About this event

On 1 June 2022, JSOU participated in the 17th International Conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems and Technology (DESRIST). President Dr. Isaiah "Ike" Wilson presented an introduction on the Future of the SOF Profession, the complexity of the Compound Security Environment we operate in, and how design science can help us understand, frame, and ultimately engage the puzzles we are faced with. The JSOU Team then participated in the DESRIST Conference's Industrial Workshop, facilitating two discussions on the topic of Illegal, Unreported, Undocumented Fishing (IUUF), a topic chosen by JSOU as an ongoing research effort in the context of influence and great power competition. Finally Peter W. Singer gave a Keynote Address on the topic of narrative storytelling to influence decision-makers and thereby decisions. Various breakout sessions and panels took place simultaneously, and many interesting and useful papers were submitted for discussion in the DESRIST Conference, all of which are available at the link found in the Executive Summary included in this Forum Page under Documents. The JSOU Forum herein, titled "Reimagining the Compound Security Environment and the Future of Special Operations: Enhancing Understanding by Using Design Science Research", is a virtual forum presented digitally by JSOU at jsou.edu. This means that the Forum itself includes all the materials found here at this website, all materials are presented digitally, either in the form of papers or recordings. We believe there is something of use for everyone in the SOF Enterprise here, so check out the JSOU President's Opener, the Executive Summary, and the Keynote Address from Peter W. Singer first, and explore from there if you are particularly interested in design science. The DESRIST 2022 web page can provide further information on related topics.  

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Isaiah Wilson
Isaiah Wilson

Dr. Isaiah (Ike) Wilson III, PhD is the President of the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU). He is a master strategist and a leading advocate for change in America’s concepts of and approaches to security and defense policy, and affairs of war and peace. A decorated combat veteran, former army aviator, and strategist, he most recently served as Director (Chief), Commander’s Initiatives Group, for the Commander, U.S. Central Command. A full professor of political science, Dr. Wilson formerly served as a professor and academic program director at West Point, where he also founded the West Point Grand Strategy Program. He has also taught extensively at the undergraduate and graduate levels at a number of prestigious colleges and universities, including Columbia University, Yale University, George Washington University, and the National War College. Prior to his appointment with U.S. Special Operations Command, Dr. Wilson was the Director of the U.S. Army War College (USAWC) Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) and USAWC Press. Dr. Wilson has numerous publications to his credit, including, Thinking Beyond War: Civil-Military Relations and Why America Fails to Win the Peace. Dr. Wilson is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an International Affairs Fellow with New America.  He also serves as a professor of practice with the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University. 

Peter Singer
Peter Singer

Peter Warren Singer is Strategist at New America, a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University, and Founder & Managing Partner at Useful Fiction LLC.

A New York Times Bestselling author, described in the Wall Street Journal as “the premier futurist in the national-security environment” and “all-around smart guy” in the Washington Post, he has been named by the Smithsonian as one of the nation’s 100 leading innovators, by Defense News as one of the 100 most influential people in defense issues, by Foreign Policy to their Top 100 Global Thinkers List, and as an official “Mad Scientist” for the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. No author, living or dead, has more books on the professional US military reading lists. His non-fiction books include Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, Children at War, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century; Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know and most recently LikeWar, which explores how social media has changed war and politics. It was named an Amazon and Foreign Affairs book of the year and reviewed by Booklist as “LikeWar should be required reading for everyone living in a democracy and all who aspire to.” He is also the co-author of a new type of novel, using the format of a technothriller to communicate nonfiction research. Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War was both a top summer read and led to briefings everywhere from the White House to the Pentagon. His latest is Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution. It has been described by the creator of Lost and Watchmen as “A visionary new form of storytelling—a rollercoaster ride of science fiction blended with science fact,” and by the head of Army Cyber Command as “I loved Burn-In so much that I’ve already read it twice".

Dr. Isaiah "Ike" Wilson III, JSOU President. Opening Remarks

Dr. Isaiah "Ike" Wilson III, JSOU President. Opening Remarks, Reimagining the Compound Security Environment and the Future of Special Operations: Enhancing Understanding by Using Design Science Research, JSOU Q3 2022 Forum Opinions in this forum are those of the presenters and may not necessarily be the views of U.S. Government, Department of Defense, United States Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations University.

