How To Decide As A Fighter Pilot – The OODA Loop!

Do you like to make better decisions? Do you like to decide as a fighter pilot? Then, perhaps you should try to put a little bit of OODA in your life! OODA is a small military acronym I picked up during my army days (in Greece, an at least 1-year military service is compulsory for the men.) I had plenty of hours to spear and a lot of American Army manuals to read! OODA is one of those things you could find extremely useful, later on, at your civilian life!

How To Decide As A Fighter Pilot - The OODA Loop

What OODA Is?

OODA or OODA loop more correctly stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act and is a military acronym, developed by Colonel John Boyd.

Today, OODA loop acquired an elevated importance:

in litigation, business and military strategy. According to Boyd, decision-making occurs in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain the advantage. (Wikipedia: OODA loop)

The OODA Loop Approach

The OODA loop dictates a not-so-ordinary approach in the decision-making process and provides a different bird’s-eye view towards a situation! And OODA is a loop based approach (model) since it prescribes constant loops of feedback, evaluation and re-evaluation which can alter the content of the decision.

This approach, the short version, is like that: you enter a new (sometimes unfamiliar) situation or cope with something in a different way. You need to decide about something, something that might affect yourself, your company, your organization, etc. According to OODA loop:

  1. You take the time to think a little about it and OBSERVE the things around you. You might need some new information, perhaps you need different assets or resources to cope with the situation, etc. In any case, you should stop and think about the current situation, its consequences, possible outcomes and how these can affect you or how you can use them in favor of you, etc.
  2. You put yourself in the place to re-evaluate his/hers own beliefs and perceptions and ORIENT him/herself towards a different interpretation of the situation he/she currently needs to handle! Everyone of us, over the time, has developed different filters, misconceptions, belief systems, etc., that affect a situation in many different ways. As a result, those beliefs, affect the decisions we make! For this reason, it is essential for you to interpret correctly the situation you are in! Is like the old story of the hunter who kills the huge bear in the dark, he thought it was ready to attack him, just to find out the next morning that the bear he shot, was, in fact, a cub over a rock! Usually when we have a good mood and confidence, we see “manageable” the situations we have previous problems to cope with! The correct interpretation of a situation provides you all the means, to handle the situation and speed up the decision process!
  3. After the previous mental processes, you DECIDE on how you handle the situation and what strategy would you employ towards the real situation you have to handle too.
  4. Finally, and after you have followed the previous steps, you ACT on the decision you made. A not expected or not so desirable consequence would trigger a new circle of OODA, with you to re-observe the situation and a new OODA would start!

In each stage, when a new flow of information triggers different approaches you re-enter the OODA loop to clarify further or alter you decisions. In essence the constant feedback loops, constitute continuing learning circles that help you to alter your behavior patterns and make better decisions in the future!

How To Decide As A Fighter Pilot – The OODA Loop in Real Situations

Let’s see how this would work, in a real situation. Let’s check it against a situation of public speaking, a situation that puts into anxiety on a lot of people.

Let’s assume you are a guest speaker to a conference or you are about to speak to a large audience! You know the topics you are going to deliver you have a large experience and knowledge about the issues you are going to discuss, and you are preparing your speech for the conference! That means you have all the right assets to deliver a wonderful speech. But usually, in situations like these, anxiety kicks in, and made you feel awful. These are situations you can utilize the OODA loop!

According to OODA loop, relating to your speech in the conference:

  1. You observe the situation you are going to cope with. So, in our case, before the time of your speech, you gather as much information available for the conference, the other speakers, the audience members, personas, high esteem persons, while just before you deliver the speech, at the conference, you check the audience, the mood, and emotions, of the attendees, you ponder on the questions made to other speakers, etc (remember, OODA is a loop and repeated itself until an equilibrium, or a decision is reached).
  2. Before your speech, you are based on the observation you made and the feedback you might have received from your 3rd parties (as the conference organizers, etc) in order to orient correctly yourself and positioning yourself in accordance or in sync to your audience . This orientation phase might make you consider to abandon parts of your speech, or to omit them completely, to deliver other parts in a different manner, etc. During your speech, you can re-adjust your speech based on the input you receive by your audience and the feedback gained, in order to re-purpose major parts of your arguments, in a way more suited to the actual audience.
  3. Before your speech, you have decided on the strategy you are going to follow for your speech, you have prepared your presentation and your notes, while, during your speech time, you are constantly adjusting your speech on the conditions and the feedback you are receiving by your audience.
  4. Finally, after constant loops of the #1, #2, #3 and #4 phases, you actually ACT on delivering your speech, in a manner more suited to the actual audience of the conference.

So, let’s OODA, a little! Are you ready?

Question: Would you think, that OODA loop, would be useful in your life? How do you think you can use it to enhance you life and business?

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    Takis Athanassiou is an IT Consultant, Blogger, Trainer & Writer, active in the areas of leadership, business consulting, e-Learning and social media. He aims at the development of people, business and assets! You can check out his blog, add him in Google+ and follow him on Twitter.

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