Design Thinking in Commerce and War: Contrasting Civilian and Military Innovation Methodologies

By Dr. Aaron P. Jackson

This monograph addresses how military design thinkers can maximize the utility of the design methodologies they select for employment when designing military operations. Presently, Western militaries apply a mix of two distinct types of design thinking, each with a different origin and employing different paradigms, yet most military practitioners remain unaware of this situation. The result is confusion, obfuscation through inappropriate conceptual overlap, and suboptimal outcomes when overlapping types of design are simultaneously applied to identify and solve operational problems. These two types of design thinking come from different arenas: one has a background in various “civilian” disciplines, and in commerce and industry; the other originates within militaries themselves. This monograph attempts to untangle these two types of design thinking from each other through the provision of a detailed historical account, followed by a paradigmatic analysis of each. It then addresses the two types together, examining how a deliberately cultivated awareness of both can lead to enhanced design thinking outcomes, and exploring how military design thinking might evolve in the near future.

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