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Decision Making, Like A Fighter Pilot

When operating a company, to stay innovative requires constant observation of your industry, competition, and your own company.

When you’re a fighter pilot, to stay alive requires constant observation of what is happening around you as well as with your own aircraft.

With that said… Let me ask you… If there was a decision-making framework that allowed a fighter pilot to make smart choices, while flying at near supersonic speeds, and while being shot at, wouldn’t you want to put that to work for your business?

I can see you nodding your head “Yes!” as you read this…

There is a decision making tool fighter pilots use called the OODA Loop.

It is also known as the John Boyd OODA Loop after its inventor who was a United States Air Force fighter pilot from 1951 thru 1975 and a military strategist.

OODA stands for:

  • Observation – collecting data with your senses
  • Orientation – analyzing and synthesizing the information to form a perspective
  • Decision – choosing a course of action based on that perspective, and
  • Action – taking action on that decision.


It is a repeating cycle, thus ‘loop’ in the name. You observe, gain orientation, decide on your plan, and act. Then, you start observing again, &c,.

A key to victory – whether fighting in the air, or innovation within your company on the ground – is to create situations where you can anticipate, adapt, and make the right decisions. The OODA Loop helps accomplish this.

You can read more about the OODA Loop and Jack Boyd on Wikipedia.

The illustration I’ve rendered here is a slightly simplified version of the diagram created by John Boyd.

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