Unlike Patterns of Conflict, where Boyd went through so many versions that he finally quit numbering them, he only distributed one edition of his paper, “Destruction and Creation,” which carries the date 3 September 1976.
“Destruction and Creation” asks the question:
Actions must be taken over and over again and in many different ways. Decisions must be rendered to monitor and determine the precise nature of the actions needed that will be compatible with the goal. To make these timely decisions implies that we must be able to form mental concepts of observed reality, as we perceive it, and be able to change these concepts as reality itself appears to change. The concepts can then be used as decision models for improving our capacity for independent action. Such a demand for decisions that literally impact our survival causes one to wonder: How do we generate or create the mental concepts to support this decision-making activity?
He gives an answer later in the paper, then spends the next 20 years illustrating his concept for creating and updating mental models (it may not be entirely obvious, but that’s what Patterns, Organic Design, and Strategic Game are).
Somewhere along the way, fairly early, perhaps only a year or two after D&C, he coined the term “OODA loop.” Originally it was just that, a loop, a circular process of observe, then orient, then decide, then act. I’ve heard him brief it just that way.
But problems soon began to crop up. For one thing, it’s slow. For another, quality of decision and “speed” through the OODA loop can trade-off. That is, to go faster, you may have to hurry your decision making. A British writer and officer, Jim Storr, simply pointed out that real organizations don’t behave as if they were cycling through OODA “loops.”
In the last work of his career, The Essence of Winning and Losing, published shortly before he died, Boyd finally produced a sketch of the OODA loop that resolved these problems. I’ve just posted a revised version of my paper “Boyd’s Real OODA Loop” that looks at what he came up with and why. This version notes that although he rarely wrote “OODA loop” by itself before his last briefing (lots of mentions, though, of “operating inside the OODA loop”), “rarely” doesn’t mean “never.” There are, as best I can tell, three times in the 320 or so pages that separate “Destruction and Creation” from The Essence of Winning and Losing where Boyd does mention the OODA loop per se. None of these, though, are accompanied by any description, definition, or explanation, much less a figure or diagram.
And I’ve done some wordsmithing and added an epilogue on the bookends theme.
You can download this edition, as well as all of Boyd’s works and lots of other interesting stuff from the Articles page.