Eric Reis’ The Lean Startup was a New York Times best seller and vaulted Eric Reis from a successful but relatively unknown entrepreneur, to a household name in Silicon Valley and beyond. His book challenged businesses to think less about developing the perfect product before launching and more about delivering a viable product sooner, and rapidly iterating on it until it “crosses the chasm“. His theory centers around the principles of being fast, observing the market, and pivoting quickly to improve the offering. While original in his writing and successful at changing how many thought about product development, he wasn’t nearly the first to change a field with these principles.
In this, Eric Reis is like John Boyd, the legendary USAF Colonel who revolutionized air warfare.
John Boyd’s greatest contributions came after his time as a fighter pilot in the Korean War. Boyd believed that it was speed and maneuverability in air warfare was the key to victory. This belief led to the creation of the Lightweight Fighter program, which, after several iterations, gave birth to the F-16 Fighting Falcon and several other innovative aircraft. His focus on maneuverability went hand-in-hand with his theory-in-practice framework he called the OODA Loop; Observe-Orient-Decide-Act.
Both Eric Reis and John Boyd believed in the importance of speed and the ability to respond quickly in gaining victory. Like most great ideas, theirs were developed with the help of others and on the ideas of those before them. The OODA Loop was developed around the time of another loop that was gaining traction in the manufacturing field, the Deming Cycle. Which at their cores, are all simply variations of Bacon’s Scientific Method.
This idea of winning through action, learning and improving has shown up time and again in various forms because it works. While simple in concept, organizations can struggle to implement it if they don’t commit to building towards speed and being disciplined in its execution. For those who do, however, victory is likely theirs.
To read more on Boyd and the OODA Loop (vastly underappreciated), start here.