Certain to Win

July 19, 2004

Comment: #516

Archive of all comments.

I am pleased to announce a new book, Certain to Win by Dr. Chet Richards, which explains and further develops the ideas of the late American strategist Col John Boyd with the aim of applying them to business and economic competition.

Many readers of this list know that Boyd's strategic ideas have been successfully applied to everything from air-to-air combat tactics and the design of fighter aircraft (F-15, F-16, F-18) to the USMC's maneuver warfare doctrine to the emerging phenomenon of "fourth generation warfare" that's causing the United States so much trouble around the world.

Although Chet draws heavily on Boyd's ideas, this book is most emphatically not another "business is war" book.

The idea that business is like war may sell books, but it is BS—business and war are completely separate forms of competition and conflict. Although several business books have referred to Boyd's idea of the OODA Loop in a very superficial manner, comparing business strategy to war strategy, no one to my knowledge has attempted to create a unified concept for applying Boyd's theories to the different competitive world of business—until now.

The reason business is different from war is that competition takes a different form: the outcome of the competition is mediated by a third party—the consumer. The goal for each competitor is not to defeat opponents but to attract customers—which is a constructive outcome. Attracting customers may lead to the demise of one's competition, but that destructive effect is an indirect effect and usually brought about by self inflicted wounds. In other words, as Chet Richards explains (I believe, for the first time), strategy and grand strategy are virtually the same thing in business, whereas in war, strategy and grand strategy of very different and in opposition, the former being destructive and the latter being constructive. [New readers might want to review Blaster #s 400,469, 476, 491, which discuss the tension between destructive effects of military strategy and the constructive aims of grand strategy.]

Notwithstanding these fundamentally different aims, Chet shows (again, I believe, for the first time) how the same ideas that John evolved in Patterns of Conflict—the ideas which underlie maneuver warfare and guerilla warfare—also form the basis for such commercial successes as the Toyota Production System and explain why Southwest Airlines is making money while United and Delta are putting themselves out of business.

But this is just a taste of the intriguing thoughts you'll find in this book.

Be advised, however, I am not an impartial observer.

Chet is one of my good friends and a close colleague. He started the book in 1988, and John helped him with the early drafts. As most readers of the Blaster know, I was very close to John for over 20 years, and we had many long discussions about Chet's work. I can say with complete certainty that John was excited about it. I encouraged Chet in his project from its inception, in part, because he was the only person I knew who was actually trying to expand John's theories. But it sat on the shelf until Robert Coram's biography of Boyd came out in 2002. The success of Coram's book, and some prodding from Robert and me, induced Chet to update and expand his efforts.

Even if you're not interested in business, Chet's book, Certain to Win, is a concise introduction to Boyd's theories and their general utility to winning the game of life.

You can order Certain to Win now from the publisher, Xlibris, from the following website or phone number:

or 1-888-795-4274.

It will be also available thru Amazon in a few weeks.  Xlibris, by the way, is a "print on demand" company, so please allow 2 weeks for a paperback or 3 weeks for a hardback.

 Chuck Spinney

"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."—James Madison, from a letter to W. T. Barry, August 4, 1822

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Thread-1: Boyd and Military Strategy

Thread-2: Defense Economics and Acquisition Reform