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24 March 2021

Organic Design


Towards an Organic Approach to Security Design: The Promises of Practitioners Driven Innovation in Canadian Armed Forces & Department of National Defence (CAF/DND)

Project Leaders

Dr. Michele Mastroeni
Dr. Philippe Dufort
Dr. Philippe Beaulieu-B.


A more flexible, strategically-capable CAF/DND able to address and adapt to the increasing complexity of security environments in the 21st century.


Developing and circulating a design model tailored for CAF/DND’s requirements by finding inspiration in existing intuitive forms of conceptual innovation attempted by CAF/DND personnel in the last decade and augmented by the state of the art in design and innovation research.


Leveraging the extensive field and organizational learning experience of CAF/DND personnel to develop a design model that will organically blend with and enhance CAF/DND culture of innovation.


CAF/DND are facing a strategic environment that is becoming increasingly volatile, complex, uncertain and ambiguous (VUCA) in the 21st century. As a response, CAF/DND experimented with several design models to enhance planning and problem-solving capabilities in the last decade. NATO allies & partners such as the Israel Defense Forces, the US army, and the Joint Special Operations University, civilian universities such as the Rotman School of Business or the Stanford d.School and private companies such as IBM, IDEO and Humantific  provided a vast array of models. Defence Research & Development Canada (DRDC) first explored these models up to their integration in Canadian Forces College curriculums in the late 2000s to their much wider use across CAF/DND in the late 2010s. While some CAF/DND personnel find value in these models, they often suggest that the potential is limited in CAF/DND organisations.

In this project, we agree with them. We argue that these models are reaching their limits since these models were not developed for CAF/DND, but for different organisational requirements and circumstances. Instead, we suggest that CAF/DND is ready to develop its own model based on the vast experience of its personnel in innovating intuitively to address security challenges in the 21st century. Our project will assist by bringing these experiences to the foreground, reveal patterns across them and ground a security design model that will organically blend with CAF/DND organisations.


We will rely on participant observation, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and surveys with CAF/DND personnel to gather intuitive driven innovation experiences in five case studies.


The Canadian Organic Approach to Security Design as a main deliverable will become a capability providing a cognitive advantage to CAF/DND personnel and their organisations. This deliverable will also become a core resource for Professional and Graduate Military Education including by replacing Canadian Forces College (CFC)’s agnostic approach to design for defence purposes.

The research team is coordinated by three lead researchers with extensive experience conducting research with defence and security practitioners and assisting Professional Military Education. They are supported by a team of four research assistants and a coordinator based at the Ontario College of Arts and Design (OCAD) and York University in Toronto.