Self Disruption: Seizing the High Ground of Systemic Operational Design (SOD)

Author: Ofra Graicer

Abstract: Systemic Operational Design (SOD) is the postmodern incarnation of Soviet Operational Art in western militaries. Although low-tech by essence and humanist by character, SOD is another successful Israeli start-up whose inventor, Shimon Naveh, keeps releasing updated versions through experimentation and customer feedback. Like all groundbreaking inventions, two trends follow suit: (1) The ‘Ali Express’ copycats, selling what appears to be the same merchandise but much cheaper; and, (2) Legitimate agents producing generic versions, although all of us know nothing compares to the original. In the past decade it seems everyone is doing design, but many attempts seem like the Telephone Game[1], whereby a word is whispered in a circle of players from one participant to another until eventually, the source is vaguely echoed. The following paper tells the story of Systemic Operational Design from its inception in the Israeli Defense Forces, through its growth in foreign militaries (spearheaded by the US) and coming full circle back to the IDF. It is written from the point of view of IDF’s veteran of Design developing and teaching who is currently employing that philosophy in the highest ranking command course to be exposed to SOD. The paper provides a critical analysis, distinguishing between the three evolutionary phases of SOD, philosophically and pedagogically. As such, it is an open invitation to all novice teachers and students of military design to dig deeper (or go further) in their pursuit of a relevant mode of operation for the senior command. It is the opening shot for an upcoming book under the same name, to be published in 2018.

[1] Also coined ‘Chinese Whispers’ or ‘whisper down the lane’

* Note: this paper is part of the Special Issue of Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, titled ‘Reflexive Military Practitioners: Design Thinking and Beyond’. The full issue can be accessed at:

View special issue via JMSS

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