Chapter 1. Introduction – Our Emerging Foresight Field

The Eight Skills of Adaptive Foresight – The Do Loop

A basic model in cognitive science, of how we navigate and adapt to the world, is the perception-decision-action (PDA) cycle. This model is actually a perception-decision-action-review (PDAR) cycle, because perception always involves both perceiving the results of one’s previous actions (review), and perceiving the current state of the local environment (perception), and it is helpful to split out these two different mental processes, as one is oriented to self (reviewing), and one to the world (perception). Both cognitive science and a related field, ecological psychology, tell us that living organisms cycle continuously through these PDAR cycles. Sometimes we run this cycle rapidly, sometimes slowly, but all thinking beings continuously run repeatedly through cycle, all day long, in order to adapt.

Colonel John Boyd (1927-1997) was a brilliant, iconoclastic US Air Force military strategist. Among other contributions, he applied the PDAR cycle to military strategy, aircraft design, and combat operations in rapidly changing environments, beginning with work during the Vietnam war. Boyd’s term for the PDAR cycle was the OODA loop.

Boyd’s OODA loop involved four stages, as follows:

  1. Observe (Perceive the results of just completed actions) – Review
  2. Orient (Perceive the current environment, See probabilities and possibilities ahead) – Learn & See
  3. Decide (Pick a strategy) – See
  4. Act (Get something done) – Do

Colonel John Boyd

Boyd recognized that the speed of cycling through our OODA loop determines both our speed of learning and our speed of adapting in competitive environments. The faster we can run our loop, the faster we can correct our mistakes, and respond to the actions of others, both helpful and aggressive. In many kinds of conflicts, being able to “get inside of your opponent’s OODA loop” can give you a decisive advantage in a conflict. Getting inside the OODA loop of those you might cooperate with also naturally makes you a leader at recognizing, and inititating, potential cooperative goals and behaviors. Technology, communications, and decentralized decisionmaking are just a few of the tools and strategies that can help teams run their loops faster than larger adversaries and collaborators, and learn and become more adaptive as a result.

Boyd showed the value of the OODA loop in military contexts, and others have since generalized it to business strategy, law enforcement, litigation, and other spheres of human action. For more on Boyd, read Robert Coram’s great biography, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (2004). For a wider look at how Boyd changed US security thinking, read Grant Hammond’s The Mind of War: John Boyd and American Security (2004). For a great application of Boyd’s OODA loop to business, read Chet Richards’ Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business (2004).

We base our theory of adaptive foresight on the PDAR cycle. Like Boyd we will call it a loop, rather than a cycle, because “loop” is one syllable, and thus even faster to say than “cycle”. In honor of Boyd’s emphasis on speed of learning and adaptation, we’ll call our cycle a Do loop, rather than an OODA loop, because successful Doing is the essence of adaptation, and because “Do” is just one syllable, and thus even shorter than “OODA” (or “PDAR”). All of these loops, and others we will explore later, have the same common basis in cognitive science and psychology.

The Do Loop – The Learn-See-Do-Review Cycle of Adaptation


The Do Loop: The Learn-See-Do-Review Cycle

Being an adaptive manager and leader depends on a four step PDAR cycle, which we call the Learn-See-Do-Review (LSDR) decision cycle, and in its shortest name, the Do loop. To the right are the Four Steps four stages) of the loop in graphic form.

  1. Learning involves understanding the past and the present, to orient us toward the future.
  2. Seeing involves three seeing skills (anticipation, innovation, and strategy, aka decisionmaking).
  3. Doing depends on three doing skills (execution, influence, and relating), as we’ll see in Chapter 5.
  4. Reviewing involves observing the results of your actions, which itself is an action skill.

Recall that Learning and the Three Ps are the Four Foresight Skills, but they aren’t the whole of the story. All successful foresight must be integrated into action, and we need feedback to evaluate the extent that our action has been successful, and where it has missed the mark. Feedback is not doing, but it is still a special kind of action skill, as it requires concrete action (not just thinking), to collect, monitor, and evaluate it.  Thus the three doing skills plus reviewing are the Four Action Skills in this Guide.

Taken together, learning, the three seeing skills, the three doing skills, and reviewing are called the Eight Skills. We’ll explore them in much more detail later in this Chapter, and in Chapters 4, 5, and 6, where we’ll tie them to a number of other adaptive foresight and management models. We propose the Eight Skills and the Do loop are a minimum viable model of adaptive strategic foresight practice. Below is a graphic illustration of these skills.

The Eight Skills of Adaptive Foresight

To really help our clients adapt, we need to talk about all Eight Skills, and the indivisible and cyclic relationship between foresight and action. We will often color the three core foresight skills in blue, green, and purple in the Guide, to remind us that they are three classic kinds of foresight thinking, and we will color the five supporting skills in red, to remind us that all eight skills are critical to adaptive foresight practice. We can’t neglect any of them.

Do loops, in our view, are are the only way that useful foresight can emerge.  The loop tells us that the successful foresight practitioner must become proficient at all four of these fundamental steps, and all Eight Skills, not just the second step, seeing (the Three Ps).

Unfortunately, most foresight education programs today don’t include much of both learning and anticipation in their curriculum. They mostly focus on innovation and strategy. Most also don’t teach their students the critical skills of doing and reviewing, to continually improve the quality of foresight. No wonder our graduate foresight educational programs have been so slow to expand around the world since the first one (U. of Hawaii) emerged in 1974. Most are still missing critical elements that would make their processes adaptive.

We also need to talk about how fast, how often, and how well we travel this cycle. In some contexts, as with John Boyd’s OODA loop, or Eric Ries’s Lean Startup loop, we want to run our Do loops fast and loose, and get them faster than environmental change, or our competitors and collaborators. At other times, as with W. Edwards Deming’s Quality loop, we want to run them slowly and carefully. But in all cases, we’re stepping through a universal adaptive foresight loop, and we must learn to walk it well. We must recognize the universality of this loop, and run it consciously, as best we can, in every context where it applies.

Again, all organizations must learn, use and master all Eight Skills on their executive teams, and learn the most useful ways to run their Do loops, if they wish to stay adaptive. Running their loops poorly, or skipping any one of these skills, will eventually undo the firm. These are strong claims, and we’ll try to defend them throughout the Guide.

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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