Noted military technology expert Dan Ward's manifesto for creating great products and projects using the methods of rapid innovation.
Why do some programs deliver their product under cost, while others bust their budget? Why do some deliver ahead of schedule, while others experience endless delays? Which products work better—the quick and thrifty or the slow and expensive? Which situation leads to superior equipment?
With nearly two decades as an engineering officer in the U. S. Air Force, Dan Ward explored these questions during tours of duty at military research laboratories, the Air Force Institute of Technology, an intelligence agency, the Pentagon and Afghanistan. The pattern he noticed revealed that the most successful project leaders in both the public and private sectors delivered top-shelf products with a skeleton crew, a shoestring budget, and a cannonball schedule. Excessive investment of time, money, or complexity actually reduced innovation. He concluded the secret to innovation is to be fast, inexpensive, simple, and small.
FIRE presents an entertaining and practical framework for pursuing rapid, frugal innovation. A story-filled blend of pop culture and engineering insight, FIRE has something for everyone: strategic concepts leaders can use as they cast a vision, actionable principles for managers as they make business decisions, and practical tools for workers as they design, build, assess and test new products.
Lt. Col. Ward, an engineering officer in the U.S. air force and blogger, spins a full-length book out of an overly simple concept. His first process was "FIST" (Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny), created to develop military gear. "FIRE" (Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained, Elegant) was developed for civilian use. According to Ward, the most successful leaders from both the military and civilian worlds do best with the least: small teams, a tiny budget, and hell-bent-for-leather deadlines. Spending less time and money is the best way to ensure greatness and innovation, he suggests. Efficiency for its own sake is not the goal; instead, readers should design the best and most creative products possible. Ward offers examples from engineering, the military, and NASA, among others, to model necessary speed, handling, and risk assessment, avoiding unnecessary oversight and meetings, and creating better, simpler presentations and information dissemination. His suggestions on letting users be beta testers, allowing for a quick and short-cycle development process, and avoiding unnecessary features are solid, but ultimately Ward falls on the wrong side of the line between high-concept strategy and vague storytelling. Despite an admirable proposition and some lively writing, there's not enough here to prop up an entire book. 7 b&w illus.