F.I.R.E.: How Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained, and Elegant Methods Ignite Innovation by Dan Ward, HarperBusiness, 240 pages, $28.99, Hardcover, May 2014, 9780062301901
There is an immediate sense, as you begin reading F.I.R.E., that author Dan Ward knows exactly who he is, what his message is, and to what type of reader his book is going to appeal. As such, there is a confidence and conciseness to his book that inspires a kind of instant camaraderie. And that camaraderie allows him to make what seem at first to be some counterintuitive points about the creative process.
The idea that spending less time and money leads to better outcomes sounds a bit like claiming that moderate amounts of red wine and dark chocolate are good for you. Surely this is too good to be true. And yet, as with the aforementioned health benefits, the data is compelling.
The acronym FIRE stands for Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained, and Elegant, a method which found its genesis in Ward’s US military career as an equipment engineer. His approach is intended to counter the more common philosophy that more money and more time devoted to a creative project can guarantee a better product. Ward believes that a commitment to economy in terms of speed, cost, effort, and complexity helps people and organizations make better decisions and design better products and outcomes.
The opposite of complexity, Ward tells us, is elegance.
Embracing elegant simplicity means designing our organizations and processes with simplicity in mind. It’s about stating our goals clearly and incorporating mature, proven technologies into our designs. True sophistication, true design maturity, and true process maturity are shown through deep simplicity, not through brain-meltingly complex diagrams and structures. In other words, complexity is nothing to brag about.
The value in this book is in its simplicity—its elegance. Though many of Ward’s anecdotes and experiences are based on the military (with a delightful dose of Star Trek and an adaption of the show’s “Prime Directive” thrown in), the application of his advice is actionable by anyone with an interest in innovation.