Design Thinking: Creativity and Courage in Service of National Security.


This 1-day course is an experiential overview of the mindsets and tools of design thinking. Design thinking is a creative problem framing and solving process that generates future value (i.e, new products, services, or tools that are desirable for end users). It employs a balanced approach between creative and analytical problem solving, which facilitates deeper insight into problems and generates new solutions.

Design is increasingly being applied to complex, national security problems as diverse as crafting the future of maritime security, reforming U.S. government human capital strategies, and reframing how the National Security Council develops counter-terrorism strategies for the future.

This course will inspire participants to think like designers, equip them with the relevant design thinking toolkit, and empower them to experiment with an existing challenge through hands on practice and the application of design thinking tools to a real time design challenge.

The course is valuable to anyone and everyone who seeks solutions to complex problems and must work across disciplines and organizational boundaries to collaborate and innovate. Materials on design thinking and references will be provided to all attendees. Upon completion of the course, participants will begin to see opportunities to apply design thinking everywhere in their organizations and be prepared to lead teams through the design thinking process.

What you will learn:

  • How to lead the human centered design thinking process.
  • Exercises to help break cognitive constraints.
  • How to employ a designer’s mindset of empathy, possibility, imagination, and synthesis.
  • How to build a user point of view statement and lead creative brainstorming sessions.
  • Methods to build and test prototypes.

Course Outline:

  1. Introduction Overview and discussion of human centered design and its application to a wide variety of environments and problems. Special attention will be paid to case studies focused on national security challenges.
  2. Design Sprint Collaboratively, work through a quick design sprint that demonstrates an end-to-end design process and baselines the language and concepts of design thinking.
  3. Design Challenge A relevant design challenge will be revealed to the group that will serve as the practical basis for the day’s course. Every effort will be made to ensure this challenge is relevant to the future of innovation within the Navy. Each stage of the design thinking process will be introduced and practiced as it relates to the design challenge.
  4. Understand and Define Using the design challenge, explore and conduct empathy interviews, using best practices in design research and interviewing, within a small group.
  5. Ideate Engage in creative brainstorming techniques to spark bold ideas and frame new possibilities for action related to the design challenge.
  6. Prototype and Test Turn your creative ideas into low fidelity prototypes and test them with other course participants. Practice testing for functionality and capture ideas for future prototype iteration.


This course is not on the current schedule of open enrollment courses. If you are interested in attending this or another course as open enrollment, please contact us at (410)956-8805 or at and indicate the course name and number of students who wish to participate. ATI typically schedules open enrollment courses with a lead time of 3-5 months. Group courses can be presented at your facility at any time. For on-site pricing, request an on-site quote. You may also call us at (410)956-8805 or email us at


  • Alexa Courtney is dedicated to helping organizations and communities thrive in complex environments. She has over 15 years experience working in the U.S. and globally in South Asia, Africa, and Europe building new businesses, designing strategies to help organizations adapt and create impact, and leading research and assessment teams. She is the Founder and CEO of Frontier Design Group, a strategy and design firm committed to helping organizations and communities think differently about challenges by harnessing the tools of design and systems thinking. Frontier Design Group is partnered with a wide variety of public and private organizations seeking to solve national and human security challenges, including the United States Institute of Peace, U.S. Government agencies, United Way Worldwide, and The Omidyar Group. Prior to founding Frontier Design Group, Ms. Courtney held senior positions in the private sector and served in the U.S. government as Senior Civil-Military Advisor and Conflict Specialist at the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

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