“Do you want to be somebody, or do something?”
You will be a really big deal at FANG but you are not likely to do as interesting work as you would in a smaller mildly successful company.
It's a total hagiography with some dubious historical claims, but a fun and interesting read nonetheless.
- why the F-35 is a total disaster
- the Pentagon's intrinsic inability to make reasonable decisions
In a nutshell, this guy Boyd pioneered modern fighter jet design (and important general strategic theorems as well), but spent his career fighting crony-bureaucrats to get any of it adopted by the U.S. military
Someone already linked John Boyd below in the comments. He's worth reading much more about --
He's often credited with his later-life grand strategy, but his Aerial Attack Study in the early 1960's is actually more impressive to me. He developed a working mathematical model of how fighters (and other aircraft) can gain or lose speed, velocity, turning, etc at different speeds/altitudes/etc based on their specs.
A lot of "sexy-looking" fighters performed pretty poorly, and the Air Force command were aghast at many aspects of the study.
At the time, the "state of the art" was building multi-purpose aircraft that could do reconnaissance, establish air superiority (dogfighting), bomb enemy targets, etc. But these multi-purpose aircraft didn't excel on any parameter: they weren't large enough to carry the fuel and payload to be exceptional bombers, and they weren't fast and light enough to out-dogfight the leading Soviet aircraft.
The book on Boyd I linked talks about the back-and-forth nature of defense contracting and the armed forces in that era, which was a problem. Likewise, it describes the various jockeying for power and budget between the various branches of the armed services: Navy, Air Force, and Army all had aircraft and certain missions assigned to them, and fought to preserve and expand their territory.
Close Air Support (CAS) is a mission the Air Force was never so crazy about and was somewhat de-prioritizing compared to air superiority and strategic bombing missions... yet, at the same time, they didn't want to lose the mission to the Army for political reasons.
Meanwhile, Boyd and the people he worked with, notably aircraft designer Pierre Sprey who led the A-10's build -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Sprey -- they didn't see their roles as just related to being a technician or soldier, but were very deep historians and scientists.
They noted that a lot of Nazi Germany's early success was the mix of maneuver warfare mixed with close-air support from Stuka Bombers. The Nazi advantage was erased when the Western Allies eventually achieved air superiority, but Luftwaffe CAS was absolutely devastating in the early stages of WWII.
Sprey, Boyd, and the rest built around the theory of CAS and seeing the potential of it for turning a ground war, and then sat to work out an aircraft that was about as un-sexy as it gets, but was incredibly safe for the pilot, could stay involved in the battle for a very long time, and could have devastating impact on enemy ground forces.
The A-10 thus isn't flashy, can't do multi-mission roles (at the time, it was the only pure CAS airplane in the U.S. armed forces; it only did close air support and nothing else), it's not particularly fast, it doesn't look good at an air show, it's not particularly prestigious.
It is, however, devastatingly effective as a tank killer, artillery killer, convoy killer. Rather effective against infantry too.
The lessons from Boyd, aircraft design, etc, are probably worth reading for anyone who deals with technology or organizational development, since they seem timeless -- eventually prestige and politics come to dominate true mission, and how do you navigate around that?
The book "Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the World" is worth reading; so are the remnants of various briefings Boyd and colleagues gave with commentary. A useful insight into lots of things, not the least of them how to actually get things done with ingenuity and how to really be service-oriented in a world that often doesn't reward that. Marvelous book, amazing men, great stories, lots of lessons. Highly highly recommended.
1. Boyd ( http://www.amazon.com/Boyd-Fighter-Pilot-Who-Changed-ebook/d... ) - Came up with the EM theory that gave the air force the analytical framework to analyze dog fighting maneuvers and aircraft. Known for authoring the OODA loop and leading the infamous Fighter Mafia that gave us the F-16 and F/A-18
2. Warfight ( http://www.amazon.com/Warfighting-M-Gray-ebook/dp/B00DPTK4ZE... ) Boyd' OODA ideas distilled into a book
3. The American Way of War ( http://www.amazon.com/The-American-Way-War-University/dp/B00... )
4. Engineers of Victory ( http://www.amazon.com/Engineers-Victory-Problem-Solvers-Turn... ) - a decent account of how middle level officers solve problems that allowed strategies to be realized
5. Makers of Modern Strategy ( http://www.amazon.com/Makers-Modern-Strategy-Machiavelli-Nuc... )
6. The German Army ( http://www.amazon.com/German-Army-1933-1945-Matthew-Cooper/d... ) - A great account of the rise and fall of the German army, including its innovations caused by the constraints imposed on it and its fall
7. Panzer Battles ( http://www.amazon.com/Panzer-Battles-Major-General-von-Melle... ) - a great account how the various battles fought by the German army and where they excelled and where their shortcomings are and vice versa for their enemies.
8. The Second World War( http://www.amazon.com/Second-World-War-Antony-Beevor-ebook/d... ) - Great "summary" of the Second World War, including the civilian dimension.
9. Panzer Leader ( http://www.amazon.com/Panzer-Leader-Heinz-Guderian/dp/030681... ) - a history of the development and deployment of the German panzer armies by the father of tank warfare himself.
10. Six Days of War ( http://www.amazon.com/Days-June-Making-Modern-Middle/dp/B004... )
11. The Yom Kippur War ( http://www.amazon.com/Yom-Kippur-War-Encounter-Transformed-e... ) - an account of the Yom Kippur War and how the Israelis were blind to the innovations of the Egyptian army that upended its defense strategy based on tanks and aircraft and also how a near victory for the Egyptians allowed them to negotiate a peace with Israel.
I guess this makes Boyd and Sprey co-designers in that they shaped the requirements and specifications.
The best general-audiences intro to Boyd-as-philosophy is probably Chet Richards' book Certain to Win: http://www.amazon.com/Certain-Win-Strategy-Applied-Business/...
Wikipedia has some brief descriptions of Boyd's work and thinking in his page on him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Boyd_%28military_strategis...
Fast Company magazine did a decent article on Boyd-for-business back in 2002: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/59/pilot.html
Many of Boyd's original writings have been preserved and made available for download here: http://dnipogo.org/john-r-boyd/ (Warning, though, these were not written for a general audience and can be quite dense.)
If you want a dense white paper try Boyd's mangum opus: http://goalsys.com/books/documents/DESTRUCTION_AND_CREATION....
and here's his excellent (and quite accessible) biography: http://www.amazon.com/Boyd-Fighter-Pilot-Who-Changed/dp/0316...
The book covers the history behind Boyd's OODA loop and a lot of Pentagon bureaucratic infighting as well. Corporate politics at its finest.
http://www.amazon.com/Boyd-Fighter-Pilot-Who-Changed/dp/0316... (I got my copy at the library though)
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