1
1
Seeing and Removing Barriers
in the R&D Environment
As I look out the front window of my house, I tend to absorb the beauty of
the scene. ere is a beautiful oak tree out there next to the dock. e dock
juts out into a cove. If it is summer, there is a swim platform oating y
or so feet across the inlet, and if it is daytime, people, especially children,
can be found playing in the water. To the le, the inlet opens onto the
river, a shallow half-mile-wide estuary with clamming and moored boats,
posts with osprey nests, and navigational signs and buoys.
Depending on the day, it may be dreary or blindingly brilliant. I may
see a sunrise that catches my breath, or snow and sleet. I may see vio-
lent weather that only wind, wave, and my own vulnerability can reveal,
or depths of peaceful tranquility that only calmness and water seem to
inspire within me. I will be annoyed when the geese come (their facility
for turning green plants into fertilizer is somewhat frustrating), and I will
be joyful when the swans appear, marveling at their beauty and the facility
with which they run the geese out of town.
I am not a sherman, but my neighbor is. He sees everything that I do,
but he also sees that the bait sh are (or are not) running. He sees the
waterway not merely as a place to swim or paddle, or to observe beauty,
but also as a right-of-way to the ocean and the trophy bass that it may
yield in future expeditions. e neighbor behind me, a retired commercial
sherman, sees the same channels as a source of employment, seeing the
water—haven to many dierent species—by its seasons of harvest.
At the same time, none of us is a navigational engineer, so we do not see
the changing depth of the channel and the consequent need to dredge,
place markers, or remove obstacles. None of us is a biologist, who might
2 • Creating a Lean R&D System
note the changing levels of jellysh and postulate something about river
health, observe the horseshoe crab mating season and speculate on their
future population, or a thousand other things. We are not shore-based
contractors looking at pilings and assessing our year’s business in dock
repair.
Take a look around you right now. Are you in a room? How would that
room look to you if you were an interior designer? How would it look to
you as an architect, a stone mason, an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air
conditioning) technician, a building inspector, an ergonomist, or a child?
How would a blind or deaf person perceive that room?
MENTAL MODELS
Each of us has mental models, lenses through which we perceive the
world. Some call them neural networks; others call them paradigms. Bob
Burdick, a retired IBM engineer, collectively calls these lenses our be state,
while John Boyd, a famous military strategist and thinker,
*
called them
our orientation. ese mental models come from our genetics, our physi-
cal attributes, our experiences, our training, and our likes and dislikes.
ese mental models provide us with two very important things: the abil-
ity to see what is important, and the ability to suppress what is not. e
separation of our observations into “important” and “unimportant” is an
object lesson in a fundamental Taoist principle known as duality. When
we observe something, and make a judgment about it, we immediately
create its “dual” opposite (hence “duality
). e Tao De Jing (Book of
the Way) points out that there can be no “good” without its dual oppo-
site “bad,” no “beauty” without “ugliness.” We cannot make something
observable” without making other things “hidden” and this duality is
*
Lieutenant Colonel John R. Boyd published very little. Most of his work, which is legendary in
military circles and within the community that researches fast-learning strategy, was devel-
oped on acetates for live presentations, or “briefs,” which for Boyd might last 8, 12, or 16 hours.
Nevertheless, two excellent references to Boyd include Robert Coram’s biography, Boyd: e
Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (New York: Back Bay Books, 2004), and Frans P. B.
Osinga’s excellent analysis of his sources, Science Strategy and War: e Strategic eory of John
Boyd (New York: Routledge, 2007).
Duality is a Taoist term for separation or barrier between us and the “real” fabric of the universe
the Tao.

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