June 3, 2010
John Boyd has influenced my life greatly. His ideas for creating self-renewing social systems to increase our capacity for independent action constantly challenges me to rethink my approaches to problems. And it is with great happiness, that I realized I can honor John Boyd by incorporating his name into my vernacular as a verb.
Recently, I was playing Team Fortress 2 with my brother. It’s a first-person shooter where you are running around on teams trying to capture flags and deliver bombs. Teamwork goes a long way in this game. At one point, my team started to get cornered and all of our momentum deflated. We were getting our asses handed to us. My brother and I have both read about Boyd, so I said to him, “Let’s Boyd this problem,” as if John Boyd’s name were an verb.
Now what does this mean, to Boyd a problem? It means to apply the OODA loop to a problem, an activity that would take up many words to describe, but can be summarized by just saying, “Boyd it.”
The OODA loop is composed of four concepts. Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. The OODA loop initially looks very power-pointy and meaningless, but it’s integrally important and rich with meaning. Essentially it is about changing your point of view to be constantly appropriate for the circumstances in a repetitive feedback loop. When organized against an opponent, this comes out to moving faster on many wavelengths, and folding them back upon themselves until they cannot contest you for resources.
Breaking up the OODA loop into discrete components and analyzing it in a piece meal fashion wouldn’t be appropriate for a highly tactical response. So just saying, “Let’s Boyd it,” worked to break us out of our defeat, and reorient ourselves to the problem at hand and find new ways to interfere with the enemies momentum. By Boyding the other team, and ourselves, we were able to turn the defeat into victory, in a way that made our victory look surprisingly lopsided.
Understanding Boyd’s philosophy is aided by understanding him as an individual. John Boyd was a fighter pilot, military strategist, and systems theorist that illustrated a path to developing ourselves and institutions such that we are increasing our capacity for independent action. The book Boyd is a good synopsis of his life. You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Boyd-Fighter-Pilot-Who-Changed/dp/0316881465 I would also recommend the wikipedia article about him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Boyd_%28military_strategist%29 And the wikipedia article about one of his key concepts, the OODA Loop: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OODA_Loop And for the best insight into a concise summary of his philosophy, I recommend reading his work, Destruction and Creation. http://www.goalsys.com/books/documents/DESTRUCTION_AND_CREATION.pdf