The OODA Loop

USAF Col John Boyd developed OODA – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. You could think of it as “applied situatonal awareness”.

Note that Observation is constant- the loop always provides feedback. Feedback can lead to a sudden termination of the loop in progress – aka read & react.

The second O, orientation – as the repository of our genetic heritage, cultural tradition, and previous experiences – is the most important part of the O-O-D-A loop since it shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act. While Boyd considers this step critical many modern Operators disagree.

Decision is reinforcing your control of the situation, and the results of any decision may dictate whether you win or lose.

Action tests all the feed forward that drove the loop.

Prior to making a decision (the Decide phase), the person will first have to get information (Observe) and determine what it means to him and what he can do about it (Orient). In this way, the utility sought at the Decide phase can be altered by affecting the information the opponent receives and the cognitive model he applies when orienting upon it.

If you want to be good at this, it is important not only to understand and refine your own OODA loop but also understand how to disrupt or manipulate your opponent's OODA loop. Let's say you can draw, target and fire in one second. If a bad guy reads and reacts faster than you can, It doesnt matter if you never got the second you needed. In this hypothetical situation too much focus on the “Act” phase in training left you unprepared to control the situation- possibly to your detriment.

Faster is not always better though- if you can leverage your opponent's OODA to create an advantage for yourself, you can control the situation. That may mean escaping a dangerous situation safely or it may mean having to defend yourself (or some other result entriely)- the key factor is that you took control of the situation.

You have to be able to process the situation and the inputs around you to do this properly and efficiently- MountainGuerrilla has a great intro piece to pragmatic OODA.

Practice using this mindset will help you get better and ultimately faster using OODA- I guess we could call it applied adaptive strategy. While the concept of inviting chaos into your Observaton funnel may seem counter-intuitive the ability to funnel chaos towards your opponent and being nimble enough to react to situations as they unfold are keys to effective control of an evolving situation. In other words, applied situational awareness.


5 thoughts on “The OODA Loop

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