Science Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd
Prices for book: Science Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd
Book ISBN: 9780415371032
Author(s): Frans Osinga
Document type: Trade Cloth
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This book is not a light read, but it's a worthwhile one. You'll find yourself re-reading sections and chapters multiple times as the subject matter is extremely nuanced and detailed. Many will be satisfied to wrap their study of Boyd up at a cursory understanding of the OODA Loop. This book is for those who are interested in the real lessons of his explorations and thinking. Highly recommended and likely to change the way you think about strategy, competitiveness and creating change.
Matthew Milan (Amazon.com)
This is an extraordinary work.
There is no doubt that John Boyd was a brilliant strategist and thinker. He was a prolific lecturer and given to meticulously constructing slide presentations (which we now call Power Point presentations). Yet a slide deck is a poor substitute for a "thick" narrative. And, unfortunately, Boyd did not publish. There are no books, there is no opus.
Now the gap has been filled. Frans Osinga's book is not only excellent, it is probably as "good as it's going to get" when it comes to the definitive work on Boyd. It is a scholarly work (the footnoting is meticulous); and represents the old style academic tradecraft that, unfortunately, has become a lost art in the age of the Internet. An enormous amount of time, effort, and intellectual depth was required of the author - for Osinga literally fills in the contextual blanks around complexity theory, chaos, Sun Tzu, and a dozen or more other esoteric subjects that influenced the intellect of John Boyd.
I recall a comment made by a gentleman who had written a piece about John Boyd: "To understand Boyd you need to become Boyd." Meaning that you had to immerse yourself in the array of literature that influenced Boyd, i.e., quantum physics, ecology, military history, epistemology, etc.; AND, I might add, to concurrently develop more than a passing understanding of how all this fits together before you can make sense of it for a willing reader.
If I had to choose one book to rescue from my burning library, this is it. Brilliant work, Col. Osinga!
John Marke (Amazon.com)
Impossible to rate this too highly
The benefits of a book like this (the hardcover edition) lies not only in its scope and intelligence, but also in its physical weight. Where the words themselves fail to penetrate the skulls of second-generation military minds, a sharp blow from above with this book will work wonders in a language they understand. It is only on rare occasions in life that any of us are privileged to be even dimly aware of being in the presence of true greatness. This magnificent work will confirm John Boyd's reputation and enhance - deservedly - that of its highly respected author. It is a book I shall have to read and re-read for some time to get the full benefit, and what a pleasure that is. It is impossible for me to rate this work too highly.
D. W. Griffiths (Amazon.com)
A MUST READ!
Colonel Osinga has written an important book distilling the strategic thinking of one of the 20th century's most important contributors, Colonel John R. Boyd. I began my "Boyd odyssey" a couple of years ago when I read Robert Coram's excellent biography, BOYD, The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (would recommend this title first to those unfamiliar with Col Boyd). Since reading Coram's book, I've read everything I could find on Boyd and his ideas. Col Osinga's book places Boyd's ideas in an accessible (albeit sometimes dense) format (agree with Col Richards (author of Certain to Win!---a translation of Boyd's strategy into business---and a very good read, as well) that sometimes the best things don't come easy). Col Osinga's book provides Boyd's ground-breaking methods of "how to win" and problem solving---a literal "out-of-the-box thinker"---with emphasis on THINKING.
Personally, after becoming acquainted with Boyd's work (I carry printed copies of his only published work, an essay called Destruction and Creation, in my computer bag read while traveling---giving copies to clients and friends) my business has changed and to a great extent, my life has changed. Boyd's method of synthesizing data from disparate sources has helped me to help clients solve problems and exposed me to areas I would have never investigated otherwise.
This book is important and highly recommended.
J. Scott Shipman (Amazon.com)
New Insights into a Modern Classic
John Boyd's answer to the problem of winning in any form of conflict, the "Discourse on Winning and Losing," is a set of roughly 300 charts, and Dutch AF Col Frans Osinga has set himself the task of guiding his readers through them. It is a formidable assignment. Boyd, you see, did not intend the briefings of the Discourse to be read on their own. For years, he would not give out copies until after the presentation, and it had to be the "whole brief or no brief." It may seem obvious, but it was in briefing format not so much in tribute to Sun Tzu - although The Art of War is, like the Discourse, a set of bullet points - but simply because he didn't feel that there were enough readers inside the Beltway to make it worthwhile.
Osinga accomplishes his mission magnificently. If you are interested in Boyd's problem of how to win regardless, stop right now and order the book. If you have not heard the briefings, my recommendation is to begin with chapter one, then skip back to chapter seven for a summary of Boyd's influence on strategy. Then, download the charts, go back to chapter two, and work your way through the rest of the book. [The briefings are all available on Defense and the National Interest.]
Is it a tough read? Do you know of anything really worthwhile that is easy? Just as there is no royal road to mathematics, there is no royal road to Boyd. I was present at the creation of many of these charts, and I found a lot in this book that was new and helpful in broadening my understanding (for one thing, I have not, as Osinga did, read Boyd's original notes in the source books).
This book is a distilled version of Col Osinga's Ph.D. dissertation, which he completed while serving as a research fellow at the Clingendael Institute of International Relations in The Hague. He has done an excellent job of making academic rigor accessible to the general reader - the only equations, for example, are the ones Boyd used in "Destruction and Creation" - while exploiting the depth of research that a dissertation requires. There are 32 pages of single-spaced notes and 12 of bibliography.
I enthusiastically recommend Science, Strategy and War to all students of strategy, particularly those more concerned with where strategy is going than where it has been.
C. W. Richards (Amazon.com)
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