21 October, 2015

How a Military Fighter Pilot can influence your Sport

How a Military Fighter Pilot can influence your Sport

[Photo credit: Milan Nykodym]

As with many things in life, I didn’t actually grasp the true extent of this lesson I was taught early in my Military Career at the time. This lesson has been taught to thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of students since Col. John Boyd a US Air Force Fighter pilot introduced the concept in the 1950’s.

This concept is the OODA Loop. We were taught in the military that we had to get ‘inside’ the enemies OODA loop in order to defeat them. Not until many years later did I see how valuable this was for the organisations I was now working for outside of the Military.

OODA stands for observe, orientate, decide and act. It is a decision-planning tool that enables leaders and planners to make informed decisions and then take action. The process is something that we do unconsciously hundreds of times a day. We are exposed to a stimulus and we react to that stimulus. For instance when driving a car and the driver in front brakes we observe, orientate where we are on the road in relation to that car, decide what action might need to be taken to avoid a collision and then take appropriate action. Most of the time we are pretty good at it!

Col. Boyd noted in the Korean War, that despite the US aircraft being less maneuverable than the Russian made MIG’s, they were winning the majority of the dogfights. Part of the reason being, the US F-86’s had a better field of vision and hydraulic controls that enabled faster maneuverability. This ability to observe and then orientate themselves faster, meant they could disrupt their enemies actions. He emphasised to his pilots the need to observe and orientate faster than their enemy in order to make superior decisions that ultimately would save their lives.

In a business or sport context, the ability to observe what is happening with competitors, the industry or any other range of stakeholders and then orientate your team or organisation quickly is imperative. The speed at which technology changes, the reduced brand loyalty by consumers and the selection of products on offer mean that if you are took slow to react, then the action you do take will be late to the market or no longer relevant. As with Col Boyd’s pilots, your survival in the industry may be limited.

So how to use this in your organisation, team or daily life – Understand the process you go through to make a decision follows the OODA loop.

For organisational relevance, always ask the questions

  • What is happening today that might affect me tomorrow? Observe
  • How will that affect me and what is my position in relation to that change? Orientate
  • What is the action I have to take in order to be ready for the change to ensure my survival? Decide
  • Just do it! Act and act decisively. 

© 2019 Paul Mead