Or “wrote.” Written.
Boyd is sometime criticized for not having sat down and written Patterns and his other briefings into nice books. They claim that his ideas are hard to fathom just from his briefings.
But Boyd’s framework, although deep and complex, is not esoteric. In addition to “Destruction and Creation,” Boyd produced a continuous stream of writings from August 1976 until January of the year before his death:
|TOTAL (x. D&C)||323||32,350||100|
“Destruction and Creation” is a special case. Set in 12 pt. Arial and double-spaced, it runs about 15 pages or slightly over 250 words/page. Applying that ratio to the body of Boyd’s post-retirement work equates to a book of some 145 pages. Which is not long, but not insubstantial, either, about the same length as Cleary’s The Japanese Art of War or the Griffith edition of Sun Tzu, both including the commentaries but without appendices. By comparison, the Sun Tzu text itself typically runs 8,000 – 10,000 words depending on the translator.
Given how long it takes to write a manuscript, not to mention finding a publisher who will promote it, it’s hard to see where Boyd would have found the time. Publishers typically want manuscripts of 80-100,000 words, which produces a 400 page book that can be priced in the $25-30 range (today’s prices). Check out Tom Barnett’s books, for example. Obviously, established authors can get different deals, but Boyd would have been a risk. And it would have been a big risk for Boyd because only a tiny fraction of manuscripts by unknown authors ever get published.
In any case, it was his choice, and the format he chose — bullet points — is what people are used to inside the Beltway. It’s basically the same format as Sun Tzu, and like The Art of War, Boyd’s works are best read not as logical treatises but as compendiums of concepts to ponder over, test against your own experience, improve upon, and perhaps even reject.
The criticism has also been made that Boyd’s colleagues could have helped with the drafting. At the time of his death, Boyd was working with two authors who were completing books based on his briefings. Within less than 10 years of his death, two more had been completed, and in the case of Coram’s book, carefully vetted by most of the surviving acolytes. Hammond knew Boyd and interviewed him extensively, but I don’t believe that he had any of Boyd’s other colleagues review his manuscripts. Osinga did not meet Boyd, but Grant Hammond was on his dissertation committee.
So this gives us:
Anybody who is interested in what Boyd wrote should have no trouble finding out. Could Boyd have reached more people had he written a traditional book? Impossible to say. I seem to recall that the average business book sells about 2,500 copies, and I’d be astonished if strategy tomes sold any more. Now, 2,500 may seem like a lot, but it’s a fraction of the people Boyd reached with his briefings. And at least he didn’t run across Patterns of Conflict in the remainder bins at the Delray Beach Barnes & Noble.