OODA Loop – Definition

Cite this article as:"OODA Loop – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated March 26, 2019, last accessed August 4, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/ooda-loop-definition/.


OODA Loop Definition

United States Air Force Colonel and Military Strategist, John Boyd, developed the concept of OODA Loop which stands for ‘Observe, Orient, Decide, Apply’, a decision making cycle helpful in intense situations. Boyd used the concept in combat operations during military campaigns. It now finds application in corporate and commercial operations. The Loop is an effective tool to overcome raw emotions by acting quickly and decisively.

A Little More on What is OODA Loop

In an airstrike combat scenario, a fighter pilot in the enemy aircraft range is bombarded with visual and perceptive information. From considering the size, training, and fire power, to the strategy of the enemy pilot, a 100 different scenarios and action plans come present themselves. These are further complicated when more information makes itself available like the speed of the aircraft, its trajectory, and so on. The pilot needs to process all this information within a split second, arrive at a conclusive plan of action, put it into motion, and execute it with precision. OODA Loop comes into play in such a scenario where the pilot needs to keep aside distracting elements like emotional reactions or psychological pressure.

Cycling through the information available at every instance helps the pilot stay focussed, take quick decisions, and act with confidence. It improves his decision making ability while removing detracting elements. Combatants trained in the OODA Loop technique perform better under stress.

The faster one processes through this cycle of observing, orienting, deciding and applying, the better their chances of outwitting an opponent. It is the agility afforded by quick thinking and acting with critical throughput. Boyd drew this insight from his on-field experience.

Basketball is another arena wherein training in the OODA Loop technique can help you read into an opponent’s strategy and act fast to throw a monkey wrench into it. From a series of fakes like feigned passes, to confusing body movements to indicate a certain direction of play while going in a different direction at the last moment, thinking faster is the key to achieving better results and outplaying your opponents. Instead of a game of skill, it now also incorporates strategy into the gameplay.

A game of tennis between evenly matched players might be won by the one trained and experienced in the OODA Loop cycle.

While sporting events might see instant results with OODA Loop, the business world sees an extended, long duration game play at work. Studying customer activity is the Observational phase, positioning the business to address concerns and improve performance is the Orientation stage, coming up with a plan of action to execute new strategies is the Decision phase, execution at the grassroots level is the Action phase. This plays out for months or years as businesses rise and fall, competition folds, and new empires take their place.

As stated, agility or the pace of moving ahead is the key to achieving better results, beating competition, or gaining first mover advantage over opponents according to the OODA Loop strategy. Boyd also used this argument for advocating the use of lighter maneuverable fighter aircrafts as opposed to the heavy jet fighters.

References for OODA Loop

Academic Research on OODA Loop

‘All hazards approach’ to disaster management: the role of information and knowledge management, Boyd’s OODA Loop, and network‐centricity, Von Lubitz, D. K., Beakley, J. E., & Patricelli, F. (2008). Disasters, 32(4), 561-585. This paper examines the application of Boyd’s OODA Loop on disaster management, the role of information and issues of access in network-centricity.

Coming full circle with Boyd’s OODA loop ideas: An analysis of innovation diffusion and evolution, Angerman, W. S. (2004).(No. AFIT/GIR/ENV/04M-01). AIR FORCE INST OF TECH WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB OH SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND MANAGEMENT. This paper traces the origins and adaptation of Boyd’s OODA Loop, and how it has evolved and spread over the years. The paper presents its findings after analysing data from a quarter century of OODA Loop applications.

Control warfare: Inside the OODA loop, Plehn, M. T. (2000). AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIRPOWER STUDIES. This paper analyses control warfare and how OODA Loop depicts an accurate model of command and control process behaviors.

Manipulating the OODA Loop: The Overlooked Role of Information Resource Management in Information Warfare., Schechtman, G. M. (1996). (No. AFIT/GIR/LAL/96D-10). AIR FORCE INST OF TECH WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB OH. This paper takes a critical look at information warfare and manipulating the OODA Loop in light of the significance of acquiring information for orientation.

Adaptive mission planning: the embedded OODA loop, Patrón, P., & Lane, D. M. (2008). In Proceedings of the 3rd SEAS DTC Technical Conference. This paper presents a new technique for improving the autonomous recovery plan to increase unmanned underwater vehicles operability. It combines several approaches, one of which is the OODA Loop, to tackle the issue.

Orientation: key to the OODA loop-the culture factor, MacCuish, D. A. (2012). Journal of Defense Resources Management, 3(2), 67. This paper sheds light on Boyd’s OODA Loop theory and posits that Orientation is the key factor to its successful implementation. It also examines the ‘Culture Factor’ at play in the implementation of OODA Loop.

Boyd’s OODA loop, Richards, C. (2012). Atlanta, GA: J. Addams & Partners.

Boyd’s OODA loop and how we use it, Hightower, T. A. (2007). 2014-07-15]. http://www. tacticalre-source, com/d/node/226. S. This paper attempts to explain Boyd’s OODA Loop concept and its usage in the modern world.

The Orientation step of the OODA loop and Information Warfare, Brumley, L., Kopp, C., & Korb, K. (2006). In Information Warfare and Security Conference (p. 20). This paper takes a look at the importance of gaining information and its implication on the Orientation step in the OODA Loop.

The OODA loop, Enck, R. E. (2012). This article defines, explains, traces the origin, and presents the impact of the OODA Loop.

Information Age view of the OODA loop, Gherman, L. (2013). Review of the Air Force Academy, (1), 69. This paper views OODA Loop through the lens of the information age.

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