Practitioner’s notebook, May 2018

Proponents of speed, such as “going through OODA loops faster,” can site some evidence from Boyd. Perhaps the chart that makes the strongest case is this one, from Strategic Game of ? and ? which Boyd began briefing in 1987:


Seems pretty clear: If you want to discombobulate your opponents, then just “operate at a faster tempo or rhythm.”

There are a couple of problems with this approach, though. First is that Boyd doesn’t say “Operate …”  He wrote “The ability to operate …”  At the risk of undue scholasticism, this is big deal. Boyd, like a poet, agonized over every word in these briefings. It wasn’t unusual for the phone to ring and it would be John, wanting to try out several new phrasings for some line you might dimly recall.

In other words, if he meant “Operating at a faster tempo or rhythm than an adversary enables …” that’s what he would have written. So, what’s the difference between “operating” and “the ability to operate”? How can an ability to do something, as contrasted with actually doing it, produce these effects?

Another point to ponder is what, exactly, does it mean to “operate at a faster tempo or rhythm” than an adversary?

Your answers are important. Your actions will flow from your orientation, and your answers will not only reveal something of your orientation, but grappling with these questions may also help shape it.

2 thoughts on “Practitioner’s notebook, May 2018

  1. Thanks for posting this. I’ve been thinking about it today, and I wonder if the phrase “temporal feint” is an appropriate description of what Boyd is alluding to here. Using the threat of fast-tempo to cause the presumed appropriate temporal reaction, and then executing slow-tempo to create a mismatch in your favor.

    There’s a basketball player on the San Antonio Spurs nicknamed “Slow-Mo”. This description of his game seems to illustrate the point well:

    “Anderson’s movements are often little more than insinuations. The more of them that he throws at his defender — at his typical two-thirds pace — the more he seems to disrupt the normal circadian rhythms of the game.”

    • Kristopher — thanks! Hadn’t thought about it that way, although now that you mention it, Musashi talks about using rhythms the opponent doesn’t expect, and Boyd uses the phrase “with more irregularity” when describing operating inside opponents’ OODA loops.

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