Greetings from a high-speed train somewhere between Stockholm and Oslo. Yes, after a year of largely staying put in the Elm City, I have ventured to Scandinavia for a couple weeks, accidentally finding myself observing the Jewish high holidays among millions of Lutherans. So far, they haven’t seemed to mind my presence.
Tak sa mycket
The story of the Vasa is one I have heard a lot in the innovation world. The idea is that the king basically kept changing his mind on what he wanted. Bigger. More guns. Different guns. More ornate. They would build, he would change, they would go back and build and it took forever. Finally brought to market and it sunk immediately. The lesson often told in innovation land is have a plan, get to market fast and iterate otherwise you sit in your ivory tower dreaming what might be and it might just sink (new coke, Amazon phone, etc) - better to a get a minimum viable product to market and improve on it.
As Greg McKeown described on the Tim Ferris podcast:
This project was of utmost importance to King Gustav so much that he allowed a whole forest of a thousand trees to provide the lumber for the project. He opened the royal coffers to, he assured Hybertsson that he would have an almost unlimited budget to complete the project successfully. Unfortunately, the King did not have a clear vision of what the final product would look like, or rather he kept changing his vision of what the final product would look like. At first, the ship was to be 108 feet long with 32 cannons on deck. Later, the length was changed to 120 feet, even though the lumber had already been cut to the original specifications, but no sooner had Henrik’s team made the necessary adjustments that the target shifted again, this time the King decided that the ship needed to be 135 feet long.
The cannon requirements changed, as well. Instead of 32 cannons in a single row, he asked for 36 cannons in two rows, plus another 12 small cannons, 48 mortars, and 10 more similar caliber weapons. Tremendous effort was exerted by some 400 people to make this happen. But even as they approached completion, the King changed his mind again, asked for 64 large cannons instead. The stress of the news is said to have given Henrik a fatal heart attack. Still, the endless project continued this time under Henrik’s assistant Hein Jacobsson. Budgets continued to escalate. The effort continued to expand, and the King continued changing the end goal. In an utterly non-essential addition for a gunship. He asked for some 708 sculptures, which would take a team of expert sculptors more than two years to complete, to be attached to the sides of the bulwark and the transom of the ship and so it was.