New edit of Patterns of Conflict

Now available on our Articles page.

At 185 pages plus seven pages of sources, Patterns is by far the longest of Boyd’s briefings.  Chronologically, it sits in the middle of Boyd’s post-retirement corpus, completed (if that is the word) about 10 years after “Destruction and Creation” and about 10 years before The Essence of Winning and Losing. For many people, it represents the entirety of Boyd’s work; it is “the Boyd briefing.” It was certainly the most presented — estimates range into the hundreds — and is still the one I get the most requests for.

In this edition, I have corrected a half dozen remaining typos and brought the punctuation more in line with modern usage.  I have also simplified the formatting to try to make Patterns more accessible to readers who did not have the opportunity to see Boyd deliver it in person, the last such event probably 20 years ago. With the corrections as noted, all the original text is present. The “Sources” section was not edited.

The original version of Patterns was typed onto regular 8.5 by 11 paper turned sideways and then run through a machine that made “transparencies.” Some of you will remember this process. For the rest of you, all you have to know is that changes, even the most simple, usually required retyping the entire page. And Boyd didn’t type, so after a while, there were no more changes and certainly for nothing as insignificant as correcting commas or hyphens.

Still, Boyd kept building snowmobiles.  On his infamous calls, he would be discussing some esoteric point and then happen to mention that he wanted to change something in Patterns, and he expected you to go to your reference copy and make the change in pen and ink. Perhaps the best known is in the “Theme for Vitality and Growth,” chart 144, which in about 1989 or so went from “insight, initiative, adaptability, and harmony” to IOHAI: Insight, orientation, harmony, agility, and initiative. I have left the original but added IOHAI as a note (Boyd did not supply concise definitions for orientation and agility, so I have also provided a little explanation).

Chuck and I have also added several notes where we feel strongly that Boyd would have made additions had he the opportunity because these are remarks he made every time he gave the presentation. We have left Boyd’s telegraphic style intact because that’s how he wanted it: “Need fighter that …” not “Need a fighter that …” on page 4, for example.

Underlines in the original are indicated by bolding in this version (an option that Boyd didn’t have, of course, but which adds to readability in an age where underlining usually indicates a hyperlink). Back then, an underline was an instruction for the printer to set the text in italics (another option Boyd didn’t have), but italics are too easily lost on the screen.

If you’d like to see the original, it, along with originals of all of Boyd’s other works, are available as PDF scans at

If you find any more typos, please let me know.

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