A brief history of military design thinking

Welcome to the field of military design thinking. In this article, I summarise what it is, where it came from, and where it might be going.


It has therefore been refreshing to see some recent articles that address the history of design thinking and chronicle its key practitioners and developers in an interesting and accessible way.[2] In this author’s particular field — military design thinking — we face a dual challenge: not only is there still a lack of historical awareness, there is also a general lack of awareness by ‘outsiders’ (including other designers) that the field exists. As a result, a brief history can also act as an introduction to the field itself, demonstrating the unique aspects of military design thinking as well as those it has in common with ‘civilian’ design thinking. It is hoped that what follows will therefore be not only enlightening, but may also inspire civilian designers to consider how military design might be able to influence their own design practice — or how their practice might be able to influence the field of military design thinking.

As will be seen below, the links between the civilian and military design thinking are already growing. Indeed, this article is based on an extract from a paper that the author will soon be presenting at the Innovation Methodologies for Defence Challenges (IMDC) 2019 conference, which will be held at Lancaster University, United Kingdom, on 26–28 February 2019. This conference will feature a mix of civilian and military design thinking experts exploring collaboration opportunities and ways in which currently emerging overlaps between civilian and military design thinking could be beneficial to a range of design thinking fields including national security, industry and academia to name just a few. (For more information about the conference, visit: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/security-lancaster/imdc2019/).

Without any further ado, what follows is a brief history of the field of military design thinking.

The emergence of military design thinking: the 1990s

First, ‘operational art’ has been cited as the earliest example of military design, as this body of theory ‘implied that before “planning” occurred where a series of operations could be linked towards some larger strategic goals, a broader “design” ought to occur that required more systemic thinking over analytical reductionism’.[3] If this assertion is correct, then military design thinking emerged in Prussia in the 19th century; was significantly developed in the Soviet Union from the 1920s; and entered the vernacular of Anglosphere militaries during the 1980s.[4]

Another perspective posits that planning is a form of design and that, therefore, military planning is a form of military design (see Image 1).[5] [6] By this understanding military design, in the form of staff planning guidance, dates to at least the mid-19th century when Western militaries began to incorporate planning processes into written doctrine.[7] If one looks beyond doctrine to military theory and practice in general, then by this understanding military design is much older. Just as Nelson and Stolterman asserted that ‘humans did not discover fire — they designed it’,[8] if planning is a form of design then our prehistorical ancestors did not discover organised violence — they designed it! Military design by this understanding may therefore pre-date militaries themselves, although no-one known to this author has yet explored the potential implications of this possibility.

Some consider military planning to be a form of design

Thirdly, it has been asserted that military design thinking was first evident in the theoretical works of US Air Force Colonel John Boyd, which were primarily developed during the 1980s.[9] These works discussed military applications of complexity and chaos theory, evolutionary biology and military history, amongst other less-frequently referenced disciplines. Not only were Boyd’s works amongst the first to explicitly discuss chaos and complexity theory in the military context, the interdisciplinary nature of his enquiries has much in common with subsequent military design theory.[10] Yet Boyd himself did not use the term ‘design thinking’, and it is unlikely he would have considered himself a designer. Ultimately, the accuracy or otherwise of these three perspectives depends on which definition of design thinking one employs.

The remainder of the few existing works that attempt to trace the origins of military design thinking assert that it originated in the mid-1990s with the work of Israeli Brigadier General Shimon Naveh.[11] Ben Zweibelson, for example, has stated that ‘I consider Naveh the “father” of the military design movement because he was the first to spearhead an entire new methodology that was intended for the military to replace traditional military planning’.[12] Naveh was also the first to explicitly consider himself as a military design thinker. His approach, called Systemic Operational Design (SOD), was developed at the Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF’s) Operational Theory Research Institute (OTRI), which Naveh headed following its establishment in February 1995.[13] This approach originated with an analysis of Soviet operational art using general systems theory, informed by a critical reading of military history.[14] This was soon accompanied by interaction with other academic disciplines including urban planning, psychology, cybernetics, and post-modern and post-structural philosophy, to form a unique design methodology.[15]

Systemic Operational Design was developed as an alternative to ‘traditional’ military planning processes, which tend to apply a technical rationalist approach that breaks problems into component parts before problem solving via linear reverse-engineering of solutions.[16] Traditional military planning processes are in this respect similar to the early civilian design methodologies developed by Herbert Simon and Bruce Archer, and which have since been superseded by other civilian design methodologies that are more holistic in the way they frame and then solve complex problems.[17] In contrast to traditional military planning processes, SOD employed ‘dialectic deliberation’ between conflicting perspectives to enable extensive reframing, eventually developing an operational concept via multiple holistic considerations of problems (see Image 2).[18] [19]

Systemic Operational Design (SOD) is usually considered to be the first military design methodology

