of strategic thinking, employing lessons from government, military operations, and business. It follows and complements the foundation course on “Introduction to Policy” offered in the fall semester. Whereas the fall course focuses on a single arena of overlapping policy issues – race, immigration, and citizenship – this course takes a broader view, discussing strategy in any arena. We will draw on a wide range of source material: history, literature, film, the social sciences, and other disciplines. We will explore techniques such as decision trees, game theory, and scenarios, as well as ways of preparing for “predictable surprises,” discontinuities, and “wild card” events.
Students will make one formal oral presentation in class, reporting on an assigned additional reading or set of readings, so that the whole class can be exposed to the widest possible array of source material. Commencing in week two, we will have student presentations each week, with each student allotted ca. 10 minutes for the presentation and another 10 minutes for discussion. Presenters are also to provide everyone with a one-page, single-spaced briefing memorandum.
Written assignments will come at our topic from a variety of angles. For the main assignment, students will prepare a strategy document in the form of a scenarios paper on a country or issue area (e.g., “Brazil 2030,” “Global Energy Futures: Three Scenarios,” “The Future of Cyber-Space,” or “Water Resources in Texas, 2018-2038”). Other assignments will include traditional short essays, decision memoranda in which students present the pros and cons of at least three options, and group work in which teams of students collaborate on a multifaceted research topic.
Lawrence Freedman, Strategy: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)
Peter Paret, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986)
Peter Schwartz, The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World (New York: Crown Business, 1991 and 1996)
Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011)
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (New York: Random House, 2010)