Chapter 4. Models – Foundations for Organizational Foresight

8. Boyd’s Competitive Dominance Cycle (OODA Loop)

In the 1950s-1960s, USAF colonel and military strategist John Boyd developed a decision cycle model for how individuals and organizations react to external events. His OODA loop model proposed that we all execute four core steps: we Observe (the environment), we Orient (form a mental model with implicit hypotheses), we Decide (commit to a particular hypothesis and course of action), and then we Act (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act).

Also critical to Boyd’s model was his insistence that the ability to run your OODA loop faster and more efficiently than your opponent at critical moments in the competition-cooperation landscape, and thus arrive first at more appropriate decisions and actions, is key to winning in competitive environments. The OODA loop is thus a version of the Shewhart-Deming OPCDA cycle that stresses speed and efficiency of thought and action, and continual operation of the cycle. Boyd himself saw the parallels between the two cycles when he discovered Deming’s work in the 1980s.

John Boyd’s OODA Loop (Steve Aldoph, 2006)

John Boyd’s OODA Loop (Steve Aldoph, 2006)

Speed of the OODA loop is the paramount factor for Boyd. While he was a USAF Weapons School instructor pilot, Boyd was nicknamed “Forty Second Boyd”, for his bet that beginning from a position of tactical disadvantage, he could defeat any opposing student pilot in less than 40 seconds. Boyd’s key strategy was faster use of his own mental OODA loop in air combat maneuvering. He had better knowledge of a few key Acts that might flip positional advantage, and due to his special training could more quickly Observe, Orient, and Decide when to use them. Boyd later went on to show that in situations where such “40 second” shortcuts to victory don’t exist, faster OODA loops may be needed in all relevant environments: including air, sea, and land. Lack OODA superiority in any one of these, as the US did on land against the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War, and you may face stalemate or failure, even if you have overwhelming OODA superiority in air and sea, as we did.

Coram (2004)

Coram (2004)

Boyd’s OODA loop model became increasingly popular with military strategists during his lifetime, and he helped develop the rapid deployment strategies of the First Gulf War. Today his model is used in many other conflict domains where speed and efficiency of decision and action and rate of real-time learning are critical to conflict outcomes, including intelligence, security, sports, business, and litigation.

Great books on Boyd’s contributions are Robert Coram’s biography, Boyd (2004), for Boyd on business see Chet Richard’s Certain To Win (2004), and for military strategy, Frans Osinga’s Science, Strategy, and War (2006). See software engineer Steve Adolph’s 2006 article applying the OODA loop to agile software development. To approach Boyd’s insights from the perspective of human civilization as a system, see my article on STEM compression, a physical way to use the OODA loop to model our planet’s leading processes of accelerating change.

The Cynefin Framework of complexity scholar and consultant Dave Snowden offers a powerful bridge between the work of Shewhart-Deming and Boyd. Snowden notes that in domains where causality and preferences are reasonablly well known and the rate of change is low, such as urban planning or mature industries, making plans and applying best practices using the OPDCA cycle makes the most sense. In domains where causality and preferences are unclear and the rate of change is fast, as in new software applications and many military engagements, a rapid OODA approach (what Snowden calls Probe-Sense-Respond or Act-Sense) will be more adaptive. See A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making (PDF), Snowden and Boone, Harvard Business Review, Nov 2007, for more on his model.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 2. Personal Foresight – Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Chapter 2: Personal Foresight

Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Chapter 4. Models – Foundations for Organizational Foresight

Chapter 4: Models

Foundations for Organizational Foresight

Chapter 7. Acceleration – Guiding Our Extraordinary Future

Chapter 7: Acceleration

Guiding Our Extraordinary Future (In Process)

II. Global Progress: 5 Goals, 10 Values, Many Trends

Innovation: Our Abundant Future
Intelligence: Our Augmented Future
Interdependence: Our Civil Future
Immunity: Our Protected Future
Sustainability: Our Rebalanced Future

III. Universal Accelerating Change

Great Race to Inner Space: Our Surprising Future
Entropy&Information: We’re Running Down & Up
The Puzzle of Meaning: We Have No Einstein Yet
Trees, Funnels & Landscapes: Intro to Evo Devo
Big Picture Change: Five Scales of Accelerating ED
Transcension Hypothesis: Where Acceleratn Ends?
IDABDAK: Social Response to Accel & Developmnt
We’re On a Runaway Train: Being Accelaware

IV. Evo Devo and Exponential Foresight

Seeing It All: Accel., Diverg, Adapt, Convrg, Decel.
Natural (I4S) Innovation: The Evolutionary Drive
Natural (I4S) Intelligence: The Human-AI Partnership
Natural (I4S) Morality: Why Empathy and Ethics Rule
Natural (I4S) Security: Strength from Disruption
Natural (I4S) Sustainability: The Developmental Drive
S-Curves: Managing the Four Constituencies
Pain to Gain: Traversing the Three Kuznets Phases
Hype to Reality: Beyond Hype Cycles to Reality Checks
Exponentials Database: Measuring Accelerations
TINA Trends: Societal Evolutionary Development
Managing Change: STEEPCOP Events, Probs, Ideas
A Great Shift: A Survival to a Sentient Economy

