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Reading :: The Essence of Winning and Losing

Posted by: on Jun 15, 2015 | No Comments
The Essence of Winning and Losing
By John Boyd

This is another in my series reviewing the briefings of John Boyd.

The Essence of Winning and Losing
This briefing is comparatively short (just four slides), but dense. It's also consequential in that it contains a diagram of the fully articulated OODA loop.

Since the presentation is so short, I feel as if I am cheating by presenting the entire text of Slide 2 below:
Without our genetic heritage, cultural traditions, and previous experiences, we do not possess an implicit repertoire of psychophysical skills shaped by environments and changes that have been previously experienced.
Without analyses and synthesis across a variety of domains or across a variety of competing/independent channels of information, we cannot evolve new repertoires to deal with unfamiliar phenomena or unforeseen change.
Without a many-sided, implicit cross-referencing process of projection, empathy, correlation, and rejection (across these many different domains or channels of information), we cannot even do analysis and synthesis.
Without OODA loops, we can neither sense, hence observe, thereby collect a variety of information for the above processes, nor decide as well as implement actions in accord with these processes.
Or put another way:
Without OODA loops embracing all of the above and without the ability to get inside other OODA loops (or other environments), we will find it impossible to comprehend, shape, adapt to and in turn be shaped by an unfolding evolving reality that is uncertain, everchanging, and unpredictable (Slide 1, his emphasis)
Just a quick unpacking. Boyd is summarizing the contents of the other briefings here, strongly arguing that we must draw on what we have to build up a repertoire of skills to understand our environment; analyze and synthesize to develop new repertoires; cross-reference across domains; and set up loops to allow us to interact with the environment and improve based on those interactions. Without that work, we can't cope with change and unpredictability.

He offers the full diagram of the OODA loop to help us better understand it (Slide 3). This diagram includes a distended Orientation module with subcomponents (recall that Orientation is the Schwerpunkt of the OODA loop) and it includes multiple arrows indicating feedback loops across the system. That is, the OODA loop represents a process rather than a stepwise sequence, as he makes clear on the next slide:
By pulling all this together, we can see that the key statements, OODA loop sketch, and related insights represent an evolving, open-ended, far-from-equilibrium process of self-organization, emergence, and natural selection. (Slide 4)
 That's it—short and sweet.