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What goes around, comes around - from OODA to SODA

The OODA Loop is a decision making cycle that has it's origins in the 1950's. It was the brainchild of Colonel John Boyd, an American Air Force Colonel who applied some serious thinking to what gave fighter pilots the edge they needed over their opponent. The Loop; Observe-Orient-Decide-Act sits alongside other decision making loops (eg Plan-Do-Check-Act), with the specific added condition that the OODA loop was competitive. If you went round the loop faster than your opponent, then you could steal the initiative and claim the win. Quite literally, you would be inside his decision making loop and control the fight.

Those who know me know that I love a bit of OODA, which has fallen a little out of fashion over the years. It really is the Spitfire of decision making models as far as I am concerned. So imagine how thrilled - and scared - I was to see that those clever people at Boston Consulting Group have re-looped the loop and given us a new, shiny and supersonic variant of Boyd's trusted sub-sonic model.


In fact, when I say 'new variant' what I really mean is that they took Boyd's Spitfire, wheeled it into the hanger, tinkered about a bit and came out to reveal - Boyd's Spitfire; a decision-making model themed around Tempo and Disruption. They've given OODA a paint job, dropped the O and replaced it with an S, keeping the other three stages the same. So instead of Observe, we have S. This stands for Scan - scanning the environment for opportunities and risks. From there the existing components remain: Orient (running a spot of pattern recognition) that feeds directly into Decide and the on to Act. Only now, instead of fighter pilots we are talking disruptive technologies, and instead of acing the skies as a fighter Ace, SODA focuses us on acing it against the competition, giving the loop additional relevance in the modern world, where anything that is not on Netflix is positively pre-historic. The OODA loop Spitfire still flies!

Applying your own loop

OODA and SODA are all about two things - agility and awareness. Stay sharp, be ready, be your best.


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