(John Boyd)

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Information Warfare. Explanation of OODA loop of John Boyd.


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The OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act) is an  information strategy concept for information warfare developed by Colonel John Boyd (1927-1997). Although the OODA model was clearly created for military purposes, elements of the same theory can also be applied to business strategy. Boyd developed the theory based on his earlier experience as a fighter pilot and work on energy maneuverability. He initially used it to explain victory in air-to-air combat, but in the last years of his career he expanded his OODA Loop theory into a grand strategy that would defeat an enemy strategically by - psychological - paralysis.

Boyd emphasized that strategy should always revolve around changing the enemy's behavior, not annihilating his forces. The parallel between Boyd's ideas and the masterpiece of Sun Tzu, "The Art of War", are obvious. Both Boyd and Sun Tzu advocate the ideas of harmony, deception, swiftness and fluidity of action, surprise, shock, and attacking the enemy's strategy.

Colonel Boyd viewed the enemy (and ourselves) as a system that is acting through a decision making process. This decision making process is based on observations of the world around it. The enemy will observe unfolding circumstances and gather outside information in order to orient the system to perceived threats. Boyd states that the orientation phase of the loop is the most important step, because if the enemy perceives the wrong threats, or misunderstands what is happening in the environment around him, then he will orient his thinking (and forces) in wrong directions and ultimately make incorrect decisions. Boyd said that this cycle of decision-making could operate at different speeds for the enemy and your own organization. The goal should be to complete your OODA Loop process at a faster tempo than the enemy's, and to take action to lengthen the enemy's loop. One tries to conduct many more loops "inside" the enemy's loop, causing the enemy to be unable to react to anything that is happening to him.

Colonel Boyd stated that the enemy's loop can be lengthened through a variety of means. Boyd's aim is to generate "non-cooperate" centers of gravity for the enemy through ambiguity, deception, novel circumstances, fast transient maneuvers, and the use of Sun-Tzu's idea of Cheng and Ch'i. By isolating the enemy's centers of gravity and developing mistrust and cohesion within the system (making them "non-cooperative"), friction will be greatly increased, paralysis in the system will set in, and the enemy will ultimately collapse. By attacking the thought process of the enemy / competitor, his morale and decision process can be shattered.

Book: Sun Tzu, Gary Gagliardi - The Art of War -

Book: Carl Von Clausewitz - On War -

OODA Loop Forum
  Books on Boyd and his OODA Concept
'The Mind of War' and 'The John Boyd Roundtable' are some other books talking about Boyd theories and the OODA Loop concept.
The best biography about Boyd is by Robert Coram named 'Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War'....
  OODA Loop in Education / Schools
Can anyone illustrate the use of OODA Loop in any school situation?...
  OODA Loop = Competitive Intelligence
In other words, competitive intelligence is: observe, orient, decide and act....
  OODA Loop & John Boyd
Orientation also involves probing for new information and looking for parallels in other areas of knowledge. It is extremely effective in emotionally charged situations like divorce. Boyd’s strategy theory is surprisingly simple yet applicable across...
  OODA & Adaptive Enterprise
I was surprised not to see anything about Stephan Haeckel's Adaptive Enterprise concept, advanced in late 1990s. He was head of IBM's Advanced Business Institute and now runs a consulting company focused on embedding an OODA loop into major organisat...

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Weaknesses of the OODA-Loop

Rousseau and Breton identify some limitations of the OODA Loop as developed by Boyd. These limitations and weaknesses are listed below:
- The OOD...
Usage (application): Limitations of OODA

An Improved Version of the OODA-loop with Feedback and -forward Loops

Rousseau and Breton developed an extended version of the OODA-loop in order to remove some of its weaknesses. M-OODA (short for Modular OODA loop). Th...
Usage (application): OODA-loop, Complex Decision Support, Defense, Best Practices

Resources - OODA Loop Premium

Full 200-slide Powerpoint Presentation by Boyd

A monumental look by Boyd at what makes any organization competitive.
Encompassing 2,500 years of the history of conflict, this briefing introdu...
Usage (application): Strategy, Conflict, OODA Loop

A Cognitive Version of the OODA Loop

The OODA loop has been proposed to represent the decision cycle of pilots in air force environments. One of the advantages with the loop is that it ca...
Usage (application): Complex (Military) Dynamic Decision Support

OODA Loop Diagram

Download and edit this 12manage PowerPoint graphic for limited personal, educational and business use. Republishing in intranets, websites, books, ma...
Usage (application): Competitive Intelligence

Orientation Step in the OODA-loop

This presentation expands on the second point in the OODA-loop, the Orientation phase. The presentation starts with a general explanation of the OODA-...
Usage (application): Orientation Phase, OODA-Loop


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Compare with the OODA Loop of John Boyd:  Deming Cycle  |  Organic Organization  |  Business Intelligence  |  Force Field Analysis  |  Scenario Planning  |  PEST Analysis  |  SWOT Analysis  |  System Dynamics  |  Simulation

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OODA loop Boyd

Chart adapted from Chester W. Richards, "A Swift, Elusive Sword: What if Sun Tzu and John Boyd did a National Defense review",

Center for Defense Information, February 2003, 22.

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