Anne Gibbon speaks at Stanford

What happens when a Naval Officer gets out of the Navy, goes to Stanford’s d.school, and then decides to take her knowledge of both to make a difference in public policy? Let’s ask Anne Gibbon.Over a period of about seven months this year, I consulted (civilian role, not reservist) for the Pacific Fleet. I worked for a staff function in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and got the best of both worlds — the camaraderie that is a unique joy known to those who have served, and the luxury of wearing hot pink jeans to work. I learned a lot about myself as a designer and a facilitator. At the end of those months, I wrote a long report on how design thinking and systems dynamics might serve the vision of the Pacific Fleet commander, Admiral Swift. The staff that hired me didn’t ask for any insights on systems dynamics, but I gave it to them anyways. “Post-It Rebel Goes to Sea?”

The Future of the Navy, and Cryptology is to better be able to understand the complex world we live in. In the end, all conflicts, all things that happen in this world have a human element to them. The future must be designed to take into account the complex and interconnected world we live in today.

The Pacific Fleet needs uniformed practitioners of design thinking and systems dynamics who understand the theoretical nuances and who can also lead the embodiment of the exercises. They need this because the messy military problem they concern themselves with — maritime security — can’t be silo’ed into the pieces that only relate to the military, leaving other aspects to diplomats and environmentalists.

The Cryptologic Community should look deeply into its own processes and ask the question, “If I could design this from the ground up, is this how I would have designed it?” We need to realize that the “system” isn’t some fixed and immobile beast that holds together through the sheer force of the universe. Instead, we need to begin to look at the systems we use to support us as tools that we can select and modify to help us as human beings to do our jobs. We should look at the end products of these efforts as affecting other human beings, and design the process to take the human aspect into account from the beginning. We must design in the social and diplomatic spheres, not just the military ones, because we are dealing with people, not faceless “nation-states.” War is inevitably between people, no matter how much we like to pretend its about the weapons.

This is will be a major undertaking. There is a huge culture shift underway, from centralized planning with its many barriers to implementing change, to a distributed network of “uniformed practitioners of design thinking and systems dynamics” who can bring about directed and designed change.

One major critique of the futurist is from those responsible for the status quo is that it will not be well planned. It will be haphazard and will throw away the lessons of the past – those lessons written in blood.

Design Thinking, Systems Thinking, and their brand sibling, Human Centered Design have to ability to avoid this failure, while bringing about more efficient and effective processes by which we may conduct maritime security.