Introduction: What is Design Thinking and how is it of use to the Australian Defence Force?

by Aaron P. Jackson

Chapter 1 of: Design Thinking: Applications for the Australian Defence Force, ed. Aaron P. Jackson (Joint Studies Paper Series, No. 3; Canberra: Australian Defence Publishing Service, 2019).

Extract from the first section:

“One of the first problems encountered when attempting to discuss design thinking is that there is no general consensus as to what it is. If one were to ask twenty self-identified ‘designers’ what design thinking was one would probably get at least twenty-one different answers. Nevertheless, in the last few years the term has become vogue. Whatever design thinking is, it promises innovation. It does this by offering a means to enable people to break free from existing mental models and to redefine their understanding of complex problems. It then provides a means to
enable them to employ models, or even to develop entirely new models, that might be more suitable to addressing these problems.

Militaries are not exempt from the need to innovate and to address complex problems. Perhaps it is therefore no surprise that design thinking has entered military as well as civilian parlance. But what is the substance behind the term? And how might the Australian Defence Force (ADF) employ design thinking to achieve genuine improvements beyond what it does already? These questions, or more precisely answers to these questions, are the subject of this volume. First, however, it is pertinent to introduce design thinking, its history and some of the methodologies it encompasses. This introduction constitutes the first section of this chapter. It is followed by another section containing a history of the application of design thinking within the ADF, which shows that the ADF, and Defence more broadly, have from time-to-time employed, and even developed, design thinking methodologies to innovate in a range of ways. However, this has occurred on an ad hoc basis, with different design efforts tending to occur in isolation from one another.

Through its presentation of this introductory information it is hoped that this chapter will leave the reader asking an additional question about design thinking: where to next? Possible answers to this question are proposed in several of the chapters contained in this volume, which elaborate different design thinking methodologies that might assist the ADF to innovate by designing. …”

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