The Security Studies Program at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service has come up with a truly novel approach to solving national security problems. A class called Hacking4Defense groups graduate students into interdisciplinary teams that apply lean startup theory devised in Silicon Valley to finding solutions for urgent security challenges. The basic idea is that it isn’t enough to understand operational challenges and technologies that might address them, students also need to understand the processes through which new ideas are implemented and fielded. Lean startup theory lends itself well to this endeavor, because it requires budding entrepreneurs to frame their business hypotheses and then immediately begin testing them through interactions with potential customers and investors. In the case of Hacking4Defense, the customers are mainly government agencies and the investors are either agencies or federal contractors. Instructors Chris Taylor and Matt Zais have structured the class so rigorously that several of the projects students proposed have already found supporters in government to carry them forward after classes end. I have written a commentary about this unique class for Forbes that you can read here.
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