Note #25. Concepts of Influence: Vital to “Center of Gravity” Analysis

  • Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D., Brig Gen USAF ret.
  • Strategy
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This Note synthesizes three popular approaches to “Center of Gravity” (COG) and presents Concepts of Influence (COI) as a supplement to COG analysis in the Information Environment (IE).

Center of Gravity

COG is variously defined as a source of power, moral or physical strength, freedom of action, and will to resist.

The usual practice is to protect one’s own COGs and destroy the enemy’s. This usage comes from a physical concept of COG. In physics, a COG is a point in uniform matter where the total weight is concentrated. This concept is useful in designing or destroying static structures such as buildings, or in predicting how gravity will affect matter in motion. By removing the balancing point, the basic idea is to eliminate the enemy’s power, strength, freedom of action, or will to resist.

Three popular approaches to COG analysis are the Critical Factors, Godzilla, and Eikmeier methods. Each approach consists of three basic steps:

  1. Decide on the strategic end or goal or objective.
  2. Identify the capabilities needed to achieve the above.
  3. Identify which  capabilities are critical in terms of: (a) a “vulnerable requirement” to achieve the strategic end (the critical factors approach); or (b) an operational objective needed to achieve the strategic end (Godzilla [Butler] and Eikmeier methods).

Concept of Influence

In the IE, we need to supplement COG analysis with Concepts of Influence (COI) because there is no balancing point in the cognitive or digital dimensions of the information environment. The physical unseating of a weighted point does not apply to an environment with rapidly changing processes and networks. The weight of matter is better described as distributed interactions in multiple chains of cause and effect.

For instance, in the information environment, creating understanding consists of four elements—data, information, intelligence, and knowledge.

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This approach to understanding is one that characterizes the IE in terms of processes. In operations in the IE, data is often unstructured. The meaning of data, information, is uneven, depending on an actor’s or audience’s perception. Information put into context, intelligence, also varies because contexts are different. Intelligence that’s accepted by experts, knowledge, varies across schools of thought and experts.

A concept of influence can account for variation in meanings, contexts, and acceptance because it describes how an activity acts on a targeted will or capability to achieve a desired effect. Understanding how influence works in the IE is the key to power (including willpower), strength, and freedom of action. As a vital aspect of strategy (also a process of ends, ways, and means), targeting a concept of influence is consistent with Sunzi’s advice on priorities: strategy, allies, armies, and walled cities.  

Combined Effect Strategy and Influence

The combined effect strategy and influence model offers 16 concepts of influence to achieve threefold effects. Each type of activity influences will or capability to achieve preventive—causative, psychological—physical, and confrontational—cooperative effects:

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Specifically, psychological activities may intimidate or assure the will, or neutralize or enhance capability. Physical activities may punish or demonstrate will, or deny or exercise capability. These eight types of activities produce 16 options (two effects per activity).

Conclusion

Concepts of influence are strategies to achieve effects: deter, compel, defend, coerce, dissuade, persuade, secure, and induce. Understanding competitors’ strategies and one’s own is vital to effective operations in the IE.

Author: Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D., Brig Gen USAF ret.

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