One more picture from the Islands

As you can probably surmise, we had a great time with the kids and grandkids over Christmas. We all went in and rented a townhouse for a week on the Sea Pines Resort, and as a bonus, we were only a 5-minute walk from Harbour Town.

So one last picture, from the Marina on Christmas Eve:

We’ve been coming to Hilton Head since my Dad started teaching at nearby Georgia Southern in the late 1960s. Now we’re retired about 12 miles away.

Relax and enjoy

With all that’s going on in the world, I thought you might appreciate some ambiance from the South Carolina Lowcountry.

The Harbour Town Lighthouse, on the southern end of Hilton Head Island. Evening of December 25th, 2019.
Sunset, seen from Coligny Beach on the Atlantic side of Hilton Head Island on December 26th, 2019. The island tilts northeast to southwest, so near the Winter solstice, sunsets are visible from the “eastern” side.
A wood stork getting in a little fishing at dawn on January 3rd, 2020. Sun City Hilton Head.

A bit of the old ultra-violence

Of the roughly 36,000 words that Boyd left behind, only about a tenth are in the form of a paper, that is, a linear stream of text. What if Boyd had expanded his textual output by 100,000 words and written a sci-fi novel along the lines of Starship Troopers? (Some of you believe that his one paper, “Destruction and Creation,” (1976) is written in an alien tongue but that doesn’t count). One of Scottish author Charles Stross’s characters does use the OODA loop, and quite appropriately, in the The Apocalypse Codex, as I described back in 2016, and so it might be a candidate for a “What if John Boyd …?” novel.

Here’s another. New author Ian Michael is serializing his novel, Ultra-Violence, on Sundays at the Fabius Maximus site. I think you’ll find lots of operating inside the OODA loop, cheng / chi, penetration along multiple thrusts, and even some moral conflict. So far, I haven’t stumbled across an explicit reference to the OODA loop, yet — although there’s plenty of messing with peoples’ orientations — but he’s only on chapter 4.

Check it out.

Here’s an obscure tip — there is a character named “Alex.” If that doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t worry about it.

Creating agile leaders

All forms of mission-oriented leadership, from maneuver warfare to the Toyota Production System, share a common foundation: Fire up the creativity and initiative of all members of the organization and harmonize their efforts to accomplish the objectives of the organization. Such an orientation allows them to create and exploit fleeting opportunities before their opponents can understand what is going on.

As Don Vandergriff quotes one of the principal architects of the German blitzkrieg:

The principle thing now is to increase the responsibilities of the individual man, particularly his independence of action, and thereby to increase the efficiency of the entire army. . . .The limitations imposed by exterior circumstances cause us to give the mind more freedom of activity, with the profitable result of increasing the ability of the individual.

HANS VON SEECKT, Commander of the German Army, 1920 -1926

This approach is often called Auftragstaktik, and it is hard to find any military organization that doesn’t claim to be using it.

Continue reading

Sunday morning at the SNWR

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, near our house in Sun City Hilton Head.
With everything going on the world, thought you all might enjoy a few pictures of nature:

Along the 4-mile driving trail. The refuge sits along the northeast bank of the Savannah River just outside downtown Savannah. I’m a sucker for Spanish moss.
A moorhen and a couple of snowy egrets
An anhinga takes flight (it’s not actually caught in the branches)

Magic and illusion: Foundation for leadership

Aspiring leaders typically concentrate on history and case studies, creating theories of success and failure in their disciplines.  This is fine but won’t produce great practitioners in either war or business. As the German General Hermann Balck once told Boyd, “The training of the infantryman can never be too many sided.”  Miyamoto Musashi in 1645 wrote that samurai (much less top-level commanders) should study the arts and sciences and master fields other than their own. And this was just to keep them from getting hacked to bits. And then there’s Steve Jobs with his famous calligraphy course and Zen training. Continue reading

Business Agility Podcast Today

Assuming that Hurricane Dorian cooperates,  I’ll be broadcasting from Hilton Head at noon today EDT/GMT-4, Thursday, September 5th.

You can register here:

Right now, 3:45 am, the hurricane is ambling about 60 miles/100 km offshore as a Category 3 moving northward at about 7 mph.  We could still lose power, so don’t be too surprised if the podcast is delayed.

So far, we’ve been extremely lucky in this area.  Unfortunately words can’t describe what’s happened to the Bahamas. Please consider donating to hurricane relief at, for example  Words also don’t exist to describe the scammers out there who will try to exploit the situation, so be careful and only visit legitimate sites to make contributions — e.g., not over the phone or responding to emails.

Epistemology Evolves

Chuck Spinney has made a tweak to Evolutionary Epistemology, his look into Boyd’s process of destruction and creation.  If you’ve ever been put off by the density of Boyd’s paper, start here (download from our Articles page).

In particular, he added one more slide, Boyd’s “Revelation.” He explained: “As you know the Revelation was produced by Boyd at the completion of all his efforts … it is a great slide to end my brief.”


I agree. But on first reading, it may seem obvious, even trite. There’s more here, though, than meets the eye. You might try treating it like a Zen koan: What does he mean by “loser”? Somebody who loses all the time? Fifty-one percent? Only the decisive battle? Someone who quits? Does this apply to other forms of conflict, like business, where not every product or service is going to be successful? Would it be more accurate to describe a winner as someone — individual or group — who can build better snowmobiles than the competition? Seems reasonable, but it’s not what Boyd wrote. That, of course doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.

And what about that term “appropriate?” According to the “Revelation,” losers can’t build snowmobiles at all, but winners not only have to build them but also employ them “appropriately.” Again, it seems obvious that to succeed, you have to use the thing you built, and why would you employ it inappropriately? Is Boyd driving at anything profound, or even useful, here?

Every word in the “Revelation” was pondered and debated, including many of the topics raised above, in those legendary phone calls Coram describes. What you see is what came out.

While we’re on the subject of winners and losers, you might compare the “Revelation” to The Essence of Winning and Losing (1996).