Strategic Insights: The Battle of Crecy
Kops, Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Ernest (United States Army)
Master of Strategic Studies Degree , U.S. Army War College, Strategy Research Project, March 20 (2011)
Using the critical thinking model as a conceptual framework, in conjunction with egocentrism and sociocentrism as the two main cognitive frames of reference, this paper explores and analyzes strategic decision making by Edward III, King of England, and Philip VI, King of France, at the Battle of Crecy in 1346. The key facets of the Battle of Crecy this paper examines include a comparison of the rival forces (strategic situation), the English position (deployment of forces), the French approach (employment of forces), and the fight (use of forces and technology). Targeting today’s strategic leaders, this paper provides an analysis of the thoughts and resulting actions of Edward III and Philip VI at the Battle of Crecy to provide relevant critical thinking insights overall and specific insights that illuminate how biases impact mental agility, how they anchor strategic decision making, and the importance of bias mitigation.
More than a struggle of armies, in the purest sense the Battle of Crecy, fought between the armies of England and France on 26 August 1346, was either a total victory or defeat depending on a particular leader’s thinking: the French dead totalled 1,500 knights and 10,000 foot-soldiers, while the English lost less than 100 men. Furthermore, this battle marked the arrival of the English as the preeminent military power in Europe, it initiated a global revolution in military affairs, and it marked the beginning of the end of the chivalric way of life. As such, the Battle of Crecy provides a venue through which the decision processes of the strategic leaders of these two nations can be examined and reveals insights relevant to today’s strategic leaders.
Throughout time, effective strategic thinking has been the hallmark of effectual decision making by strategic leaders. It continues to be so today. On the other hand, thinking that is constrained by barriers based on one’s ego, culture, or organizational identification can negatively affect a normally rational mind, both intellectually and ethically. Such a mind results in impaired thinking and thus cripples the strategic leader’s decision making on complex issues. This is particularly significant in a crisis when time to reflect upon and make decisions is limited.
For strategic leaders, the critical thinking model as set forth by Richard Paul and Linda Elder provides a well-defined analytical framework through which decision making can be observed and analyzed. Within this critical thinking framework, biases are established as cognitive frames of reference. Through these frames of reference, a direct cause and effect relationship can be established for irrational judgment and decision making. Moreover, by examining and drawing relevant insights into how these biases impact strategic decision making from an historically significant event, today’s strategic leaders can learn how to become more focused, rational, and goal oriented thinkers.