A “snowmobile” is Boyd’s metaphor for creating a solution to a problem, particularly when competitors or opponents — and, therefore, time — enter the picture. The ability to build and employ snowmobiles in the heat of conflict so intrigued Boyd that he made it the heart of his strategy:
A winner is someone — individual or group — who can build snowmobiles, and employ them in an appropriate fashion, when facing uncertainty and unpredictable change. (Revelation)
Here’s a neat new example: “Not a car or bicycle, but a blend — an ELF vehicle.”
Organic Transit CEO Rob Cotter took technology from aircrafts, boats and bicycles and incorporated them into a “green” 130-pound vehicle.
In Boyd’s framework, a “snowmobile” could be a piece of hardware but more likely it’s a concept or idea for achieving your objective, usually in the face of determined opposition. Even if it is hardware, you have to have an accompanying concept for employing it. Musing on how to do all this eventually led Boyd to his Conceptual Spiral, where snowmobiles become not just hardware or even concepts but underlying virtues like insight, imagination, and initiative. [Conceptual Spiral and the Revelation are available from our Articles page.]
A tip of the hat to Mitch Musgrove out in the San Francisco Bay area for sending me this link!