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.”

revelation

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).

 

Not John Boyd

But a good video, nonetheless.

Here’s Prof. Daniel Bonevac giving an introductory lecture on the OODA loop:

Professor Bonevac is a member of, and was formerly chair of, the Philosophy Department at the University of Texas. I don’t know when this lecture was given, but the video was posted in April of this year. One of the interesting things about it is that Professor Bonevac is teaching a class on Organizational Ethics.

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With a name like OODA

Here’s an interesting paper on uses of OODA loops in TPRM. For the uninitiated, that’s “third party risk management.”

Maley_OODA_Loop_InnovativeTPRMAs one of the aforementioned unenlightened, I had to look it up. Here, for example, is an introduction  by PWC Canada.  I think the basic idea is that risk taken on by your suppliers and sub-contractors flows to you, but it’s your name and reputation on the final product. So how do you manage this “third-party” risk and still achieve the benefits?

Bob Maley, former Global Head, Third Party Security and Inspections, PayPal, Inc.; Co-Chair, Continuous Monitoring Working Group of Shared Assessments (managed by the Santa Fe Group), recently wrote a white paper for his working group. You have to love the title, “Innovations in third-party continuous monitoring: With a name like OODA, how hard can it be? (1.1 MB PDF)

It can be a little slow going for people not in that field, but I think you’ll find interesting applications of the OODA “Loop” concept that may provide ideas for your snowmobiles.

Zen and the Art of Business Books

hiroshige

This is Tokyo, circa 1832.  The print is “Nihonbashi no hakuu” by the Ukiyo-e master Andō Hiroshige. Many years ago, my wife found a copy in a consignment store in Atlanta. I don’t remember what she paid for it, but she assures me that framing it cost many times the purchase price. Since we’ve been here in South Carolina, we’ve had it reframed to show off the stamps and writing around the borders.

Ch. 6 from OODA Loop

Intro to Chapter 6, Surprise and Anticipation

I’ve spent many hours contemplating this scene. The simplicity, the attention to details, the overall composition, the colors and shading — they bring out a spectrum of emotions that I find very satisfying.  The Japanese have terms for this effect. You may be familiar with wabi sabi or shibui, but there are a number of others that in English we sometimes group together as a “Zen aesthetic.” It’s something that I truly wish I knew more about.

Some of these same emotions accompanied the Japanese edition of Certain to Win when I unwrapped it a few days ago.  This is a business book, but the attention to detail, the quality of the binding, the columns of kanji characters on the pages, even the feel and smell of the paper mark it as a minor work of art (OK, I may be a little prejudiced).

I offer this as an example of cheng / chi: I got what I expected, which isn’t surprising because I’ve been involved with the translation project since it started in June. But the final product still exuded a “Wow!” factor that I wasn’t expecting. Japanese has a phase for this, too: miryoku teki hinsihtsu, quality that delights the customer so much that they have to have it. Just a thought, but you might buy a copy if only for the artistic merit of the piece, even if you don’t speak Japanese.

In addition to OODA Loop, I’ve just received a couple of other books concerning Japanese culture and strategy that I’ll feature here in the next few days.  Boyd would have liked them both.

As for the print, you can download a high resolution copy from the Library of Congress’s collection of 2,500 such prints.  And, yes, you can also download The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.

Samhandling: Enabling Auftragstaktik

Samhandlung

Military Strategies for Samhandling in Unforeseen Situations – A Historical Perspective,
do Cdr Tommy Krabberød, Ph.D., and Dr. Jan O. Jacobsen,
Royal Norwegian Naval Academy

Chapter 25 in Interaction: ‘Samhandling’ Under Risk, A step ahead of the unforeseen, Glenn-Egil Torgersen, Ed., Oslo, NO: Cappelen Damm Akademisk, 2018, pp. 467-480.

I know what you’re thinking: OMG! Another post on Auftragstaktik! Just kill me now.

I am assuming that most of my readers are familiar with Auftragstaktik (if not, search this site or Google the term). Even if you are, or perhaps especially, I think you’ll find Krabberød and Jacobsen’s paper well worth your time.

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New course on implementation from LeanKanban University

LeanKanban University has announced their newest course, Fit for Purpose, based on the book co-authored  by David J. Anderson.  The announcement describes the course this way:

This 2-day class will offer you significant new insights into how to optimize the effectiveness of your business, to produce fit-for-purpose products and services that delight your customers, making them loyal to your brand and increasing your share, revenues and margins, and to evaluate depth of Kanban implementations.

In Boyd’s terminology, “delight your customers, making them loyal to your brand and increasing your share, revenues and margins” is the Schwerpunkt. Everything else you do must support this objective, because if you can’t do this, then everything else you do is waste.

The philosophy of Fit for Purpose rests on the same foundation as other “lean” methodologies, such as the Toyota Production and Development Systems, and, for that matter, as the USMC doctrine of maneuver warfare (a subject I treat in some detail in Certain to Win).  This foundation sometimes goes by the acronym “EBFAS,” which is somewhat explained in an earlier post.  It turns out that companies that use this foundation — whether they got the ideas from Boyd or from other authors (e.g., Stalk & Hout, Tom Peters, Stephen Bungay) or discovered them on their own (Toyota & probably Apple) — have extraordinary capabilities to delight customers and so shape the marketplace.

I should confess to being less than unbiased.  I know David Anderson, have taught in a couple of his courses, reviewed the book Fit for Purpose, and am mentioned in it. Even so, I highly recommend this course no matter what field or industry you’re in.  It’s probably as close to a Boyd Symposium as we’ll get this year.

