Much Ado About The OODA Loop

Any discussion about fast adaptation in response to uncertainty should probably begin with John Boyd and the OODA Loop.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Just got to this post by clicking on links from this week’s post, and wanted to offer a couple thoughts.

I read Jeff Hawkins’s book A Thousand Brains this week after being reminded of it last week, and the critical new piece of cognitive theory he explains is that the brain is built around “reference frames”, aka the mental model or sense making we have of the world. In other words, he posits that thinking itself at the neuron level is about navigating with respect to a mental map we have of the environment and objects around us. We are constantly refining those mental maps (stored on a per object, and per domain, basis by individual “cortical columns”, clusters of neurons) by predicting what we will sense next as we navigate using that map, and update the map in response to any surprises.

This is relevant to this post because it hypothesizes a neurological basis for the cognitive sense making you describe, and it points to what Blizkrieg organizational leadership was doing in creating a “common ground” for its officers.

Effective organizational leadership requires giving a consistent reference to people in the organization so they have the same mental map. They are trained on it through repeated scenarios (deliberate practice) so that their brains have learned how to navigate using that reference frame.

For this to be effective, it has to be comprehensive; in Patrick Lencioni’s book The Advantage, he claims that the most effective leadership teams 1) Create Clarity, 2) Overcommunicate Clarity, and 3) Reinforce Clarity (by making all processes like hiring and promotions consistent with the clear priorities of the organization). Through the lens of this comment, such leaders intentionally create common ground or a common reference frame in people’s brains, which means that they collectively Orient faster (because they are using the same reference frame to understand the incoming data) and therefore Decide and Act faster, creating faster looping than their competitors.

Dang. I have to collect this into a blog post!