"The book is both an excellent
primer for those new to Boyd and a catalyst
with business experience trying to internalize the
relevance of Boyd´s thinking."
Chuck Leader, LtCol
USMC (Ret.) and information technology company CEO;
"A Winning Combination," Marine Corps Gazette, March
Certain to Win [Sun Tzu´s prognosis for generals who follow his advice]
develops the strategy of the late US Air Force Colonel John R. Boyd for the world
The success of Robert Coram’s monumental biography, Boyd, the Fighter Pilot
Who Changed the Art of War, rekindled interest in this obscure pilot and documented
his influence on military matters ranging from his early work on fighter tactics
to the USMC´s maneuver warfare doctrine
to the planning for Operation Desert Storm.
Unfortunately Boyd’s written legacy, consisting of a single paper and a four-set
cycle of briefings, addresses strategy only in war. [All of Boyd´s briefings are available
Slightly East of New.]
Boyd and Business
Boyd did study business. He read everything he could find on the Toyota
Production System and came to consider it as an implementation of ideas similar
to his own. He took business into account when he formulated the final version of
loop” and in his last major briefing, Conceptual Spiral, on science and
technology. He read and commented on early drafts of this manuscript, but he never
wrote on how business could operate more profitably by using his ideas.
Other writers and business strategists have taken up the challenge, introducing
Boyd’s concepts and suggesting applications to business. Keith Hammonds, in
Fast Company, George Stalk and Tom Hout in Competing Against
Time, and Tom Peters most recently in Re-imagine! have described the
OODA loop and its effects on competitors.
They made significant contributions. Successful businesses, though, don’t
concentrate on affecting competitors but on enticing customers. You could
apply Boyd all you wanted to competitors, but unless this somehow caused customers
to buy your products and services, you’ve wasted time and money. If this were
all there were to Boyd, he would rate at most a sidebar in business strategy.
Business is not War
Part of the problem has been Boyd’s focus on war, where “affecting
competitors” is the whole idea. Armed conflict was his life for nearly 50
years, first as a fighter pilot, then as a tactician and an instructor of
fighter pilots, and after his retirement, as a military philosopher. Coram
describes (and I know from personal experience) how his quest consumed Boyd
virtually every waking hour.
It was not a monastic existence, though, since John was above everything else
a competitor and loved to argue over beer and cigars far into the night. During
most of the 1970s and 80s he worked at the Pentagon, where he could share ideas and debate with
other strategists and practitioners of the art of war. The result was the
remarkable synthesis we know as Patterns of Conflict.