The faster and better we take action against impediments, the more successful we'll be, according to renowned military strategist John Boyd, developer of the OODA Loop.
The OODA loop is observe, orient, decide and act. It’s how we take action in new situations and succeed. In this episode of the Mindful Agility podcast, Tom Looy explores how John Boyd used the OODA Loop to help fighter jet pilots, and ultimately whole military campaigns, succeed against enemies. You can use it in your own life, even to overcome your own “opponents,” the dysfunctions that hold you back.
The most important things in the OODA loop are first to observe what you can and reorient your mental model to fit the data that you have. Sometimes that means you have to destroy your old mental model of how the world works, because it's not working anymore, and substitute something new that does work.
There's feedback involved in this loop. When we observe something anomalous, we might need more information to understand what is happening. So that's feedback that brings us right back to the beginning of the ooda loop.
Then when we stick data into our model, we may discover that the model generates something weird or it doesn't match what we expect. So we need to get more data. We need to adjust things in our model. We may go right back again to observe more stuff before we can even make a decision. So that's why there's feedback directly from observing back to the beginning of the OODA loop or from orienting back to the beginning of the OODA loop.
What John Boyd discovered was that the faster we can operate through this loop, the more success we'll have in many areas, not just in military combat.
Faster looping wins because if we're looping faster than our opponent, our opponent doesn't have time to reorient their own mental models. And so we just confuse them. And win.
For a book on John Boyd and the OODA Loop, see
For an article examines the implications of the OODA loop on the Ukraine-Russia war, see
For an article showing how leading indicators are essential for all agile methodologies, including OODA, see
[00:00:00] Tom Looy: He refers to getting inside of the OODA loop of your opponent. The important thing to realize here is not only do we have the OODA loop, everybody OODA loops, including our enemy. So how do we get inside their OODA loop?
[00:00:14] And it isn't necessarily going faster than them, it's what can we do to deliberately hinder their ability to reorient? What could we do that slows them down? What friction can we create that doesn't allow them to observe and orient. And so he applies that to warfare by doing things like shock-and-awe, Boyd was one of the primary architects of what happened in Desert Storm.
[00:00:42] Daniel Greening: Welcome to the Mindful Agility podcast. We help you get better results in your family, workplace, and life.
[00:00:50] Life is so short. You can and should be happy in the short time. Mindfulness skills help with that. And we teach skills that allow you to be happy, even in the most stressful situations.
[00:01:04] And our lives are full of creative projects. Raising a family, building a career, creating change that lasts beyond your life to help others, now and in the future. Agile is a technique to learn, improve and deliver. Faster.
[00:01:23] Mindfulness keeps you calm and alert while you're going faster with agile. Just by operating with mindfulness and agility, you multiply your skills through others. No matter what you're doing, you are living demonstration of how to live. People learn from your example. And if you're doing it mindfully with agility. They too are getting better results
[00:01:47] So we're glad you're here. Welcome to Mindful Agility.
[00:01:54] Daniel Greening: In this episode, we'll talk about something that just sounds weird from the get go. The OODA loop.
[00:02:02] Our experiences and skills help us overcome problems. At least we think they do. But do they really work? Did those experiences and skills really help us without significant side effects? Maybe we don't know for sure.
[00:02:18] If we have frustrating relationships, difficulties at work, overwhelming burdens or bad habits, we can't shake. Our mental models of how we and the world work might be getting in the way.
[00:02:32] When we keep using the same old mental models, it's like that famous quote, attributed to Einstein. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. And yet we're surprised when we can't overcome some straightforward challenge.
[00:02:50] The OODA loop is all about overcoming challenges, really tough challenges. The American military strategist, John Boyd, developed the concept of the OODA loop. My friend, Tom Looy is an agile coach who worked with me. At Microsoft and Skype. And has been studying the ooda loop for some time.
[00:03:12] Hey, Tom. Thanks for coming by.
[00:03:15] Tom Looy: Hey Dan, it's great to be with you again. The work that you and Mirela have been doing I find absolutely fascinating.
What is the OODA Loop?
[00:03:20] Mirela Petalli: How about, telling us a little bit about the OODA loop. What is it?
[00:03:24] Tom Looy: Well, the OODA loop is O O D A. The first O stands for Observe. We take in information. This is our coping mechanism for how do we function in our society, and we're constantly taking in information.
[00:03:38] We go to the second O, which is Orient. How does this new bit of information fit into my current mental models that I have of the world and how does it fit into my biases and so on. Then we make a Decision based on how that new information is oriented in our existing mental models, and then we Act on it.
[00:03:57] observe, orient, decide, and act.
[00:04:01] Daniel Greening: This OODA loop, observe orient, decide, and act, was something that was described by John Boyd who was studying air combat. He was a fighter jet pilot.
