Innovating in War: Risk, Organizational Cost and Successful Adoption

Lopez, Rafael, Foreign Affairs - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Potter, Philip, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

Why do military organizations often fail to adopt innovation in wartime even when it promises to increase military effectiveness? To answer the question, a theory was developed focusing on a gap in the literature for military diffusion. While theories for explaining the decision to adopt are well represented, less work exists to explain implementation. The theory, agent-led adoption, argues that in cases where implementation within the parent military is led by a special purpose suborganization, or lead agent, these efforts have a history of success and failure that hinges on the lead agent’s ability to moderate organizational resistance by managing risk and organizational cost. Both efforts are necessary for the organization to successfully adopt the innovation. Three questions were postured to drive an analysis of the theory. Does evidence reduce risk? Does integration support reduce organizational cost? Are both reducing risk and organizational cost necessary to increase the likelihood of permanent adoption? Among the insights are considerations for overcoming both cultural and bureaucratic constraints on adoption, the relative importance of external and internal factors on implementation, and the identification of desirable organizational features for an optimally configured lead agent. The study concludes by providing policy implications for the latest and perhaps one of the grandest Army transformations of the last century, the ongoing implementation of the Army’s new warfighting concept by its latest lead agent, the U.S. Army Futures Command.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Military Innovation, Diffusion of Innovation, Agent Led Adoption, Army Futures Command, Lead Agent, Implementing Change

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