John Boyd, on chart 132 of Patterns, described what you’re trying to accomplish by operating inside opponents’ OODA loops*:
“Generate uncertainty, confusion, disorder, panic, chaos … shatter cohesion, produce paralysis and bring about collapse.” Once you have these well underway, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to “subvert, disorient, disrupt, overload, or seize adversary’s vulnerable, yet critical, connections, centers, and activities … in order to dismember organism and isolate remnants for wrap-up or absorption.”
If you achieve this, it doesn’t make any difference how big your opponents are or how much great technology they have.
Why not? What do you actually see inside the victim’s organization when it’s happening? Here’s an example from the cockpit voice recorder in a tragic 2009 plane crash:
At 10:16 P.M., the plane’s impending-stall alert system—the stick shaker—kicked in. “Jesus Christ,” Renslow said, alarmed. In his panicked confusion, he pulled the shaker toward him instead of pushing it away from him. Seventeen seconds later, he said, “We’re down,” and, two seconds after that, the plane crashed, killing everyone on board and one person on the ground.
Capt. Resnlow was a highly skilled professional as was his co-pilot. So what happened? One way to think about it was that Mother Nature was operating inside his OODA loop, that is, events were changing more rapidly than his mental model — his orientation — could keep up. The result was confusion, disorder, panic and paralysis. Boyd is suggesting that in a conflict between groups of human beings, you can generate these effects by operating inside opponents’ OODA loops.
Read the complete piece “The Hazards of Going on Autopilot,” by Maria Konnikova on newyorker.com. You may have noticed that events in the cockpit resembled the results of a successful deception operation, a cheng / chi maneuver. A classic cheng / chi pattern is to lull your opponent into a false sense of security and then extremely rapidly, spring the trap. It’s interesting that some forms of automation inadvertently produce this same effect.
*”Operating inside the OODA loop” is one of what I’ve called Boyd’s four “big ideas.” For an explanation, scroll down to “Boyd’s Big Ideas” on our Articles page.