Ever since I spent a week at a business modelling bootcamp together with – among others – a couple of quite secretive NSA employees, I have been fascinated by lean innovation within the military.
Why? Because I can’t think of a much bigger – pardon me – clash of philosophies; one is nimble, lean and mean, the other is cumbersome, big, complex and – ok – mean too (albeit in a very different way).
For that reason it is also worth reading Lean Startup guru Steve Blanks reflections on lessons for the new administration on technology, innovation and modern war. It is a fascinating read of two ‘worlds’ colliding but still trying to find a common path forward.
The most jaw dropping nugget for me was the fact that US military has for decades relied on being at the front of tech innovation to an extend that as they developed new technologies, they could also work on countermeasures and thus play both sides at the same time; offence and defence.
That ability has been lost as more and more innovation has moved to the private sector. And it has profound consequences in more aspects than one.
Not only does it say a lot about the US potential to come out of a potential future conflict as the victor. It is no longer guaranteed, although I would still think the US has the upper hand.
It also says a lot about the interconnectivity between government, private enterprise and innovation. That one relies on the other and no chain is stronger than the weakest link. It seems like a lot of new uncertainties have arisen that we now all have to be aware of and deal with.
But the most important point I think is the notion that you can really do more with less. It is no longer the biggest budgets that determines who will prevail. Everybody has a – so to say – fighting – chance, and to some extend it’s more a matter of creativity, skill and ingenuity than brute force.
It can be frightening for sure. But outside the realm of defence it should also serve as a huge inspiration to all those with smaller budgets, less ressources and objectively less muscle:
There is a chance you might come out on top even if the odds and conventional wisdom are stacked against you.