The extreme paradigmatic dissimilarity between SOD and traditional military planning has resulted in a legacy wherein in military design thinking is often considered antithetical to military planning, and the two are often viewed as being in tension.[20] Interestingly, a similar state of tension has been observed within civilian design thinking between Simon’s and Donald Schön’s approaches.[21] Notwithstanding the minority view that planning is a form of design, debate about the impact of this tension remains an ongoing theme within military design thinking. This tension has also been evident in the implementation of military design methodologies. For example, Zweibelson summarised what happened after the IDF attempted to implement SOD:

SOD was so dense with philosophical language and these very abstract concepts, it was hard to translate and to disseminate to lower level forces. Further, it was only taught to senior leaders, and even then, only self-selecting leaders took it upon themselves to study it. Eventually, traditional IDF leaders, who wanted to protect the legacy system, took action to purge SOD from the military; they largely eliminated the majority of SOD practitioners from their ranks, with Naveh himself excommunicated and OTRI disbanded.[22]

This disbanding happened just prior to the 2006 Hezbollah War. Whether or not SOD was to blame for the Israeli failure in this war remains contentious to this day.[23]

To the US Army and beyond: the 2000s

Beginning in 2006, the expansion of SAMS courses in SOD was accompanied by a rapid succession of US Army publications addressing design thinking. These included a chapter in the best-selling 2006 edition of Field Manual (FM) 3–24 Counterinsurgency; the 2008 SAMS publication Art of Design: Student Text, Version 1.0 (Version 2.0 followed in 2010); TRADOC Pamphlet 525–5–500 Commander’s Appreciation and Campaign Design in 2008; FM Interim 5–2 Design in 2009; the 2009 US Army Combined Arms Center publication Design: Tools of the Trade; and the incorporation of a chapter about design thinking into FM 5–0 The Operations Process in 2010.[26] Design thinking then expanded into the joint space in the early 2010s, where it was labelled ‘operational design’.[27]

This array of US military publications ultimately obfuscated what military design was and what methodologies it encompassed. As Alex Ryan explained, in the process of developing these publications ‘a curriculum of 3,000 pages of reading on design at SAMS was eventually distilled down into 13 pages of doctrine’. The development of design doctrine ‘was controversial, given Naveh’s widely expressed views on doctrine as antithetical to design, as well as the paucity of peer reviewed literature on [SOD] on which to base the doctrine’.[28] In response, Naveh, along with Jim Schneider and Tim Challans, authored The Structure of Operational Revolution: A Prolegomena, which offered an alternative design methodology for the US Army that was much closer to SOD than the version included in doctrine.[29]

By the early 2010s, Ryan further explained, ‘proponents of [military] design basically fell into two camps’. The first of these were the design purists, who strictly adhered to a complicated interdisciplinary design thinking methodology that required military personnel to reframe their understanding of a situation through questioning their core beliefs about it, leading to innovative and adaptive solutions. They asserted that because of this methodology design thinking ‘is not for everyone’, and most military officers ‘will never get it’. The second camp was the pragmatists, who saw a need to make design thinking as simple and as accessible as possible. They were the ones who adapted SOD into what appeared in doctrine, in the process creating a new and simplified design thinking methodology that greatly differed from SOD. The result was that:

[The purists were] mostly ignored or derided by Army leaders. For every 100 students, they would convert one or two devoted acolytes, but in the process they also generated active resistance to design. [The pragmatists were] better received by students. But because none of these students were required to challenge their fundamental beliefs, they were never able to really reframe. … Neither [camp] was able to transform the dominant institutional culture [of the US Army].[30]

The design thinking approach included in US Army doctrine has since evolved into the ‘US Army Design Methodology’ (ADM), the latest iteration of which is contained in a 2015 Army Technical Publication (ATP), a supporting document to The Operations Process. This ATP defines ADM as ‘a methodology for applying critical and creative thinking to understand, visualize, and describe unfamiliar problems and approaches to solving them’.[31] This definition is a minor but significant simplification of the initial doctrinal definition of ‘design’ given in 2010: the earlier definition referred to ‘complex, ill-structured problems’ rather than ‘unfamiliar problems’ (see Image 3).[32] [33]

The US Army Design Methodology (ADM); 2010 version shown

Both ADM and joint ‘operational design’ include the development of environment and problem frames to ensure adequate understanding, followed by development of a solution frame (also called ‘the operational approach’).[34] This is methodologically similar to Richard Buchanan’s two-tiered process of problem definition and problem solution that is today prominent within several civilian design methodologies, including human-centric design.[35] A key point of departure from the civilian methodologies, however, is that the solution frame in ADM and operational design is completed using several traditional military planning concepts that pre-date the introduction of design. These include identification of the desired end state, objectives and decisive points; conduct of centre of gravity analysis; and establishment of lines of operation or effort.[36]

In other words, ADM and operational design subordinate the problem definition aspect of design as a step within a technical rationalist planning methodology. Where SOD was developed as an alternative to traditional military planning processes and was viewed by some as irreconcilable with them, ADM and operational design were instead incorporated into them.[37] This incorporation is a direct result of the pragmatic approach identified and criticised by Ryan as perpetuating the dominant instrumental approach to problem solving.[38] Since the creation of this division between SOD and ADM in the late 2000s, subsequent military design thinking methodologies have tended to be the legacy of one or the other, perpetuating the paradigmatic and methodological divide.

