Special Edition No2 - SystemsThinking

Table of contents

  • Cover Page
  • A Word from the Editor (Marc Imbeault)
  • Introduction: The Urgency of This Moment
  • Military Design in the Canadian Context
    (Robert Lummack)

    The present text is a short reflection upon Canada’s experience with military design. After highlighting a few notable elements related to this experience, it argues that Canada should be proactive in developing versions of military design which are appropriate to the Canadian context of Canada as a middle power while appreciating the insight of key allies and the broader global design movement. It further argues that an operational design model would be beneficial in and of itself but would also need to be sufficiently connected to other elements of national power in the form of a Whole of Government design process, as complex security problems often require more than a military solution.

  • Teachers, Leave Them Kids Alone: Debating Two Approaches for Design Education in Military Organizations
    (Ben Zweibelson, Aaron P. Jackson and Simon Bernard)

    This article functions as an informed debate between two experienced military practitioners, scholars and leading design proponents as to when military design should be introduced within Professional Military Education (PME). After an introduction by Bernard, an experienced Canadian officer, Zweibelson first argues that design should be taught at junior levels which would engender important benefits for the institution. Jackson then counter-argues that design is better served being taught at mid-career levels so as to maximize the impact design can have. After initial arguments, each author provides a rebuttal. What the conversation reveals beyond that both authors share an earnest conviction for design and its potentialities to positively impact complex military challenges is that there are merits to each approach. This international discussion is indeed timely as militaries, including the CAF, reflect upon how best to incorporate design methodologies into their national PME systems.

  • Designing a Way to Improve Outcomes
    (Mithula Naik)

    This article is a personal reflection about design philosophy and action based upon a designer’s experience collaborating and innovating on several significant projects. First, it details experience and insights gained working to bring about a helmet specifically designed for female motorcycle riders, bringing increased safety for this population and filling a gap in the market. Secondly, a strategic design experience at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is detailed and finally, new opportunities at Canadian Digital Services (CDS) are discussed. Key parts of the projects are explained including the design research methodology employed and project objectives, revealing key insights particularly with regard to the values of empathy and the human within the Design process. Ultimately, in illuminating successful design experiences, the article argues that that strategic design has the ability to innovate and promote change within large organizations for successful outcomes keeping the client in mind.

  • A Systems Approach to Recruiting and Training CAF Members: Designing an Optimized Model
    (LCol Kyle Solomon)

    The challenge of producing a greater number of trained military personnel than veterans has long been recognized as a systemic problem. The use of systems thinking and design provides a useful methodology to frame the problem, understand the environment, and develop possible solutions that could help break down the silos that have prevented significant progress on this issue. Examining how to optimize the process from recruitment to operational functional point orients the problem and defines the system whereby an individual is recruited into the Canadian Armed Forces, undergoes basic military training, and then completes their Military Occupation Structure Identification specific training. Potential solutions to our problem statement can largely be categorized as changes to function, structure, process, or tools. Synchronizing the recruiting to operational functional point system has been a challenge for the Canadian Armed Forces for many years. The good news is that we control almost all of the means to fix this problem. The bad news is that many of the problems are self-imposed and that culture change is almost as urgently required as process change if there is any hope of improving the system.

  • We Think Visually: The Urgency of Meaningful Maps
    (Major Mathieu Primeau)

    With the active generation increasingly thinking visually, creating meaningful maps is paramount to the military operational art, defined as the arrangement of tactical actions in space, time and purpose in the pursuit of strategic objectives. The challenge lies in understanding how meaning is created and shared, not just within our own organization, in our culture, with our dominant mental models, but also from the perspectives of whole-of-government efforts, our coalition partners, and our rivals. This article refreshes the reader on the theory of social systems, and proposes an approach to creating such meaningful maps, whether as a sketch on a whiteboard, a Powerpoint slide, or the product of professional GIS work.

  • The Urgency is in the Mirror
    (Fodé Beaudet)

    What is urgent when the path forward is unclear amidst complex challenges? The paper argues for providing legitimacy to processes where people co-design how they will intervene to adapt for the future, starting now. This implies to support design approaches that engage people who are affected by change, going beyond mere consultation or feedback to extract information. Rather, the paper encourages a participatory approach from framing a theory of change as well as co-designing with others through the process of analysis, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of interventions. The author shares a personal journey and experiences that challenged his mental model, and outlines practical implications for participatory approaches.

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