John MangoldFollow




School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


James Swezey


Conceptual thinking, creative thinking, design thinking, Leadership, Military, sense-making


Education | Other Education


The purpose of this qualitative single instrumental, exploratory, theory-building, holistic researcher case study was to explore a novel approach to military transformation; a prototype of a problem solving methodology that accounts for an inescapable reality in the current and future operational environment: complexity and uncertainty. Design thinking was used as an essential component supporting a theoretical framework to explore the process of solving complex, ill-structured problems. Fifteen participants from a senior U.S. military service college were studied using observations, interviews, and site documents. The data analyzed used the systematic, analytic procedures of Stake (1995, 2008) and Merriam, (1998, 2009) whereby analysis begins as data are collected and more focus is applied to the problem solving process and collaborative learning. Separately, much has been written on the theories of design thinking, problem solving, program improvement, and collaborative learning. However, no material exists that explores the intrinsic value of a design thinking-led education for military planners in a practical setting. Based on the themes that formed through observations, document analysis and individual interviews, I concluded that when presented with a complex, ill-defined problem and in the absence of receiving comprehensive and specific planning guidance, participants effectively collaborated and used the design thinking methodology.