Rapid proliferation: the 2010s

Doctrinal military design thinking is easy to summarise as it has remained very similar to the US Army’s ADM. Doctrinal design methodologies tend to include a problem framing method, often coupled with an environment framing method, and a solution framing method that exclusively employs traditional military planning concepts to problem solve through linear reverse engineering. Such design methodologies are now included in the doctrine of all five US services, as well as in US joint doctrine.[39] Several US allies have incorporated similar design methodologies into their doctrine under various titles, including NATO, Britain, the Netherlands and Australia.[40] Amongst this allied doctrine the British stands out because it ‘expresses many design concepts while avoiding the word “design” entirely’.[41] Instead, British doctrine discusses ‘understanding’ similarly to how US doctrine discusses ‘design’.[42]

Since the late 2000s, an expanding number of individual military design thinkers have contributed to developing the field. In terms of written contributions, arguably the three most influential thinkers of this period are Alex Ryan, Chris Paparone and Ben Zweibelson. This assertion is likely to be contentious, and several other military designers could easily be added to this list.[43] For brevity, discussion herein will be kept to these three. Interestingly, although each of the three has taken an interdisciplinary approach, a different single discipline has most heavily influenced the works of each.

Ryan, initially with co-author Anne-Marie Grisogono, was one of the earlier authors that examined military operational applications of CAS theory.[44] He subsequently contributed to the initial development of the US Army’s (pre-ADM) design doctrine.[45] Arguably his most significant legacy has been to cement the linkage between military design thinking and CAS theory, particularly in the case of design methodologies contained with doctrine.[46]

Paparone has been most heavily influenced by the sociology of knowledge. His 2013 book, The Sociology of Military Science, offered a detailed critique of the ingrained institutional biases of the US military prior to reframing military professionalism by deconstructing these biases then constructing alternative frames.[47] This reframing was greatly influenced by Schön’s ideas about ‘reflective practice’ and ‘displacement of concepts’.[48] One may say that Paparone is to military design thinking as Schön is to civilian design thinking, in that both have prominently advocated the conception of design as primarily an internal reflexive conversation between the designer and the object designed.[49]

By his own admission, Zweibelson’s early works were most heavily influenced by postmodernism.[50] More recently he has deliberately moved to an explicitly multi-paradigmatic exploration of different types of design thinking, intentionally blending other design methodologies developed by a mix of military and civilian design thinkers (see Image 4).[51] [52] He has also developed a non-doctrinal design methodology for US Special Operations Command,[53] and has (perhaps by accident) chronicled the spread of military design thinking via his prolific co-authorship of publications across the Occident.[54]

Zweibelson’s Second Generation Military Design methodology (2017) deliberately blends several other military and civilian design methodologies

The final area of rapid expansion since the late 2000s is the incorporation of design thinking into the pedagogy and syllabus of several military colleges. This has involved application and in some cases development of a range of military design methodologies, and several of the most influential military design thinkers have manifest their ideas through their teaching rather than their writing.

In 2013, Naveh was invited back by the IDF to teach design at the one-star level, using a new methodology called Systemic Inquiry in Operational Mediation. This methodology focuses on triggering strategic and operational innovation through guided self-disruption and exploitation of identified tensions. He has been joined in this endeavour by Ofra Gracier, another prominent military design thinker.[55]

The Canadian Forces College (CFC) also began to teach design thinking in 2013. Drawing on a diverse mix of civilian and military design methodologies, CFC continues to evolve its ‘epistemological agnosticism for design methodology’ approach by reframing the course syllabus on an annual basis and by providing students with instruction in multiple design methodologies of both military and civilian origin.[56] Because of this unique approach, which was developed by now-prominent military design thinkers Paul Mitchell and Philippe Beaulieu-Brossard, CFC today quietly delivers arguably one of the most comprehensive design thinking education programs in the world.

The last few years have seen the establishment of design courses within various other NATO militaries, including the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Norway and Hungary.[57] Furthermore, some US military colleges now teach design courses that diverge from the methodologies contained in US military doctrine. For example, Zweibelson teaches a course at the US Joint Special Operations University based on his own design methodology.[58] Since 2014, the US Naval Postgraduate School has taught a design course based exclusively on the human-centric design methodology taught by the Stanford d.school.[59] Similarly, in 2018 the Royal Australian Air Force conducted short design courses that exclusively taught civilian design methods.[60] The increasing incorporation of unaltered civilian design methodologies into military curricula constitutes a noteworthy recent development in military design education. Like the rapid succession of US military design publications in the late 2000s, this development too seems to have obfuscated what precisely military design thinking is and what methodologies it encompasses.