LeanKanban University has announced four sessions of Fit for Purpose during the first half of the year: February 25-26 and May 23-24 in Bilbao, Spain, April 8-9 in Hamburg, and May 20-21 in Seattle. Here’s a link to the schedule for all their leadership / management courses.

Empathy in Orientation

I tweeted a link to a Forbes article on empathy this morning, “Want more innovative solutions? Start with empathy.” by Tracy Bower.

Boyd explained his notion of orientation on chart 15 of Organic Design (available from the Articles link, above):

Orientation is an interactive process of many-sided implicit cross-referencing projections, empathies, correlations, and rejections that is shaped by and shapes the interplay of genetic heritage, cultural tradition, previous experiences, and unfolding circumstances.

I don’t recall any place where he defined “empathies,” or, for that matter, “empathy,” much less “projections,” “correlations,” or “rejections.”  These terms appear out of the ether, right after this chart:

organic_design_10

where he proclaims an “Insight” that:

Interactions, as shown, represent a many-sided implicit cross-referencing process of projection, empathy, correlation, and rejection. (OD, 11)

If you really want to have some fun, try briefing these two charts sometime.

Then, in his very last briefing, The Essence of Winning and Losing (also in Articles), he drew his infamous OODA “loop” sketch (his words), below which he recorded another “Insight”:

Also note how the entire “loop” (not just orientation) is an ongoing many-sided implicit cross-referencing process of projection, empathy, correlation, and rejection.

The Zen of Boyd?  I don’t know. Perhaps something to ponder. For example, if you squint hard at chart 10, are there other ways you could characterize these “interactions”?  And how is the Stuka pilot Hans Rudel an interaction?  Can you come up with some more relevant interactions to make a similar point about orientation?

Is it agility or adaptability?

I tend to think of “agility” as adaptability with a time dimension, that is, the ability to adapt more rapidly to new situations than can competitors or opponents.  That may not, however, be the only or even a very good way to think about these concepts.

Here’s an alternative view:

AQ is hot right now – but is it the Adaptability Quotient or the Agility Quotient?

Kristopher Floyd
Founder and CEO, TeamMate AIDao-TheWay

November 13, 2018
Originally published on LinkedIn. Reprinted with his kind permission

Throughout military history, there have been winners and losers. Some of the winners have found disproportionate success due to strategic brilliance; when examining their successes, we find a golden braid that links them all together. This braid is the foundation of an underlying philosophy that dictates how military forces can survive and thrive in hyper-competitive, chaotic, uncertain situations. Continue reading

Schwerpunkt and grand strategy

Fabius points out the power of retaining the moral high ground, “Feminists’ strategy brought many wins. They’ve abandoned it.” Technically, it should be “Feminists’ grand strategy …” but why quibble?  Here’s a take from Patterns of Conflict on what grand strategy is supposed to accomplish:

grand strategy chart.jpg

If you don’t care about influencing what Boyd called “the uncommitted,” including potential opponents and potential allies, as well as the less fanatical among your own team, or you’re not worried about what happens after the smoke settles, then you can dispense with grand strategy.

However, one never knows what the future will bring, so it’s always wise to keep your grand strategy in play as long as possible.  For example, during the South African Border War (1966 – 1989), the South African government gave its military a well-defined mission:

… to create the necessary conditions for the politicians to negotiate a political settlement from a position of power. The SADF (South African Defense Force) counter-insurgency approach therefore focused on denying SWAPO the opportunity for a military build-up in SWA/Namibia and Angola and its ability to operate effectively. This it succeeded in achieving. De Vries, Burger, and Steenkamp, Mobile Warfare for Africa, p. 198.

Notice the focus on military objectives. No nation building, occupation of enemy territory, or winning hearts and minds. This last was of critical importance, but the military was given the mission of making it possible for others to accomplish.

Interestingly, this did not lead to a purely defensive strategy, where South Africa could portray itself as a victim of Cold War aggression.  As de Vries, Burger, and Steenkamp note:

From 1978 until the war ended in 1989, the SADF took the fight to the enemy. They did not hesitate to execute pre-emptive strikes into southern Angola or launch high density counter-insurgency operations in enemy territory. Naturally, these operations received great international attention, which did not do foreign relations any good at all. p. 199, emphasis added

However this was a price South Africa was willing to pay because the effect on morale (friendly as well as enemy) and the sheer costs of the attrition caused by these raids led the Cubans to withdraw and persuaded the other parties to enter negotiations that ended the conflict. In any case, South Africa was pretty much a pariah nation by this time, anyway (Nelson Mandela was not released from prison until the following year).

Happy 45th

Last Wednesday was the 45th Anniversary of John Boyd’s Happy Hour in the Old Guard Room at Patton Hall, the officer’s club at Ft. Myer, VA (I refuse call it “Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall”). It was great to reconnect with folks, a few of whom I was working with when we started happy hour there a couple of weeks after Tom Christie took over the TACAIR shop.

In our honor, they put up a plaque:

Happy Hour Plaque 9-2019

And here are two of John’s closest colleagues, Chuck Spinney (left) and Tom Christie:

Chuck and Tom 45th HH

Robert Coram described the scene on page 414 of Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

The Wednesday evening gatherings were loud and raucous and filled with plans about generals to be hosed. Old stories were told and retold–of Spinney’s white wagon kill, of a general’s air-to-rug maneuver, of cape jobs and to platters and particularly effective techniques known as tube steaks and barbwire enchiladas.

All true, so true.