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OODA Loop

Inspired by the Scientific Method and created by one of the most effective fighter pilots in the history of warfare, this decision-making model is a go-to approach in competitive, conflict and/or volatile landscapes. When you dig beneath the superficial, it can improve the way you think and act in all aspects of your work and life.  The OODA Loop is a nonlinear and iterative decision-making process that involves dynamically observing, orienting, deciding, and acting.  BREAKING DOWN OODA. This framework is particularly relevant in competitive or high-stakes environments where agility and response to changing circumstances are crucial. Here are the four elements in more detail: :  Stage Challenges Tips Observe.    Take in new information and data about the environment and unfolding events.   Incomplete information. Overly focused on distorting inputs. Separating ‘signals from noise’.  Accept complexity and that everything is in motion and will change.  Consider Causation vs Correlation and avoid fixing on interpretations. Orientation    Challenge, destroy and create mental models as required to gain a more accurate understanding of what’s happening and what’s possible. It includes filters defined by culture and experience. Unconscious bias. Assumptions.  Existing mental models. Not understanding that Orientation is the heart of OODA and is an ongoing part of the process, not just a one-off step. Embrace Munger’s Latticework approach and build a broad latticework of mental models. Remember that the Map is Not the Territory and continually challenge your mental models.  Apply Occam's Razor and First Principles Thinking to challenge assumptions and/or Inversion to reframe.  Create multiple mental scenarios to explore further. Decide.    Select a hypothesis to take action on.  Failure to understand that it will be an imperfect decision and reality will keep shifting. Where possible, frame this as a current hypothesis rather than a long-term commitment.  Skip this stage when the action is obvious or implicit.  Identify when a fast adequate decision might be better than a slow, better decision.  Act.    Test your hypothesis in action.  The need to take decisive action rather than testing a hypothesis.  Consider A/B Testing and Prototyping.  Where possible, use this stage to gain more information and data as part of an iterative, non-linear process.   A NON-LINEAR PROCESS. You might have seen those cycle diagrams to represent the OODA loop, working through each step in a staged process. Forget them. The strength of this approach lies in viewing it as a dynamic framework.  For example, Boyd pointed to the centrality of Orientation in the OODA Loop, explaining that “Orientation isn’t just a state you’re in; it’s a process. You’re always orienting.” This process of Orientation is about rapidly constructing, challenging, and destroying the mental models (Boyd called them 'mental concepts') in your head so you can understand and take action as effectively as possible. Boyd explained: “We gotta get an image or picture in our head, which we call orientation. Then we have to make a decision as to what we’re going to do, and then implement the decision. . . . Then we look at the action, plus our observation, and we drag in new data, new orientation, new decision, new action, ad infinitum.” SPEED & UNPREDICTABILITY IN COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENTS. It should come as no surprise that a model born from a fighter pilot has particular relevance in competitive environments. Indeed, one of Boyd’s big tips was to speed up your OODA Loop cycle to ‘get inside’ the OODA Loop of your opposition. Moving faster, and taking action that your opposition is not expecting, to disrupt their OODA Loop and challenge their mental models, forcing them to reorient and adapt to you.   WORKING IN COMPLEXITY. Not in an explicitly competitive situation? The OODA Loop still applies and is particularly useful in complex, ambiguous environments. Proponents will argue that the OODA Loop is the process everyone uses, consciously or unconsciously, to understand and act in the world all the time. The point then is to bring a more deliberate approach to make your OODA Loop more effective and faster. Concretely, some ways to improve your OODA Loop include:  [Observe] Be present and open: work to access and be more sensitive to new information, particularly if it contradicts your current assumptions; [Orientate] Be prepared: work through multiple mental scenarios as you establish more accurate and dynamic mental models of a situation;  [Decision] Be humble: view decisions as hypotheses to be tested rather than final commitments; [Act] Remain adaptable: frame your action as a way of generating valuable feedback, and be prepared to pivot and change as you learn more or the situation changes.  IN YOUR LATTICEWORK.  There are many links to be made with the OODA Loop. The process of generating and testing hypotheses is born from the Scientific Method and bears much resemblance to Double Loop Learning. The deconstruction and construction of mental models is strengthened by an understanding of Munger’s Latticework and the Map versus Territory models. OODA Loop is a more dynamic and versatile decision-making approach than Decision Trees and Cost-Benefit Analysis, though consider how you might combine rather counterpose such models. Finally, many devotees of David Snowden's Cynefin Framework have found interesting interplays between OODA and Cynefin, applying the OODA Loop differently in various Cynefin domains for greatest effectiveness — see the Origins & Resources section below for more including to a link by Dave Snowden on the topic. 

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