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
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?
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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