Real OODA loops and IWCKI

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Boyd’s Real OODA Loop.  I’ve been working on this thing for about a year now, and I think it finally meets the definition of a masterpiece: not finished, just abandoned. The original purpose was to point out that the most popular version of the OODA loop–observe, then orient, then decide, then act–is not wrong but is incomplete. It is, in fact, a subset of the complete “loop” that Boyd drew in “The Essence of Winning and Losing” (also available in Articles) that accounts for the generation of novelty and is a key mechanism in keeping the orientation process humming along smoothly. It is not, however, particularly useful for initiating actions in the heat of battle.

If We Can Keep It. The folks at the Center for Defense Information have kindly assented to my posting the pdf of IWCKI. Published in January 2008, it was the latest in the trilogy that began with A Swift, Elusive Sword. I tried to push the envelope with this one, but I’m afraid that time has pulled it into the mainstream (see, for example, “The Top 10 Lessons of the Iraq War,” by Stephen M. Walt in Foreign Policy).  I mean, even Newt is saying things like “We need to understand that our being in the middle of countries like Afghanistan is probably counterproductive.”

6 thoughts on “Real OODA loops and IWCKI

  1. I remember John also talking about viewing something from every possible facet … and the simplified loop could also be interpreted as constantly circling around the subject getting a view from every aspect (not just constantly iterating the different pieces of OODA).

    • Yes: For those who haven’t yet delved into Organic Design, Boyd called this “many-sided implicit cross referencing,” and it lies at the core of his concept of Orientation. Thanks!

      What you need OODA loops for, then, is feeding the process with information and developing & testing the hypotheses you come up with (as explained on page 1 of “The Essence of Winning and Losing”). One point — as part of the process of viewing, you’re also “projecting,” which could include probing and testing an opponent (or customer) for example.

  2. Chet,
    As always, excellent work. Most pleased to see your take on Storr. I am only part way through but like the book in general. Indeed, he makes multiple points that are pure Boyd in approach and conclusion. To have done what appears such shoddy research in relation to OODA, well, it all just seems most odd.

    I’m guessing you have not looked at my latest. I have finally gotten my arms around the “severe negative start OODA” idea and then how then severe novelty must be addressed. Boyd, OODA, novelty, D&C, snowmobiles run all through what I have labeled the Readiness Factor.

    Your thoughts would be most appreciated, as I intend to use the Readiness Factor theme over the next year to flush out the PWH decision making in severe crisis idea further. The whole thing is long but the neg start OODA can be found in Part 2 of DaVinci’s Horse #6 here:
    Thanks again

  3. “It has sometimes proven advantageous to take extra time selecting a course of
    action—that is, reaching a decision to act—in order to create a more favorable
    environment for actions in the future.”

    This should be tattooed on the forehead of anyone who invokes the Boyd Cycle. It’s so tied up in people’s minds with Hans Delbruck’s “war of annihilation” that they miss how the Boyd Cycle is equally applicable to Delbruck’s “war of exhaustion”. The survival of incumbent groups in the post-2008 crisis is inexplicable until you realize that their “slower, slower” tempo outlasts the “faster, faster” tempo of challengers who’ve disarmed by thorough indoctrination in the ideology of speed for speed’s sake. The Boyd Cycle applies to both tortoise and hare which is why John Boyd is the patron saint of attrition.

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