Operational Design, Taming Wicked Problems, and Lawfare

Guy Duczynski, Sascha-Dominik Bachmann, Matthew Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines operational design as one aspect of a larger design-thinking domain. Design and designing are firmly established within the literature and describe those actions and endeavours associated with creating form and/or function—the object at the centre of the writers’ attention has a purpose and its purposefulness can be measured objectively. Operational design, on the other hand, is a relatively new term and is used within a military context to describe a form of operational planning that is more attentive to the inner subtleties of an area of interest and necessarily postpones the development of courses of action until after the subject has been thoroughly and comprehensively appreciated. It acknowledges the key characteristics of wickedness and messiness that also frustrate efforts to achieve outcomes in heavily contested social contexts—conflict. In these contexts, there is a rich presence of those who oppose, those who are neutral, and those who support—all must be attended to. Ultimately, all conflict is a clash of wills and a search for asymmetry; operational design and growing the practise of lawfare, therefore, aids the development, sequencing, and execution of least effort activities to achieve specified outcomes. The method presented does not seek to replace current military planning process; it does, however, offer a valuable companion method for situations of great complexity and ambiguity, where imaginative thinking, including the use of lawfare, may be appropriate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-92
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Information Warfare
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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