Announcing the Winners of the 2022 Andrew W. Marshall Paper Prize on Creative Bursts and Intellectual Outliers

December 8, 2022

Generating and Fostering


The 2022 Andrew W. Marshall Paper Prize on Creative Bursts and Intellectual Outliers began in January. This competition offered three rounds of awards for intellectually bold work that explored how creativity among peer groups or within an organization comes about, is fostered, and is maintained.

The grand prize-winning paper will be presented and published in Spring 2023. Read about the format of the competition here.

Grand Prize Winner Emily A. Davis

The Incalculable Element: Ancient Innovations for Modern Security Problems

When a country’s stability is at risk and established security strategies have become less effective, how can leaders encourage needed ingenuity within their groups? Thucydides provides an insightful perspective on this question in his discussion of how the Sicilians, inspired by the unconventional leadership of the general Hermocrates, facilitated Sparta’s defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War. As Thucydides shows, Hermocrates spurred his listeners to reflect on their limitations and biases at a time that, given its imminent dangers, would have seemed to call for nothing but confident action. This self-reflection, by allowing the Sicilians to reconsider their moral and cultural norms, reform their military structures, and join with unlikely allies to resist Athens’ imperialist threat, fostered a truly innovative outlook that made that resistance succeed. Highlighting the value of critical thinking in even the most perilous of circumstances, Thucydides’ text gives military groups essential tools for developing the creativity that is so crucial to U.S. security strategy today.


Evan Dudik

Stress Testing Strategy and Policy Using Ideas from the Philosophy of Science

This paper introduces the fundamental insight of Sir Karl Popper, as modified by Irme Lakatos, that a theory should make explicit the data that would falsify—not-verify—that theory. The paper argues, using Popper’s insight, that worthy policies and strategies proffer precise predictions of what facts, tests or observations would falsify the strategy. The paper applies Popper’s falsification to geopolitical policies and strategy, testing recent strategic proposals regarding China and Ukraine propounded by writers such as George Friedman and Henry Kissinger. It briefly employs Hempel’s Covering Law model of scientific explanation to make explicit the logic of falsification and analyzes real-world barriers to falsification using in-depth interviews of retired front-line U.S. military foreign area officers and other intelligence and foreign policy veterans. It examines two organizational scenarios where falsifying observations are welcome and not so welcome and provides suggestions as to how to make falsification a real-world activity in a world where messages of contraindication receive a less than welcome response.

Ido Levy

Learning from the Enemy: Creative Bursts and Our Learning Competition Against Islamic State Suicide Bombs

The Islamic State (IS) has demonstrated strong innovative tendencies. Most prominent among its adaptations was the employment of suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs) as weapons of conventional warfare. This paper analyzes the Islamic State’s development and use of SVBIEDs through a framework of terrorist innovation and learning competition and introduces the concept of ways of innovation. Using past literature, primary sources, and interviews with military personnel, it identifies the main drivers of IS innovative processes as well as those of its adversaries in their efforts to counter the SVBIED. For IS, ideology, leadership, experimentation, and organizational capital were key drivers fostering creative bursts and intellectual outliers. For the coalition, opportunity created by the interaction of coalition and partner forces was the main driver. The Islamic State’s disregard for force preservation made its innovative processes costly. Lack of creativity among partners and absence of ambitious coalition leadership and operational thinking inhibited anti-IS innovation. The case study shows that organizations with ambitious goals and leaders, strong organizational capital, and a penchant for risk-taking are more conducive to creative bursts and intellectual outliers. Development of strong relations among actors within an organization can also lead to greater innovative capacity.


Jonathon Glidden, Alden Daniel

Policy Will Never Die: How English and German Rock Renaissances can Inform American Policymaking Creativity

Alex Hu, Mordechai Levy-Eichel

Progress and Dis-order in the Public Sphere

Keith Pennington

Locating Innovative Bursts: Measuring Competitive ‘Surprise’ in Innovation

Philip Reiner, Leah Walker

Creative Partnerships for an Era of Competition

Special Thanks

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Laurence Zuriff