John Boyd, the brilliant fighter pilot and strategist/warrior-monk, opened his lectures on strategy with this example:
“Imagine that you are —
- on a ski slope with other skiers—retain this image
- in Florida riding in an outboard motorboat—maybe even towing water-skiers—retain this image,
- riding a bicycle on a nice spring day—retain this image, and
- a parent taking your son to a department store and that you notice he is fascinated by the tractors or tanks with rubber caterpillar treads—retain this image.
Now let’s pull the:
- skis off ski slope—discard and forget rest of image,
- outboard motor out of motorboat—discard and forget rest of image,
- handlebars off bicycle—discard and forget rest of image, and
- rubber treads off toy tractors or tanks—discard and forget rest of image.
This leaves us with
- outboard motor
- handlebars, and
- rubber treads.
Pulling all this together, what do we have?
As Boyd points out, there are two distinct processes at work here. First we need to pull ideas apart and understand how they will work in different contexts (analysis), building a library of interesting tactics we can use in solving future problems. Second, we need to put these ideas back together in new combinations (synthesis), providing us with the opportunity to understand how apparently unrelated ideas and actions can be connected to one another.
How do we create a situation where we can make snowmobiles?
The paragraph above and the Boyd Lecture extract are excerpted from Peter Evan Greenwood’s excellent article found HERE:
I build snowmobiles with cognitive neuroscience and training. See my previous post HERE
Among the disciplines I drew on to solve the problem identified in that post are: martial arts, bodywork therapies, cognitive neuroscience, clinical therapy, vision training, medical research on zero-G effects, big game hunting and the hunting of humans.
The synthesis of disparate ideas into a mash-up of something new that provides a unique solution to difficult problems works in neuroscience based training just as in military strategy, chaos theory and business consulting.