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  • Writer's picturePaul

The Art of Critical Thinking...

Updated: Apr 3, 2019

...may just change the course of a war.


Video Length: 3:10 min

One of the most influential books I’ve ever read and one of the great insights into how creative people think and how information is used to make decisions is “The Man Who Never Was” By Ewen Montagu. This very true tale of espionage tells the story of how the allies fooled the German-Italian Generals and Admirals into believing that the primary Allied invasion of Southern Europe from North Africa would be in Greece and not the obvious location of Sicily.

Description & Discussion:

Balance can be achieved by planning and preparing for every alternative action. The importance of critical thinking can not be overstated. We need to look at how information is analyzed, how it can be used, and who can it hurt or benefit.

Ewen Montagu was a British naval officer in World War II who while working in counterintelligence conceived a brilliant plan to deceive the Axis Command about Allied invasion intentions. The book tells the story of how Montague obtained the body of a young man who had died and how he and his team proceeded to give the body the persona of a Royal Marine named Major William Martin. "Martin" was set adrift from a submarine near the southern coast of Spain with a briefcase containing documents and letters from senior British officers indicating that the Allies would launch attacks against Sardinia and Greece and not Sicily.

The documents, the letters and more importantly, the personal pocket litter found on Major Martins body told a complete story of British intent and the story of a very average man killed in war. The Spanish, a German Ally in 1943, turned over the information found on the body to the Germans just as Montague expected. This disinformation operation fooled German intelligence, the German high command and Hitler himself. The Germans then diverted considerable resources from Sicily, to the defense of Sardinia and Greece. Major Martin saved thousands of Allied lives when the landings in southern Italy began.

In 1956 Hollywood produced a movie by the same name that stayed close to the facts and in 2010, an even better book was published actually using the codename of the project, “Operation Mincemeat”. Written by Ben Macintyre, it used declassified documents to flesh out the complete story and even identified the true name of the man whose body was used in the operation.

“Operation Mincemeat” was derived from an official memo circulated in 1940 (ghost authored by Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond) listing several counter-intelligence “plots designed to outfox the enemy.” British Intelligence knew that with the fall of France they needed to take as much high ground as possible because hard times were coming. They designed operations (i.e. marketing) they could fall back to in difficult times (i.e. stalled sales, etc.), to tell stories (i.e. advertise) they needed an intended audience (i.e. potential clients) to hear in time of adversity. That’s balance, engineered, and designed with specific needs in mind.

Decision, Design, & Discipline:

The story demonstrates how to create and craft a message to capture an audiences attention and to convince that audience to listen more closely. You need to learn how to listen to your competitors message, assess that message and then course correct to a more amenable presentation to your intended audience.

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