Bookends of the Discourse

Here are the last two elements of John Boyd’s Discourse on Winning and Losing, the Abstract and Revelation.

When he was giving out copies of the Discourse, the “Green Book,” the order was:

  1. Abstract
  2. Patterns of Conflict
  3. Organic Design for Command and Control
  4. Strategic Game of ? and ?
  5. Destruction and Creation
  6. Revelation

In 1992, he completed his last major briefing, Conceptual Spiral, and then, in 1996, his last work of any length, The Essence of Winning and Losing.  He placed Conceptual Spiral right after the Abstract, but as far as I know didn’t include Essence in any last copies of the Discourse that he may have distributed.  Boyd died on March 9, 1997.

The logical position for Essence would be just before the Revelation because it assumes familiarity with the concept of “operating inside OODA ‘loops,'”  which is treated in detail in Patterns, Organic Design, and Strategic Game.

I wouldn’t put too much emphasis, though, on a canonical ordering.  Most people start with Patterns of Conflict and never get beyond it.  But there is a richness in considering the topic of winning and losing from a larger perspective, that of accomplishing our objectives — achieving happiness, in other words — in a world that appears to be conspiring against us.  There’s nothing to be lost by starting on the battlefields of Patterns and then exploring one’s way to wherever one’s fancy carries.

All of Boyd’s work is (or very soon will be) available at

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