Ben Zweibelson
9 July 2021

Designing with Multiple Futures: Transforming conventional planning/strategy making

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In this stand-alone 55 minute educational module, the design team at “Think JSOU” (the Joint Special Operations University) provides some of the core military design techniques on generating multiple futures and implementing them into traditional military decision-making (planning, operational design, campaign design, strategy) for complex military challenges. This is a public-facing design module made available for JSOU’s ongoing educational outreach as part of its core mission to support the US Special Operation Command (USSOCOM) enterprise, the Department of Defense, USG agencies, allies and partners. Examples of modules such as these demonstrate a sampling of the design education available within JSOU curriculum for SOCOM, DoD, international and USG eligible students. Contact the JSOU Registrars for more information.

Many military and defense organizations struggle with reflecting on how and why they visualize the future, where those models, methods and theories (and language supporting them) may prove insufficient or limiting, and what alternatives exist. Drawing from the well-established commercial and industrial model for scenario planning (multiple futures, strategic foresight and other similar naming conventions), JSOU blends this with a heuristic aid called the ‘semiotic square’ to rapidly bring basic design and entry-level students immediately into a well structured yet divergent range of four futures. This module walks students through a reflection on how and why we plan and strategize in a linear, mechanistic and systematic fashion- and why in complex security contexts this line of thinking may prove disadvantageous. This module demonstrates an alternative and fuses scenario planning with the semiotic square to rapidly implement divergent futures for military consideration and discussion.

The Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) is the premier educational institution for Special Operations Forces (SOF) worldwide, directly supporting the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and SOF allies, partners, and other related agencies. “Think JSOU” is the YouTube Channel used as one of our educational outreach vehicles for engaging with broader audiences. In this series, JSOU Design faculty such as Dr. Ben Zweibelson (JSOU design course director, design theorist and educator; contractor) present unique JSOU design facilitation techniques. Check out the JSOU Design facilitation playlist as well as other design lectures, videos, podcasts, articles, monographs and other content at Think JSOU as well as elsewhere online and through JSOU.

This video was produced by a USG agency (JSOU, USSOCOM) for educational purposes; fair use copyright properties apply. The opinions expressed in this and any Think JSOU video are those of the participants and do not reflect any official policy or position of JSOU, USSOCOM, the US Department of Defense or the US Government.