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Icarus
Ok, not really…but if AU did have one — and they should — this would be a cool statue. (Credit: Scott McLeod)
14 September 2018

Introducing The Icarus Institute: The USAF Center for Strategic Design Thinking

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Original post can be found here: https://medium.com/@jasonmichaeltrew/introducing-the-icarus-institute-the-usaf-center-for-strategic-design-thinking-ec02496d3346

I’ve been obsessed with this question: how might we innovate education so we better educate innovators? Asked differently, the innovation ecosystem is full of people ‘bending metal,’ but at Air University, we’re in the business of ‘bending minds.’ Still, we can learn plenty from those who design physical artifacts.

One of the principles of design thinking, for example, is ‘low-resolution prototyping.’ Essentially, you show your unfinished work in order to get feedback — regardless of how uncomfortable this makes me (just part of being ‘human v1.0,’ I guess). So, in that spirit, here’s a first hack at answering my opening question: a news release from the future, announcing an Air Force design school.

I jokingly named it after the mythical Icarus, because — as I’ve argued on the page and from the stage — I believe his image is worth rescuing. Forget about the name, however. Do you think this idea is worth developing?

Should Air University create its own version of Stanford’s d.school?

Would it be useful to have a place demonstrating the value of cutting edge workspaces…hosting design sprints…contributing to the educational experiences already located at Maxwell Air Force Base…translating the latest innovation techniques into airminded language that resonates with Airmen?

Comment below or write me directly with your thoughts!

Here are examples of spaces that help stimulate the type of creativity and collaboration we need in order to teach and practice ‘strategic design thinking.’

Note #1: I’ve used the term ‘design thinking’ because the concept is well known and is associated with the type of physical spaces and creative practices Air University should explore for itself. There is, however, a better adjective for the type of thinking I have in mind: ‘strategic.’ In this context, it isn’t meant to describe a level of war or leadership, but rather a constellation of executive skills such as critical thinking, creative synthesis, open collaboration, systems thinking, narrative intelligence, military design, and so forth.

Note #2: I’m no ‘Ned Stark,’ but as part of the virtuous insurgency, I do hope this idea eventually gets the attention of someone senior enough to ‘move out.’ I’ll gladly take suggestions on how to make that happen, too!

Jason “TOGA” Trew, PhD, is a senior pilot and a graduate of the US Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS). His doctoral dissertation, “‘No One Comes Close’: The Technological Paradigm of US Airmen” offers an original analysis of USAF culture through the History of Technology field. He is currently a squadron commander at Squadron Officer School.

The opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the position of the US Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force, or Air University.

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