A chilly rain and cloudy skies saw a crowd bundled in winter coats hurrying into the chapel. Full military honors including an honor guard, band, rifle squad, and flag-draped caisson drawn by six gray horses were provided. He was more than just a great stick-and-rudder man, though; he was a strategist. E-M Theory would revolutionize the way air-to-air combat was taught and fighter planes were designed around the world.
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However, prior to its introduction, United States Air Force jet fighters struggled in air-to-air combat: during the Vietnam War, jet fighters scored dismal loss ratios of In the winter of , a young prodigious Air Force fighter pilot, named John Boyd, was assigned to fly one of the earliest jet fighters in history—the F Sabre—during the Korean war.
As the high-speed dog fight commenced in the skies of Korea, the F Sabre faced the impossible task of defeating the Soviet MiG—a superior aircraft with faster maximum speed, heavier firepower and narrower turn radius.
But by the end of the war, the F pilots shot down MiGs and lost only 78 Sabres, recording a victory to loss ratio of Whilst the Air Force celebrated the victory, John Boyd racked his brain to solve a puzzling question: Why did the F jet fighter score such a high victory ratio against a superior opponent? In order to solve this problem, Boyd studied, analyzed and combined ideas from psychology, biology, physics and theories from the greatest military strategists of all-time, including Sun Tzu, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Carl von Clausewitz, Ulysses S.
Grant, Eric Ludendorff and Erwin Rommel. During his search for answers, Boyd made remarkable discoveries that would not only change the Art of War, but also revolutionize postmodern strategy. The most important of these is called the OODA loop: a simple model for optimal decision-making and innovation in the face of uncertainty.
First Lt. John Boyd in the cockpit of an F during the Korean War. To improve our ability to shape and adapt to unfolding circumstances, so that we as individuals or as groups or as a culture or as a nation-state can survive on our own terms. After several months discreetly conducting millions of calculations, Boyd finally solved the puzzle.
By applying insights from thermodynamics, Boyd discovered that air-to-air combat could be explained in terms of energy relationships. He encapsulated his ideas as the Energy-Maneuverability theory, or E-M theory.
Rather, it was a by-product of agility—the aircraft could transition from one maneuver to another faster than the Soviets MiG This breakthrough idea would later lead to the creation of the undefeated F Eagle, and subsequent jet fighters that continue to dominate air combat today.
Simplified version of the OODA loop. In the book Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd , each one of these elements is briefly explained as follows in-depth explanations will be revealed shortly : Observation is sensing yourself and the world around you.
Decision is a review of alternative courses of action and the selection of the preferred course as a hypothesis to be tested. Action is the testing of decision selected by implementation. Contrary to popularized interpretations, the OODA loop is not so much a decision-making tool, as it is a mental model for individual and organizational learning and adaptation. More so than any other period in history, the world is gripped with extreme levels of uncertainty, confusion and disruption: the future of work is threatened by artificial intelligence and legacy organizations are dying off.
The OODA loop is a powerful tool that helps individuals and organizations to embrace uncertainty and quickly adapt to environmental changes, ensuring survival and growth. Comprehensive OODA loop. Within the context of an organization—any organized group of people with a particular purpose—observation involves paying close attention to changes, or lack of change, within the organization, among competitors and the environment.
Observation however, is not sufficient to survive and grow within a complex, ever-changing world. In other words, the quicker and more accurately we can develop mental images or mental models to make sense of environmental changes—through analyzing and synthesizing our observations—the greater our odds of success.
Most of us are unwilling to question our assumptions and deeply held beliefs , so we orient poorly and fall prey to highly creative people who have already adapted to, and disrupted our environment.
The decision phase of the OODA loop involves a discussion amongst key decision-makers within an organization to take action on one of the alternatives generated during the orientation phase.
Finally, the action phase according to Boyd, should be rapid, surprising, ambiguous, menacing and varied. This alters the tempo and psychological dynamics, which throws the opponent into a state of confusion, diminishes their capacity to adapt to the new environment and leads to their defeat. The decision and action phases both send feedback to the OODA loop as a check on the adequacy of existing orientation patterns. This entire process is repeated indefinitely.
So what are the key ingredients to completing the OODA loop efficiently? Discovery contains an irrational element or a creative intuition. These are:.
John Boyd (military strategist)
However, prior to its introduction, United States Air Force jet fighters struggled in air-to-air combat: during the Vietnam War, jet fighters scored dismal loss ratios of In the winter of , a young prodigious Air Force fighter pilot, named John Boyd, was assigned to fly one of the earliest jet fighters in history—the F Sabre—during the Korean war. As the high-speed dog fight commenced in the skies of Korea, the F Sabre faced the impossible task of defeating the Soviet MiG—a superior aircraft with faster maximum speed, heavier firepower and narrower turn radius. But by the end of the war, the F pilots shot down MiGs and lost only 78 Sabres, recording a victory to loss ratio of Whilst the Air Force celebrated the victory, John Boyd racked his brain to solve a puzzling question: Why did the F jet fighter score such a high victory ratio against a superior opponent?
OODA LOOP: What You Can Learn from Fighter Pilots About Making Fast and Accurate Decisions
It became popular during the Military Reform movement in the s and 80s, which sought to alleviate needlessly complicated and costly weapons systems and over usage of unsustainable military practices like exhausting the enemy through personnel and material losses. Outside of the military, the loop is being applied to help foster commercial processes, particularly with strategy. If I have questions, where should I send them? If you are new to OODA or need a refresher, pretend you are a fighter pilot in a dogfight. In this battle of life or death, you must observe, orient, decide, and act in order to save not only your mission but your life. Observe: Survey everything around you.