US SOCOM Goes Google

Philippe Beaulieu-Brossard

This presentation explores the promises and limits of translating business inspired systemic design approaches for military purposes by examining United States Special Operations Command (hereafter SOCOM) experiences as a case study. From late 2007 onwards, SOCOM gradually adopted systemic design as the main approach for adapting military personnel for emerging conflicts. This presentation investigates four episodes: the development of Systemic Strategic Design (SDD) (2007-2011) — an holistic approach enabling foresight, the design curriculum at the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) (2011-2016), SOFWerX (2016) – an off-headquarter interface facilitating innovation and accelerating adaptation – and SOCOM design thinking white paper (2016). SOCOM first hired Booz Allen Hamilton’s Center for the Application of Design (CAD) for adapting military design thinking at the strategic level in 2007. These early efforts built on literatures in strategic studies, postmodern philosophy, systemic and complexity theory. Yet, the more SOCOM moved from contractual to internal systemic design capabilities, the more defense scientists, instructors and planners moved to business inspired systemic design literature. This presentation examines the benefits as well as the costs involved in this transaction. The benefits, to name but just a few, are simplification, acceleration, and legitimization, especially in non-combat contexts. The costs, to name but just a few, are diminished accountability, a greater tolerance to risk in terms of casualties, and lightness in the application of violence. This research is based on 17 ethnographic interviews, participant observation and textual analysis.

Posted Sep-2016

RSD proceedings are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

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