My co-editor, Chuck Spinney, and I have updated page 144 of Patterns of Conflict, the “Theme for Vitality and Growth.” The last full edition of Patterns carries a date of December 1986. Even after he quit issuing new editions of the briefing, however, Boyd continued to evolve these ideas, and in 1989, he changed page 144 in a major way.

Here is page 144 in the 1986 edition:

PatternsOfConflict IIAH 144 JPEG.001

What Boyd did was replace “adaptability” with “agility” and add “orientation.” IOHAI. Unfortunately, he did not produce a new edition of Patterns with a revised page 144, so we are left with the problem of definitions for the two new terms.


He replaced “adaptability” with “agility” because if all you do is adapt, you’re in “perpetual catch-up mode,” as he explained in a conversation we had in 1992. The other side has the initiative. This will not do.

He didn’t define “agility” in Patterns or in any other of his briefings. He had, though, made a presentation to a Defense Agility Conference in January 1988, and reiterated that definition in a letter to me dated 11 February 1989, so Chuck and I used his definition from that event.


You won’t find it defined anywhere in Patterns.*  My guess is that at this point, he just sort of assumed that everybody knew what “orientation” was, something like : “the ability to locate oneself in one’s environment with reference to time, place, and people” ( For the purposes of his next briefing, Organic Design for Command and Control, he needed to be more explicit. So in May 1987 he described “orientation” twice, once as a result (page 13) and once as a process (page 15). The process definition, which is how he took to explaining the term, is far too long and neither will serve for IOHAI because both apply only to individuals. However Patterns 144 is aimed at groups, as the bottom of p. 143 indicates:

Moreover, such a unifying notion should be so compelling that it acts as a catalyst or beacon around which to evolve those qualities that permit a collective entity or organic whole to improve its stature in the scheme of things. Put another way, we are suggesting a need for a supra-orientation or center-of-gravity that permits leaders and other authorities to inspire their followers and members to enthusiastically take action toward confronting and conquering all obstacles that stand in the way.

Such a scheme can be portrayed as follows: (end of p. 143)

Fortunately, Boyd had already identified a mechanism to “inspire their followers and members to enthusiastically take action” back on Patterns p. 74, when he concluded that:

A common outlook possessed by “a body of officers” represents a unifying theme that can be used to simultaneously encourage subordinate initiative, yet realize superior intent.

It’s this concept of group orientation as a common outlook that permits a group to pursue something, including a unifying vision.  It fits nicely with the language about “leaders” and “initiative” at the bottom of page 143 and works well with the other parts of IOHAI. So that’s what Chuck and I used.

IOHAI is an  important concept in Boyd’s philosophy of conflict because vitality and growth is really what it’s all about.  Defeating opponents is nice, but if it sets the stage for future unfavorable conflict, to paraphrase Patterns 139, what’s the point?

The revised edition of Patterns of Conflict is now available on our Articles page.

*He does offer a definition of “disorientation,” on page 115 of Patterns, so I guess you could define “orientation” as dis-disorientation. Incidentally, he had defined one of his other terms, “harmony,” on Patterns 125, but that definition is subtly different from his definition on page 144. I’ll do a post about that sometime.

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