To Design or Not to Design (Part 3): Metacognition: How Problematizing Transforms a Complex System towards a Desired State

Author: Ben Zweibelson

Editor’s Note: This essay is part three of a six part series on design.

Introduction: FM5-0 Chapter 3 Design describes design‟s purpose as a methodology used to “make sense of complex, ill-structured problems.” 2 The term „make sense‟ deals with explanation of the open system. The previous article of „To Design or Not to Design‟ demonstrated how military institutions have a strong propensity for describing an open system instead of explaining it. To make sense of a complex system, humans instinctively attempt to categorize information through descriptive monikers and reductive classifications. Knowledge is usually “pursued in depth in isolation…Rather than getting a continuous and coherent picture, we are getting fragments- remarkably detailed but isolated patterns.” 3 FM5-0 Chapter 3 Design follows military institutional preference for reconstructive and mechanical methodology prevalent at the tactical level of war by misapplying it to the operational level with design. Army design doctrine does not articulate why and how to transform a complex system into a desired one.

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