Military design thinking faces the future

Arguably the 2018 ‘Innovation Methodologies for Defence Challenges’ conference symbolised the completion of military design thinking’s establishment as an explicit field of enquiry, due to the breadth of conference participants (see Image 5).[64] Nevertheless, the approximately 20 year lag between emergence and recognition remains a significant point of deviation from civilian design thinking, which was recognised as an explicit field of enquiry from its inception in the 1950s.[65] Regardless of this lag, the 2018 conference and the recognition it brought has since created opportunities for collaboration between civilian and military design thinking.[66]

Military designers: an expert panel addressing the 2018 Innovation Methodologies for Defence Challenges (IMDC) conference

It is anticipated that the 2019 IMDC conference, which will be held at Lancaster University, United Kingdom, on 26–28 February, will enable these opportunities to be further explored and expanded. This conference will feature over 25 presenters from nine counties, who have a range of military and civilian backgrounds. These include several of the prominent military designers discussed above, such as Ben Zweibelson, Philippe Beaulieu-Brossard, Ofra Gracier and Chris Paparone. Among several prominent civilian design thinkers joining them will be Antoine Bousquet of Birkbeck College, University of London, and Phil Gilbert, General Manager of IBM Design.

As military design thinking confronts a future that is likely to involve additional and enhanced collaboration between military and civilian designers, it is hoped that this conference will lead to opportunities that will benefit multiple fields including national security, industry and academia. It is further hoped that the historical information given above will help to enable this collaboration to be based on a sound historical understanding of the origins and development of military design thinking.

For further information about the IMDC 2019 conference, visit https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/security-lancaster/imdc2019/. This article is based on an extract from the paper that the author will present at this conference.

About the author: Aaron P. Jackson, PhD, is Senior Researcher, Joint Planning and Design in Defence Science and Technology Group, part of the Australian Department of Defence. A civilian Defence employee since 2010, he was previously appointed Joint Operations Planning Specialist in DST and joint doctrine developer at the Australian Defence Force Joint Doctrine Centre. In addition to his civilian appointments Aaron has served in the Australian Army Reserve since 2002. He has deployed as a civilian on Operation Accordion (Middle East region) and as a military officer on Operations Astute (Timor Leste) and Resolute (Australian border security).

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are the author’s own and are not necessarily those of the Australian Department of Defence, Defence Science and Technology Group, or any part thereof.


[2] For example, see: Stephanie Di Russo, ‘A Brief History of Design Thinking: The Theory [P1]’, I Think\I Design [blog], 18 January 2012. Online: https://ithinkidesign.wordpress.com/2012/01/, accessed 23 July 2018; Jo Szczepanska, ‘Design Thinking Origin Story plus Some of the People who Made it all Happen’, Medium, 3 January 2017. Online: https://medium.com/@szczpanks/design-thinking-where-it-came-from-and-the-type-of-people-who-made-it-all-happen-dc3a05411e53, accessed 25 July 2018.

[3] Ben Zweibelson, ‘The Multidisciplinary Design Movement: A Frame for Realizing Industry, Security, and Academia Interplay’, Small Wars Journal, 10 January 2019. Online: https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/multidisciplinary-design-movement-frame-realizing-industry-security-and-academia-interplay#_edn15, accessed 11 January 2019.

[4] Dennis E. Shoalwater, ‘Prussian-German Operational Art, 1740–1943’; and Jacob W. Kipp, ‘The Tsarist and Soviet Operational Art, 1853–1991’, respectively chapters 2 and 3 of: John Andreas Olsen & Martin van Creveld (Eds.), The Evolution of Operational Art: From Napoleon to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); Allan English, ‘The Operational Art’ in: Allan English, Daniel Gosselin, Howard Coombs & Laurence M. Hickey (Eds.), The Operational Art: Canadian Perspectives: Context and Concepts (Kingston: Canadian Defence Academy Press, 2005), pp. 1–75; Justin Kelly & Mike Brennan, Alien: How Operational Art Devoured Strategy (Carlisle: US Army Strategic Studies Institute, 2009).

[5] See discussion in: Chris Paparone, The Sociology of Military Science: Prospects for Postinstitutional Military Design (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 90–91. Some have claimed the reverse, i.e. that design is a component of planning. However, these authors seem to have only understood ‘design’ in terms of a narrow definition given within certain US Army doctrinal publications. As a result their understanding of ‘design thinking’ as a field as inquiry is not sufficiently developed to warrant their views being considered seriously herein. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., Scott Gorman, Jack Marr, Joseph McLamb, Michael Stewart & Pete Schifferle, ‘Integrated Planning: The Operations Process, Design, and the Military Decision Making Process’, Military Review, January-February 2011, pp. 28–35.

