I have recently been embroiled in a long and involved exercise involving a very complicated set of analyses to look at where the profits are in the broader technology industry — something which my manager and two partners have jokingly referred to as a Vasa ship.
When I stared blankly back at them, they chuckled before “kindly” explaining what it meant.
There was a time (a long long time ago) when Sweden was a great military power (no, I’m not joking). The King of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus, wanted to create a flagship for his fleet — something enormous and powerful — not only to wave the Swedish flag but to also help bolster Sweden’s Navy which found itself frequently involved in wars with the other great powers of the time. To do this, he commissioned the construction of a ship — the Vasa — which was supposed to be the best and largest of its kind.
Of course, ships take time to build, and before the ship was completed, the King had became aware that the original Vasa design was already outdated by the newest models from England and France. To “keep up with the neighbors”, the King then demanded that his shipbuilders build something even greater — larger sails, better guns, etc. The shipbuilders did the best they could — given that they had already built a reasonable piece of the ship — and remade the ship — bigger and badder.
And of course, like all big engineering projects, this cycle of revision occurred again. And again. And again. Until, the ship became some bizarre, monstrous hybrid of what it was originally designed to do and all the myriad features and designs that the king had wanted in addition — becoming something it was never ever intended to be.
And, of course, on its maiden voyage — the Vasa sank to the bottom of the ocean, sending its architect to prison.