Insight By Business Of Government Hour

Military design thinking: a conversation with Hal McNair, Ben Zweibelson and Nate Schwagler

This content is provided by the IBM Center for the Business  of Government.

Mondays at 11:00 a.m. & Fridays at 1:00 p.m.

The Business of Government Radio Hour, hosted by Michael J. Keegan, features a conversation with a federal executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Guests include administrators, chief financial officers, chief information officers, chief operating officers, commissioners, controllers, directors, and undersecretaries.


What is Military Design Thinking? How is Design being used to transforming military planning process? What is the Joint Special Operations University doing to educate special operations personnel in the use of design thinking? Michael Keegan explored these questions and more with Hal McNair, Director of Continuing Education at the Joint Special Operation University and faculty members Ben Zweibelson and Nate Schwagler.



Hal McNair has more than 30 years of experience and responsibility with special operations forces both on active duty and as a DoD Civilian. As the Director of Center for Continuing Education, Joint Special Operations University, Mr. McNair directs a combined force of military, government civilians, DoD Contractors and part-time contractors comprised of US and International members that perform over 70 education events per year in CONUS and OCONUS locations in compliance with US Export Compliance and security laws and regulations. This education program is valued at over $ 4.2 million for global engagement of special operations partners

Since joining the Joint Special Operations University, Mr. McNair served as the primary instructor in all matters related to Special Operations Command and Control both for US and Multinational Forces. He lectures on the full range of Special Operations topics in numerous courses and with mobile education teams preparing Special Operations partners. He also lectures on the effects of stress to future commanders within USSOCOM and in venues throughout the USA, Europe and the Middle East.

Mr. McNair was a part of the Army Special Forces service, which included assignments in the J3 Special Operations Command Atlantic, and was responsible for conceptualizing, coordinating and conducting SO training exercises in multiple sites within the United States and the Caribbean. He served as the Senior Military Advisor to the CARICOM Battalion in Haiti. Directed over 300 personnel from eight nations in providing humanitarian and security assistance for Haitian government during its return to democratic rule. Guided the daily interaction of this multi-national task force with leaders from the Haitian government, Department of State, U.S. Military, and Caribbean political leaders. As the Chief O&M Budget Division United States Special Operations Command, he developed, submitted, and administered a one billion dollar operating budget for four major headquarters. Commanded a Special Forces Operational Detachment ‘Alpha” (ODA532) a Special Forces Company (ODB530) and was the 1st BN 5Th Special Forces Group Battalion Executive Officer and Battalion S3.


Ben Zweibelson is the Program Director for Design and Innovation at the Joint Special Operations University and is a doctoral student at Lancaster University. A retired U.S. Army Infantry officer and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Ben has provided design education across USSOCOM, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Government, academia and industry as well as internationally. He was named “design conference ambassador” for the second year in a row for the upcoming IMDC, and has recently lectured on design at the Polish and Danish War Colleges, the Canadian Forces College, NATO Schools at Oberammergau, the National Counterterrorism Center, the IBM capstone SPADE conference for NATO in Copenhagen, as well as numerous Special Operations and strategic level defense assets in 2018.


Nathan Schwagler is a faculty member at the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), US Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force base. He also serves as the founding co-director of a corporate creativity and innovation services laboratory housed within The Salvador Dalí Museum in Saint Petersburg, FL. In his role at JSOU, Nathan supports two teams: the Creative Problem Solving group and the Military Design group with curriculum development, faculty-led instruction, and workshop facilitation. In addition to expert-level facilitation skills across a portfolio of Creative Problem Solving methodologies (Design Thinking, TRIZ, Synectics, Lateral Thinking, Bio-Mimicry, Osborn-Parnes CPS), Nathan is also a certified practitioner of LEGO Serious Play, and is a certified administrator of both the Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile and the creative problem solving preference measure, FourSight (utilized by organizations including: NIKE, Pfizer, GOOGLE, Disney, HP, IBM, Kraft, and L’oreal, and academic institutions including: MIT, Stanford, and Harvard). He is a published author of peer-reviewed and popular press articles, and a co-author of a recent textbook: “Organizational Creativity: A Practical Guide for Innovators and Entrepreneurs” (Sage, 2017).


The Business Of Government Hour

MONDAYS at 11:00 A.M. and FRIDAYS at 1:00 P.M.

Michael J. Keegan, Leadership Fellow, IBM Center for The Business of Government

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