[6] Image 1 caption: The second battle of Libya. Before zero hour. The Brigadier commanding tank units in Tobruk instructing tank commanders on the operations, using a sand table for demonstration purposes. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress. Official British Army Photo No. BO 773 [BM 7241]. Online: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003654943/, accessed 6 February 2019.

[7] Aaron P. Jackson, The Roots of Military Doctrine: Change and Continuity in Understanding the Practice of Warfare (Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: Combat Studies Institute Press, 2013), pp. 16–17.

[8] Nelson & Stolterman, The Design Way, pp. 1–2.

[9] Jeffrey van der Veer, The Rise of Design: Why an Innovative Concept is Emulated in Armies Around the Globe (Master’s thesis, Royal Netherlands Defence Academy, 2015), pp. 25–26.

[10] John R. Boyd, A Discourse on Winning and Losing, edited and compiled by Grant T. Hammond (Maxwell: Air University Press, March 2018).

[11] Ofra Gracier, ‘Self Disruption: Seizing the High Ground of Systemic Operational Design (SOD)’, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, Special Issue: Reflexive Military Practitioners: Design Thinking and Beyond, Vol. 17, №4 (June 2017), pp. 22–27; Ben Zweibelson, ‘Changing Change while it Changes: The Rise of Disruptive Military Thinking (Part 2 of 3)’, Over the Horizon [blog], 11 June 2018. Online: https://othjournal.com/2018/06/11/changing-change-while-it-changes-the-rise-of-disruptive-military-thinking-part-2-of-3/, accessed 1 November 2018.

[12] Zweibelson, ‘Changing Change while it Changes (Part 2 of 3)’.

[13] Gracier, ‘Self Disruption’, pp. 24–27; Zweibelson, ‘Changing Change while it Changes (Part 2 of 3)’.

[14] Shimon Naveh, In Pursuit of Military Excellence: The Evolution of Operational Theory (Abingdon: Frank Cass, 1997), esp. pp. xiii-xx.

[15] Zweibelson, ‘Changing Change while it Changes (Part 2 of 3)’.

[16] Ben Zweibelson, ‘Linear and Non-Linear Thinking: Beyond Reverse-Engineering’, Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 16, №2 (Spring 2016), pp. 28–30.

[17] Herbert A. Simon, Sciences of the Artificial (3rd ed., Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1996), p. 128; Stephen Boyd Davis & Simone Gristwood, The Structure of Design Processes: Ideal and Reality in Bruce Archer’s 1968 Doctoral Thesis, proceedings of the 2016 Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference, Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016, pp. 1–15. Online: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/55ca3eafe4b05bb65abd54ff/t/574809b03c44d8ca9d0f1e04/1464338880153/240+Boyd+Davis.pdf, accessed 25 July 2018; Di Russo, ‘A Brief History of Design Thinking’; Szczepanska, ‘Design Thinking Origin Story’.

[18] Gracier, ‘Self Disruption’, p. 25.

[19] Source for Image 2: Matthew Lauder, ‘Systemic Operational Design: Freeing Operational Planning from the Shackles of Linearity’, Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 9, №4 (2009), p. 44.

[20] Ben Zweibelson, ‘An Awkward Tango: Pairing Traditional Military Planning to Design and Why It Currently Fails to Work’, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, Vol. 16, №1 (2015), pp. 11–41; Paparone, The Sociology of Military Science, p. 97.

[21] Kees Dorst, Frame Innovation: Create New Thinking by Design (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), pp. 183–185.

[22] Zweibelson, ‘Changing Change while it Changes (Part 2 of 3)’.

[23] Exploration of this contention is tangential to the topic of this paper and is not attempted herein. For further information, including examples of different arguments, see: Van der Veer, The Rise of Design, pp. 32–33; Ofra Gracier, ‘Between Teaching and Learning: What Lessons could the Israeli Doctrine learn from the 2006 Lebanon War?’, Experticia Militar, July-October 2017, pp. 22–29; Milan N. Vego, ‘A Case Against Systemic Operational Design’, Joint Force Quarterly, №53 (2nd Quarter 2009), pp. 69–75.

[24] The outcomes of this research are captured in: William T. Sorrels, Glen R. Downing, Paul J. Blakesley, David W. Pendall, Jason K. Walk & Richard D. Wallwork, Systemic Operational Design: An Introduction (monograph, US Army School of Advanced Military Studies, 26 May 2005), pp. iii-iv.

[25] School of Advanced Military Studies, Art of Design: Student Text, Version 2.0 (Fort Leavenworth: US Army School of Advanced Military Studies, 2010), pp. 1–3.

[26] Headquarters, Department of the Army & Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Field Manual 3–24/Marine Corps Warfighting Publication 3–33.5 Counterinsurgency (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 15 December, 2006), chap. 4; SAMS, Art of Design; Headquarters, Department of the Army, TRADOC Pamphlet 525–5–500 Commander’s Appreciation and Campaign Design: Version 1.0 (Fort Monroe: US Army Training and Doctrine Command, 28 January 2008); Headquarters, Department of the Army, Field Manual Interim 5–2 Design (Draft) (Washington DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army, 20 February 2009); Jack D. Kem, Design: Tools of the Trade (Fort Leavenworth: US Army Combined Arms Center, May 2009); Headquarters, Department of the Army, Field Manual 5–0 The Operations Process (Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, March 2010), chap. 3.

