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National Security Innovation Education

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Addressing the array of challenges facing the Navy, DoD, and broader national security community demands unprecedented imagination and creativity.

The Gordian Knot Center leverages the strengths of Stanford’s education system and Silicon Valley’s culture of innovation to tackle these problems by offering courses related to technology, innovation, and national security. GKC will build upon classes currently taught at Stanford developed and taught by GKC affiliated faculty.

MS&E 296 / INTLPOL 340

Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition

This class examines how advances in technologies like computing power, semiconductors, AI/machine learning, autonomy, space, and cyber are at the core of 21st century great power competition. These technological advances are driving the deployment of new military and broader national security relevant technologies, as well as novel operational concepts, organization structures, and strategies.

This course appreciates historical patterns in the innovation of military systems: technological innovation > new weapons > experimentation with new weapons/operational concepts > pushback from incumbents > first use of new operational concepts. The class also explores how technology affects other aspects of great power competition ranging from economics to soft power. Students will apply course concepts to team projects that identify opportunities for the U.S. to maintain its technological edge and compete more effectively in this era of great power rivalry.

(2021 Instructors: Joseph Felter, Steve Blank, Raj Shah)

Jim Mattis teaching
MS&E 297

Hacking for Defense: Solving National Security issues with the Lean Launchpad

In a crisis, national security initiatives move at the speed of a startup yet in peacetime they default to decades-long acquisition and procurement cycles. Startups operate with continual speed and urgency 24/7. Over the last few years they've learned how to be not only fast, but also extremely efficient with resources and time using Lean startup methodologies. In this class student teams will take actual national security problems and learn how to apply Lean startup principles, ("business model canvas," "customer development," and "agile engineering) to discover and validate customer needs and to continually build iterative prototypes to test whether they understood the problem and solution. Teams take a hands-on approach requiring close engagement with actual military, Department of Defense, and other government agency end-users and conclude by briefing their results to actual DoD stakeholders. 

(2022 Instructors: Steve Blank, Joseph Felter, Steve Weinstein)