More After Boyd

More stuff to read after you’ve OD’d on Boyd’s Discourse.

  • One reader suggested Nicholas Taleb, particularly Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, and Antifragile
  • Another recommended Reality is not what it seems, by Carlo Rovelli and The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, by James Hillman

Please add your suggestions in the Comments.

If you’d like more on how the IDF operates, here are two by Martin van Creveld:

Command in War

  • Command in War (also one of Boyd’s favorites; the quote on Organic Design chart 29 starts on p. 199).
  • The Olive and the Sword, a Critical History of the Israeli Defense Force

The important thing is not to take any of these as gospel (same applies to Boyd’s briefings, too) but as sources of ideas. For example a previous post mentioned four elements of the IDF culture:

  • Complete the mission
  • Perform every action to perfection
  • Follow through at any cost
  • Be “ruthlessly candid” in debriefings

On page 196 of Command, van Creveld cites:

  • Individual daring
  • Maintenance of aim
  • Improvisation
  • Resourcefulness

Are these different translations of the same concepts? Complementary? Contradictory? Would any apply to you? How would you build them in your organization? How could you demonstrate that your program is working, i.e., that you’re having a positive effect on organizational performance?

10 thoughts on “More After Boyd

    • Another reader suggested The Art Of Contrary Thinking, by Humphrey B. Neill. They commented that “The underlying premise is that when everyone thinks alike, everyone is likely to be wrong.”

  1. It is true, as it was in Boyd’s day, that money is power and to understand the Pentagon you must understand the flow of money. But today, money shares that seat with real time “reporting” and a media that seems to have adopted the old Air Force motto of “faster, further, higher”. And to understand today’s media I know of no better book than Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. Holiday’s online articles about Boyd are also worth reading.

  2. Thinking, Fast and Slow – A very interesting study of the brain’s System 1 and System 2; System 1 is fast, instinctive and emotional while System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. (Parallels to Observation and Orientation, and the role of intuitive decision making)

    Jab Jab Right Hook – And really all of Gary Vaynerchuck’s stuff.. If you want to take Boyd’s principles to modern social media marketing, Gary V is your guy.

    The Mongol Art of War: Chinggis Khan and the Mongol Military System – I’ve taken a fairly deep dive into Mongol tactics and strategic concepts thanks to Boyd, and this is a decent place to start.

    The Tao of Jeet Kune Do – Bruce Lee is the martial arts version of John Boyd.

    Algorithms to Live By – I’m currently reading this one, and it is fascinating. The examination of the multi-armed bandit problem and the explore/exploit tradeoff should be of particular interest to your readers. The focus here is on the mathematical aspects of how to play decision games and strategic games.

  3. Other than Certain to Win and the Osinga book, I’ve found the following helpful:

    Deciphering Sun Tzu – I haven’t studied much Sun Tzu, but this book helped me understand that tradition better.

    Drift into Failure (Dekker) and Friendly Fire (Snook) – Both of these show how mismatches develop between procedures as originally developed and procedures in action.

    Effectuation/Effectual Entrepreneurship – not an entrepreneur, but I find this approach interesting. To steal a description from wikipedia “With causal reasoning, entrepreneurs will determine goals to achieve and look for the resources to do so. At the opposite with effectuation, entrepreneurs will determine goals according to the resources in their possession.”

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