[27] J. N. Mattis, Memorandum for US Joint Forces Command: Vision for a Joint Approach to Operational Design (unpublished US Joint Forces Command memorandum, dated 6 October 2009); Joint Staff J-7, Planner’s Handbook for Operational Design: Version 1.0 (Suffolk, VA: Joint Staff J-7, Joint and Coalition Warfighting, 7 October 2011); Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Publication (JP) 5–0 Joint Operation Planning (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 11 August 2011), chap. 3.

[28] Alex Ryan, ‘A Personal Reflection on Introducing Design to the U.S. Army’, Medium, 4 November 2016. Online: https://medium.com/the-overlap/a-personal-reflection-on-introducing-design-to-the-u-s-army-3f8bd76adcb2#.lqhycz1g7, accessed 2 November 2018.

[29] Shimon Naveh, Jim Schneider & Tim Challans, The Structure of Operational Revolution: A Prolegomena (Fort Leavenworth: Booz Allan Hamilton Inc., 2009).

[30] Ryan, ‘A Personal Reflection on Introducing Design to the U.S. Army’.

[31] Headquarters, Department of the Army, Army Technical Publication 5–0.1 Army Design Methodology (Washington DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army, 1 July 2015), p. 1.3. The first use of the term ‘ADM’ appeared in 2012 in a non-doctrinal text: Anna Grome, Beth Crandall Louise Rasmussen & Heather Wolters, Army Design Methodology: Commander’s Resource (Fort Leavenworth: US Army School of Advanced Military Studies in Partnership with US Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, February 2012).

[32] FM 5–0 The Operations Process (2010), p. 3.1.

[33] Source for Image 3: FM 5–0 The Operations Process (2010), p. 3.7.

[34] Department of the Army, ATP 5–0.1 Army Design Methodology (2015); JP 5–0 Joint Operation Planning (2011), chap. 3. See also: FM 5–0 The Operations Process (2010), chap. 3.

[35] Richard Buchanan, ‘Wicked Problems in Design Thinking’, Design Issues, Vol. VIII, №2 (Spring 1992), pp. 5–21; Szczepanska, ‘Design Thinking Origin Story’; Scott Doorley, Sarah Holcomb, Perry Klebahn, Kathryn Segovia & Jeremy Utley, Design Thinking Bootleg, Stanford d.school, 2018. Available online: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/57c6b79629687fde090a0fdd/t/5b19b2f2aa4a99e99b26b6bb/1528410876119/dschool_bootleg_deck_2018_final_sm+%282%29.pdf, accessed 30 July 2018.

[36] ATP 5–0.1 Army Design Methodology (2015), chap. 5.

[37] This incorporation led some military practitioners come to an erroneous understanding of military design as merely a component of military planning (see note 5). Grigsby, Jr., et al, ‘Integrated Planning’, pp. 28–35.

[38] Ryan, ‘A Personal Reflection on Introducing Design to the U.S. Army’.

[39] ATP 5–0.1 Army Design Methodology (2015); U.S. US Navy, Navy Warfare Publication 5–01 Navy Planning (Norfolk: Department of the Navy, December 2013), Appendix D; US Marine Corps, Marine Air-Ground Task Force Staff Training Program Pamphlet 5–0.1 Marine Corps Design Methodology (Quantico: US Marine Corps, March 2017); US Air Force, US Air Force Doctrine Annex 3–0 Operations and Planning: Operational Design Fundamentals (Maxwell: LeMay Centre for Doctrine Development and Education, 4 November 2016); US Air Force, US Air Force Doctrine Annex 3–0 Operations and Planning: Methods of Operational Design (Maxwell: LeMay Centre for Doctrine Development and Education, 4 November 2016); Department of Defense, JP 5–0 Joint Planning (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 16 June 2017), chap. 4.

[40] UK Ministry of Defence, Allied Joint Publication-5/Joint Doctrine Publication 5–00 Allied Joint Doctrine for Operational Level Planning (Shrivenham: Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre, June 2013), pp. 2.60–2.84; Royal Netherlands Army, Doctrinebulletin 2015-XX Contextual Military Design: Study Draft Version 1.0 (Netherlands: Land Warfare Centre, November 2015); Australian Defence Force, Australian Defence Doctrine Publication 5.0 — Joint Planning, 2nd ed. (Canberra, Defence Publishing Service, Amendment List 1, 2015); Australian Defence Force, Australian Defence Force Publication 5.0.1 — Joint Military Appreciation Process, 2nd ed. (Canberra, Defence Publishing Service, Amendment List 2), 2016.