V. Evo Devo and Exponential Activism

Building Protopias: Five Goals of Social Progress
Normative Foresight: Ten Values of Society
Top & STEEPCOP Acceleratns: Positive & Negative
Dystopias, Risks, and Failure States
Three Levels of Activism: People, Tech & Universe
A Great Opportunity: Exponential Empowerment


Chapter 8. Your Digital Self – The Human Face of the Coming Singularity

Chapter 8: Your Digital Self

The Human Face of the Coming Singularity (In Process)

I. Your Personal AI (PAI): Your Digital Self

Digital Society: Data, Mediation, and Agents
Personal AIs: Advancing the Five Goals
PAI Innovation: Abundance and Diversity
PAI Intelligence: Bio-Inspired AI
PAI Morality: Selection and Groupnets
PAI Security: Safe Learning Agents
PAI Sustainability: Science and Balance
The Human Face of the Coming Singularity

II. PAI Protopias & Dystopias in 8 Domains

1. Personal Agents: News, Ent., Education
2. Social Agents: Relat. and Social Justice
3. Political Agents :  Activism & Represent.
4. Economic Agents:  Retail, Finance, Entrep
5. Builder Agents :  Work, Innov. & Science
6. Environ. Agents : Pop. and Sustainability
7. Health Agents :  Health, Wellness, Death
8. Security Agents :  Def., Crime, Corrections

III. PAI Activism & Exponential Empowerment

Next Government: PAIs, Groupnets, Democ.
Next Economy: Creat. Destr. & Basic Income
Next Society: PAI Ent., Mortality & Uploading
What Will Your PAI Contribution Be?

Chapter 10. Startup Ideas – Great Product & Service Challenges for Entrepreneurs

Chapter 10: Startup Ideas

Great Product and Service Challenges for Entrepreneurs (In Process)

I. 4U’s Idea Hub: Building Better Futures

Air Deliveries and Air Taxis: Finally Solving Urban Gridlock
Ballistic Shields and Gun Control: Protecting Us All from Lone Shooters
Bioinspiration Wiki: Biomimetics and Bio-Inspired Design
Brain Preservation Services: Memory and Mortality Redefined
Carcams: Document Thieves, Bad Driving, and Bad Behavior
Competition in Govt Services: Less Corruption, More Innovation
Computer Adaptive Education (CAE): Better Learning and Training
Conversational Deep Learning Devsuites: Millions of AI Coders
Digital Tables: Telepresence, Games, Entertainment & Education
Dynaships: Sustainable Low-Speed Cargo Shipping
Electromagnetic Suspension: Nausea-Free Working & Reading in Cars
Epigenetic Health Tests: Cellular Aging, Bad Diet, Body Abuse Feedback
Fireline Explosives and Ember Drones: Next-Gen Fire Control
Global English: Empowering the Next Generation of Global Youth
Greenbots: Drone Seeders and Robotic Waterers for Mass Regreening
High-Density Housing and Zoning: Making Our Cities Affordable Again
Highway Enclosures and Trail Networks: Green and Quiet Urban Space
Inflatable Packaging: Faster and Greener Shipping and Returns
Internet of Families: Connecting People Over Things
Kidcams: Next-Gen Security for Child Safety and Empowerment
Kidpods: Indoor & Outdoor Parent-Assistive Toyboxes
Microdesalination: Democratizing Sustainable Fresh Water Production
Noise Monitors: Documenting and Reducing Noise Pollution
Oceanside Baths: Sustainable Year Round Beach Enjoyment
Open Blood Scanners: DIY Citizen Health Care Sensor Tech
Open Streaming Radio: User-Centered Audio Creation and Rating
Open Streaming Video: User-Centered Video Creation and Rating
Open Values Filters: Social Rankers, Arg. Mappers, and Consensus Finders
Personal AIs: Your Private Advisor, Activist, and Interface to the World
Pet Empowerment: Next-Gen Rights and Abilities for Our Domestic Animals
Safe Closets: Fire-, Earthquake-, and Intruder-Proof Retreat Spaces
Safe Cars: Reducing Our Insane 1.3M Annual Auto Deaths Today
Safe Motorcycles: Lane Splitting in Gridlock Without Risk of Death
Shared Value Insurance: User-Centered Risk Reduction Services
Sleeperbuses and Microhotels: Demonetized Intercity Travel
Space-Based Solar Power: Stratellite Powering and Weather Management
Stratellites: Next-Gen Urban Broadband, Transparency, and Security
Touch DNA: Next-Gen Home Security and Crime Deterrence
View Towers: Improving Urban Walkability, Inspiration, and Community

Chapter 11. Evo Devo Foresight – Unpredictable and Predictable Futures

Chapter 11: Evo Devo Foresight

Unpredictable and Predictable Futures

Appendix 1. Peer Advice – Building a Successful Foresight Practice