Show Notes:

JSOU is a Polytechnic University. Serves USSOCOM, 80K enterprise we serve, that is global.

I am here to evolve the university to move us into the new era, from training to an education focus, passing on new knowledge to the warfighter. We have to change the way we see the SOF operator, from what we think of as the direct action operator, lethal action operator, to a more accurate one that operates in the grey spaces.

We now focus on strategic competition, integrated deterrence, great power competition, rising China, reventus Russia, DPRK, Islamic State of Iran, and counterterrorism.  All these threats separately are wicked problem sets, add them all together and we have a Compound Security Threat Environment. It is a puzzle, part problem and part opportunity.

How has global competition changed? What implications of that change can help us get to a peaceful place, so we can win without fighting?  What kind of force do we need? What constitutes a special operator? How can we lead that change for ourselves? This is our puzzle.

Finally, what does this mean for our university?  How do we help create this new operator, influence this profession?

We use design at JSOU to help figure out these issues. All of these questions are design questions, and we appreciate the opportunity to share them and consider them here.

Keynote Address: Peter W. Singer, "How to Use the Power of a Story Well Told"

Peter W. Singer "How to Use The Power of a Story Well Told". Keynote Speaker, Reimagining the Compound Security Environment and the Future of Special Operations: Enhancing Understanding by Using Design Science Research, JSOU Q3 2022 Forum Opinions in this forum are those of the presenters and may not necessarily be the views of U.S. Government, Department of Defense, United States Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations University.

Show Notes:

There is a challenge every person faces whenever they are pitching and idea to an audience. It is a challenge whenever we are speaking or writing to convince others.

Bringing together complex ideas and the reality coming out of them. We often have BOTH a failure of imagination during analysis AND a failure of communicating what we want to get across to our audience. First is identifying the new situation, the new challenge. Second is communicating that information to others, and getting them to buy in. We need them to ACT on change, so how do we convince them to do so.

Useful Fiction – deliberate blend of non-fictional research or analysis, but written up NOT in a report, but an imaginative NARRATIVE. It is using stories, entertainment, to convey real ideas.

This is NOT “science fiction” -  what the CIA did after 911, which was to call in movie / science fiction writers and have them dream up fanciful terrorist scenarios in order to try to address their perceived lack of imagination as led to 911. These were writers who had no background in terrorism or intelligence, so their stories were not realistic or relevant. “Useful fiction” is grounded in reality, the facts are baked in, with a narrative used to tie everything together and make it all more consumable.

Ghost Fleet (Singer’s latest novel):  was a novel about what a war between the U.S. and Russia might look like. It was a novel that had 27 pages of research in it. Use story to share research – this is research. Tactics, quotes and other parts are actually true, but written in novel form. The book turned out to be useful to policy makers. White house had 3 separate investigations in order to make sure that things in that book did not come true, and that others did come true.

How is this applicable for us?  Memoranda and other important information, especially that which may be considered to be dry content, can be written in story form. We could create visualizations from the future (posters, graphic novels, etc) in order to convey concerns that we have now that are grounded in reality.

What tools do we have to do this?  Commission projects, crowd sourcing, volunteers. We put the problem on the table and ask the world to write about it.

Why are stories so useful?  4 reasons: 

1.      By placing facts in synthetic experiences, we can increase the impact of the experience of learning or reading it. Our brains have evolved to understand stories. Also, studies show that reading a story, more parts of your brain light up than when you are reading a memorandum.

2.       Narrative hits emotion. We want to illicit emotion because it causes people to act.

3.       The Ask. Narrative is more useful because it is easier to get people to read it.

4.       Connection and distribution. Humans connect over stories. We share stories to achieve social connection, whether the story is good or bad, we share it and connect by it. Do we connect this way when we discuss dry PowerPoints or memoranda?


HOW to tell a good story:           

              Some people are born with the ability. Others are not, but they can be taught.

              Who is the ideal reader? What is the target audience? Where is the target audience? How can you show that you understand their world? How can you trigger emotion in them?


              In story, there is no value in BLUF, bottom line up front. We want to do the opposite, take the audience on a journey. Build suspense, you are trying to create an emotional experience.

              A good story has well-developed characters.

              Use a specific detail that will elicit strong emotion, because that detail will be the thing that is remembered while everything else is forgotten.

              Every story needs an ending that ties it all together. Should connect back to the goals of the initial story.