[41] Zweibelson, ‘Changing Change while it Changes (Part 2 of 3)’. See also: Jackson, The Roots of Military Doctrine, p. 77.

[42] UK Ministry of Defence, Joint Doctrine Publication 04 Understanding (Shrivenham: Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre, December 2010); UK Ministry of Defence, Joint Doctrine Note 3/11 Decision-Making and Problem Solving: Human and Organisational Factors (Shrivenham: Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre, June 2011); UK Ministry of Defence, Joint Doctrine Publication 04 Understanding and Decision-making, 2nd ed. (Shrivenham: Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre, December 2016).

[43] For a broader list of military design thinkers, see: The Archipelago of Design: Researching Reflexive Military Practices. This website contains the biographical details of over twenty prominent military design thinkers, links to over 100 of their papers, video recordings of a dozen military design-themed presentations and over 25 military design-related blog posts. The Archipelago of Design: Researching Reflexive Military Practices. Online: http://militaryepistemology.com/, accessed 14 January 2018.

[44] Anne-Marie Grisogono & Alex Ryan, Designing Complex Adaptive Systems for Defence, unpublished Defence Science and Technology Organisation research paper, 22 October 2003. Online: http://militaryepistemology.com/designing-complex-adaptive-systems-for-defence/, accessed 14 November 2018; Alex Ryan & Anne-Marie Grisogono, Hybrid Engineered Complex Adaptive Systems: A Case Study in Defence, unpublished Defence Science and Technology Organisation research paper, 1 April 2004. Online: http://militaryepistemology.com/hybrid-complex-adaptive-engineered-systems-a-case-study-in-defence/, accessed 14 November 2018; Alex Ryan, ‘About the Bears and the Bees: Adaptive Responses to Asymmetric Warfare’ in: Ali Minai, Dan Braha &Yaneer Bar-Yam (Eds.), Unifying Themes in Complex Systems (Berlin: Springer, 2010), pp. 588–595 (an earlier version of this chapter had been presented as a conference paper in 2006).

[45] Ryan, ‘A Personal Reflection on Introducing Design to the U.S. Army’.

[46] For example, see: Stefan J. Banach & Alex Ryan, ‘The Art of Design: A Design Methodology’, Military Review, March-April 2009, pp. 105–115; Alex Ryan, ‘The Foundation for an Adaptive Approach: Insights from the Science of Complex Systems’, Australian Army Journal, Vol. VI, №3 (Summer 2009), pp. 69–90; Alex J. Ryan, Applications of Complex Systems to Operational Design, unpublished Booz Allen Hamilton research paper, 2011. Online, http://militaryepistemology.com/applications-of-complex-systems-to-operational-design/, accessed 14 January 2019.

[47] Paparone, The Sociology of Military Science.

[48] Donald Schön, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (New York: Basic Books, 1983); Donald Schön, Displacement of Concepts [1963] (London: Routledge, 2007).

[49] Regarding Schön’s impact on the field of civilian design thinking, see: Stephanie Di Russo, Understanding the Behaviour of Design Thinking in Complex Environments (PhD dissertation, Swinburne University of Technology, 2016), pp. 25–26.

[50] Ben Zweibelson, ‘Blending Postmodernism with Military Design Methodologies: Heresy, Subversion, and other Myths of Organizational Change’, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, Special Issue: Reflexive Military Practitioners: Design Thinking and Beyond, Vol. 17, №4 (June 2017), pp. 139–164. For examples of his early works, see: Ben Zweibelson, ‘Three Design Concepts Introduced for Strategic and Operational Applications’, Prism, Vol. 4, №2 (2013), pp. 87–104; Ben Zweibelson, ‘Breaking Barriers to Deeper Understanding: How Post-modern Concepts are ‘Value-added’ to Military Conceptual Planning Considerations’, Small Wars Journal, 21 September 2011. Online: https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/breaking-barriers-to-deeper-understanding-how-post-modern-concepts-are-%E2%80%98value-added%E2%80%99-to-mil, accessed 16 January 2019.

[51] Zweibelson, ‘The Multidisciplinary Design Movement’; Ben Zweibelson, ‘An Application of Theory: Second Generation Military Design on the Horizon’, Small Wars Journal, 19 February 2017. Online: http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/an-application-of-theory-second-generation-military-design-on-the-horizon, accessed 12 November 2018.

[52] Source for Image 4: Zweibelson, ‘An Application of Theory’.

[53] Ben Zweibelson, ‘Change Agents for the SOF Enterprise: Design Considerations for SOF Leadership Confronting Complex Environments’, Special Operations Journal, Vol. 3, №2 (2017), pp. 127–140; Ben Zweibelson, ‘Special Operations and Design Thinking: Through the Looking Glass of Organizational Knowledge Production’, Special Operations Journal, Vol. 2, №1 (2016), pp. 22–32.

