“Thinking” Beer Calls


This piece continues the Twitter based professional conversation between military leaders in the United States and faculty and students at Kings College in London.

This week’s post was provided by Jonathan Silk, an Army Officer. The views expressed here are the author’s alone and do not reflect those of the US Army or the Department of Defense. Read the post and join the discussion on Twitter #CCLKOW.


I was recently invited to speak at an event that is a new take on an old tradition within the military. The event was called “Drink and Think” and it is a monthly gathering hosted in bar by a group of students at the Naval War College. Each month, the students bring in a different speaker to discuss a topic for fifteen to twenty minutes and then spend the rest of the time in a large group discussion. Because of the location, the audience is a mixture of field grade officers from all the services, interagency partners, a few professors, and the occasional international military student. The mixture of diverse speakers, good beer selection, and the casual environment lends itself to quality conversations.

While many have commented on social media and other outlets that the O’Clubs throughout military installations are in decline, I see it differently; I think they have evolved. Across the military, groups like “Drink and Think” are on the rise. DEF Agoras, which follow a similar format, have been growing in popularity. In Washington D.C., a group of military and defense professionals meet monthly to discuss strategy at an event called Cigars and Strategy. Professionals are meeting together to engage in purpose-driven conversation, not just for drinks and the social aspects.

The model of these types of professional events has been studied and validated in research and practice. This idea of coming together an engaging in conversation around content in context was captured by LTC Pete Kilner, who currently heads the center that is responsible for the Platoon Leader and Company Command Professional Forums, in his doctoral work. It is also the basis for the scenario-based training model used in the Leader Challenge approach to developing leaders at West Point and units throughout the Army.

At the event I attended, I gave a short talk about how we use conversational learning in the on-line junior leader development forums, Company Command and Platoon Leader, as well as how we implement it in our use of social media, specifically Twitter.

The audience was very receptive and in the ‘learning” mindset as I spoke. As I concluded my remarks I engaged some members of the audience and that is where the ideas started flowing. One person shared their idea and experience, and then someone else made a new connection building upon those ideas and experiences and the cycle continued. The conversation flowed (In person and on Twitter) for approximately 45 minutes, as we all engaged in discussion around the topic in the context of professional development for the purpose of developing ourselves and others.

As these “Think and Drink” social events become more widespread, the potential exists for this to transform the way our organizations learn and develop.

This leads to our discussion questions:

What are some of the benefits to using this approach in organizations?

What are some of the roadblocks?

Read the post and join the discussion on Twitter #CCLKOW.

I would like to say a big “Thank You” to Joe Byerly, Casey Dean, and Aaron Childers for giving me the opportunity to speak at the ‘Think and Drink”.