“The safety of the enterprise lay in its novelty.” Confederate Col John Singleton Mosby, commenting on his successful nabbing (NY Times) of Union Gen Edwin Stoughton well behind Union lines. A nifty example of a special operation.
Of course, the safety of the enterprise also lay in Mosby’s ability to do the daring deed and get his rear end out of Dodge before the enormous blue army all round him noticed his presence. Which required generating a continuous stream of quick-witted novelty. Where does all this novelty come from?
Conceptual Spiral is Boyd’s take on novelty (available from our Articles page). As he puts it, novelty is one of the factors that pumps risk and uncertainty into the minds of opponents, “novelty generated by the thinking and actions of unique individuals and their many-sided interactions with each other.” He suggests that our basic tool for dealing with novelty is the scientific method:
Science can be viewed as a self-correcting process of observations, analyses/ synthesis, hypothesis, and test. Engineering can be viewed as a self-correcting process of observations, analyses/synthesis, design, and test … Science, engineering, and technology produce change via novelty.
Now, you know that as Mosby was making his way towards Stoughton on the night of March 9, 1863, he didn’t have his head down, just following a map. He had his eyes, ears, and mind wide open. He had to deal with lots of unexpected stuff, and do it quickly. Because as far as we know he didn’t have telepathy or some sixth sense for locating Union patrols, he had to engineer himself a way in and out and do it on the fly, and this process of evolving orientation as you go along is what Boyd represented by his famous, circular OODA loop. Note the circular nature of the definitions, above.
Periodically, Mosby’s orientation (I’m simplifying Mosby’s 23-man team down to just Mosby — obviously Einheit was critical because a dangerous raid deep into enemy territory is no time to be herding cats) would tell him that it was time to act, and that action typically flowed via the implicit guidance and control link. There’s no evidence, for example, that Mosby issued a lot of written orders during the raid. A nod of the head, a wave of the hand, and a word or two and his team would know what to do.
So you can see the blending of the circular OODA loop updating Orientation and trying (experimenting) with actions, with the IG&C link actually initiating those actions. A learning loop and an acting process. And although Mosby was probably proceeding fairly slowly and deliberately because he didn’t want to alert Union pickets or worse, blunder into them, he was definitely trying to out-think his opponents, and that’s the OODA loop speed that counts.
Check out Conceptual Spiral, and then may I recommend my paper on the subject, “John Boyd, Conceptual Spiral and the meaning of life” also available from our Articles page?