[00:04:14] Tom Looy: John Boyd says that orientation is the most important thing because the way that you orient your views of the world, your mental model of the world will dictate what you observe and what you ignore. It'll dictate what your decisions are going to be.
[00:04:32] And Boyd went one step further. He says that our orientation, our mental models, they're just a model. The map is not the territory. Our mental models of the world are not completely accurate. looping back to that orientation phase does this information fit? Is this right? I need to change what my mental models are and possibly grow and learn based on the information that I take in?
[00:04:59] I think, Dan, when you and I work together at Microsoft Skype, you are teaching about the learning process. The learning that you go through is not confirming what you already know, but actually forcing you to go back and change the mental models that you have of your world or the problem that you're trying to deal with, because you're constantly looping through this. Every step of the loop, the orient loops back to how you observe the decision that you make. the actual act that you do. Now you observe the results of what you've done, which forces you to observe and reorient again.
Faster, Revise our Mental Model
[00:05:33] Tom Looy: this is what we all do every day. To be better at it, we need to do two things. We need to be faster at it, and we need to not be afraid to change our current mental models based on the new information that's coming in and the results that we're seeing.
[00:05:49] Daniel Greening: So we need to be faster , and we need to revise our mental models as we go, which is something that maybe we don't all do.
Example: Company transformation
[00:06:01] Daniel Greening: Can we relate this to a situation you were actually in where you realized that the OODA loop would have helped you?
[00:06:09] Tom Looy: I was coaching at an organization that was probably the best opportunity that we had to fully transform an organization, not just take Scrum and put it on top of their existing processes. But the organization truly wanted to transform, and so they brought in a couple of coaches, myself and David Bland. The sponsor for the transformation was the CEO of the company.
[00:06:32] And the CEO said, I need to change the way that I'm doing things. It permeated all the way through the organization, and we made great progress because it was sponsored by the top. This company that had been around for 10 years and a thousand people in the organization, they became very startup like.
[00:06:50] Most product owners get the job because they know what the product is supposed to do, and they pivoted to, we're going to experiment, we're gonna try things, and we're going to cycle through these things very quickly.
[00:07:01] So that started all the way from the top. It made it all the way down into the product folks, quite make it all the way down into deployment.
[00:07:08] When the CEO left and was replaced by somebody else in corporate, he had a different approach to doing things. I failed by not being resilient enough to the change in leadership in the organization.
[00:07:21] Daniel Greening: Did they actually lose the agility they had gained or what happened?
[00:07:26] Tom Looy: Well, the constraint at the time was product owners making decisions. We broke that constraint.
[00:07:31] Daniel Greening: Tom is using a technical term here, constraint, which refers to the main thing getting in the way of getting done fast. What he's saying is that product owners deciding what features of a product to work on next. Is in the way of people getting stuff done.
[00:07:53] Tom Looy: The constraint then moved into the group responsible for deploying software into production, cuz it took them literally six weeks to push the latest build into production, because of all the tests and all the migrations, the different environments and all that. and we said, let's see what we can do to do this faster. And we actually got them down to three weeks, not because they changed their processes. They just worked harder, worked longer hours, they didn't change anything.
[00:08:22] And then we said, "Wow, that was great. Can you do it again?" They said, "There's no way we can do this." We wanted to get them down to, within a day to be able to deploy a new version. They didn't have the imagination or the experience to know that it could actually be done, and so there was a tremendous amount of pushback.
[00:08:38] Because my skillset is not in continuous integration, continuous deployment, not able to coach in that area. So that also shows a little bit of a lack of resilience on my part. Why couldn't I bring somebody else to come in to coach them to really deal with that constraint that we were facing.
[00:08:55] There were too many times that I was stuck on the approach that I wanted to take, cuz I thought it was right and I didn't take in enough information in order to be able to adapt my coaching style.
[00:09:06] Mirela Petalli: It's like meta, Agility,
Robust vs Resilient
[00:09:08] Tom Looy: there was a change in my mental model contrasted robustness from resilience. when I think of the word robust, to me it's I'm gonna create an environment where nothing bad can ever happen. And if something bad does happen, I'm gonna put rules and process in place to make sure that never happens again.
[00:09:28] Resilience, on the other side, recognizes that we live in a complex adaptive world, that things are going to happen. We don't necessarily want to create more rules to keep that from happening. But how do we become more resilient when something bad happens.
[00:09:45] In the world of software, we put new software into production and something breaks. Well, to make it resilient, we create processes that allow us to roll back that software update, so we remove the problem, we quickly fix it, and then we roll it out again. We're very resilient at adapting to the problem that was there, as opposed to, oh my goodness, we're never gonna let that happen again. We need to do more sign offs. We need to do more this and this. And you start putting more process on top of it and the process becomes so overweight and overburdensome that we're not able to get anything accomplished.