[54] Imre Porkoláb & Ben Zweibelson, ‘Designing A NATO that Thinks Differently for 21st Century Complex Challenges’, Defence Review, №2018/1 (June 2018), pp. 196–212; Ben Zweibelson, Lars Hedström, Magnus Lindström & Ulrica Pettersson, ‘The Emergent Art of Military Design: Swedish Armed Forces and the Contemporary Security Environment’, Kungl Krigsvetenskaps-Akademiens: Handling ooh Tidskrift [The Proceedings and Journal of the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences], July-September 2017, pp. 83–97; Ben Zweibelson, ‘‘Design’ goes Dutch: Army Considerations for Unconventional Planning and Sensemaking’, Atlantisch Perspectief, 2015 №6 (December 2015). Online: https://www.atlcom.nl/ap_archive/pdf/AP%202015%20nr.%206/Zweibelson.pdf, accessed 9 November 2018.

[55] Gracier, ‘Self Disruption’, pp. 21–37; Ofra Gracier, ‘SO SOD: An Antidote to the Futility of Design in Militaries’, The Archipelago of Design: Researching Reflexive Military Practices [blog], 26 March 2018. Online: http://militaryepistemology.com/so-sod/, accessed 16 January 2019; Ofra Gracier, ‘Why Generals need to Forget before they can become Generals’ [video recording], TEDx Tel Aviv University, 23 February 2016. Online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pfZM9uSlmg, accessed 16 January 2019.

[56] Paul T. Mitchell, ‘Stumbling into Design: Action Experiments in Professional Military Education at Canadian Forces College’, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, Special Issue: Reflexive Military Practitioners: Design Thinking and Beyond, Vol. 17, №4 (June 2017), pp. 84–102, quote p. 101; Philippe Beaulieu-Brossard & Paul T. Mitchell, ‘Challenge-Driven: Canadian Forces College’s Agnostic Approach to Design Thinking Education’, The Archipelago of Design: Researching Reflexive Military Practices [blog], 13 January 2019. Online: http://militaryepistemology.com/challenge-driven/, accessed 17 January 2019.

[57] Zweibelson, ‘‘Design’ goes Dutch’; Zweibelson et al, ‘The Emergent Art of Military Design’, pp. 83–97; Zweibelson, ‘Changing Change while it Changes (Part 2 of 3)’; Anders Mcdonald Sookermany, ‘Military Education Reconsidered: A Postmodern Update’, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol. 51, №1 (2017), pp. 310–330.

[58] Ben Zweibelson, ‘JSOU Design Thinking Topics: Design Thinking for the Commander — Addressing Complexity, Change, and Military Innovation’, unpublished PowerPoint presentation, 7 July 2017, copy on file with author.

[59] US Naval Postgraduate School, NPS Design Thinking Community, undated. Available online: https://my.nps.edu/web/design-thinking-community/home, accessed 9 November 2018.

[60] Air Warfare Centre & Business Models Inc., Crash Course in Design Thinking, unpublished PowerPoint presentation, delivered 14 November 2018. Copy on file with author.

[61] This author was the fourth person to be added to the email group, in 2013. It was informally dubbed ‘the design cabal’ by its members. For a detailed account of my involvement in this and other aspects of military design thinking see: Aaron P. Jackson, ‘A Tale of Two Designs: Developing the Australian Defence Force’s Latest Iteration of its Joint Operations Planning Doctrine’, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, Special Issue: Reflexive Military Practitioners: Design Thinking and Beyond, Vol. 17, №4 (June 2017), pp. 174–193.

[62] For details of each conference, see: ‘Events’, The Archipelago of Design: Researching Reflexive Military Practices, undated. Online: http://militaryepistemology.com/events/, accessed 16 January 2019.

[63] Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, Special Issue: Reflexive Military Practitioners: Design Thinking and Beyond, Vol. 17, №4 (June 2017); The Blue Knight Review (Journal of the Royal Military College St Jean), Special Edition №2: Systems Thinking and Design, 25 January 2018. Online: http://www.cmrsj-rmcsj.forces.gc.ca/cb-bk/es-se/2018/e2/e2-eng.asp?idpage=2, accessed 12 November 2018; The Archipelago of Design: Researching Reflexive Military Practices. Online: http://militaryepistemology.com/, accessed 14 January 2019.

[64] Image 5 taken by author. A recording of this panel session can be viewed at: ‘IMDC 2018: Evening Conference — 6–8:00PM, Jan. 31 (Watch Live!)’, The Archipelago of Design: Researching Reflexive Military Practices, 31January 2018. Online: http://militaryepistemology.com/imdc2018-evening/, accessed 6 February 2019.

[65] Di Russo, ‘A Brief History of Design Thinking’; Szczepanska, ‘Design Thinking Origin Story’.

[66] Zweibelson, ‘The Multidisciplinary Design Movement’.



Specialist in defence and military studies. Academically trained with civilian and military practical experience

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Aaron P. Jackson

Specialist in defence and military studies. Academically trained with civilian and military practical experience