[00:10:18] Mirela Petalli: We've been going through a pandemic for the last couple of years and resilience has been at the forefront of healthcare. We found out that we weren't as resilient and we found out that we have lots of things to learn change and adapt to
Faster Looping Wins
[00:10:33] Tom Looy: So when we talk about John Boyd and the OODA loop Speed was a very important aspect to it.
[00:10:38] And that's because John Boyd was a colonel in the Air Force and a fighter pilot in the Korean War. He was able to be in dog fight situations with some of the best pilots in the world and he would never lose. And so that peaked his curiosity, "How is it that I am so much more effective?"
[00:10:55] He broadened the scope of that. He was seeing that our pilots didn't have as good jets as the Russians provided. The mig was the most superior jet available, but we had a much greater success against them.
[00:11:10] So he began to study what was happening, we're in a dog fight. We're observing, we're orienting, we're deciding, and we're acting.
[00:11:16] And if I can do it faster than my opponent, I constantly will have the upper hand and I will be able to eventually win in warfare. So speed is an important aspect to it.
Getting Inside your opponent's OODA loop
[00:11:27] Tom Looy: He refers to getting inside of the OODA loop of your opponent. The important thing to realize here is not only do we have the OODA loop, everybody, OODA loops, including our enemy. So how do we get inside their OODA loop?
[00:11:41] And it isn't necessarily going faster than them, it's what can we do to deliberately hinder their ability to reorient? What could we do that slows them down? What friction can we create that doesn't allow them to observe and orient. And so he applies that to warfare by doing things like shock-and-awe, Boyd was one of the primary architects of what happened in Desert Storm.
[00:12:08] But you also act in a very unpredictable way, so you don't establish patterns. So the enemy can't orient to how you work. He's trying to create friction by not allowing you to OODA loop faster.
[00:12:22] But how does that apply to what we do today? Because we don't necessarily have enemies. But there are all kinds of things that create friction in that OODA loop that don't allow us to learn and to grow. And what is that friction? It's things like, "This is the way that we've always done it." "We need to put more process in place in order to make sure bad things don't happen."
[00:12:41] We start putting more and more process in place to where we stop learning and all we're concerned about is following the rules the way that things have always been. rather than embracing this orientation and reorientation. So that's how it actually boils all the way down to what it is that I do as a coach, is to find those things that create friction in organizations that keep the organization from being able to loop.
Moral Compass Daughter
[00:13:03] Daniel Greening: So most of our listeners are not agile coaches or consultants. They're moms and dads, They might be trying to establish a career, to succeed in their company or they might be managing teams in a company. Can they apply the OODA loop and how would that work?
[00:13:27] Tom Looy: take an example that just came to mind when you started talking about parents. I just had a major reorientation my way that I interact with my daughter. I have observed her, as she went through high school and college, and now that she's out of college, And I've taken in all this information and I've got my view of who she is as a person, which causes me to react in certain ways. I used to react as, the dad don't do that, that's bad. But now that she's matured into an adult, she is smart and she's insightful and she has a very strong moral compass. And so now, rather than me trying to teach her, I'm ready to learn from you. "Tell me what you're learning. Tell me what you're doing." And we've had some very interesting conversations as a result of that. Now, I don't necessarily agree with where she's at with her worldviews and all that, but now we have very conversations that allow me to accept her for who she is because I see that she's smart and she's thinking, and that she has a very strong moral compass.
[00:14:31] So that allows me to change the way in which I interact with her, and it's pretty cool.
[00:14:37] Mirela Petalli: That's great.
[00:14:38] There are a few things that while I'm hearing you talk, that remind me of parallels to Buddhism and although you are using different terms, there are many commonalities here with mindfulness practices, starting from things are impermanent, things are going to change. And no matter how well we prepare and how well we try to have all those plans in place, we will be hit with unpredictability. We'll be hit with things that are gonna happen that we can't plan for. And that's one of the main teachings of Buddhism life is unpredictable. life is impermanent and there are many causes and conditions that make things happen at a certain time.
[00:15:22] The other thing that I found that's, similar, the orient part reminded me of, one of the steps of the noble eightfold path in Buddhism, which is right understanding or right view. Right understanding and right view in Buddhism is the practice of understanding things as they are, or getting a better grasp of how things really are.
[00:15:47] And, the orient step of the OODA loop reminded me of that because that flexibility of observing and then how things fit in our biases or our beliefs. Our mental frames that we have of the ways of that our mind understands the world. If we do that deliberately, if we go back and forth and we observe any, we question. I loved when you said that about questioning, do I have all the information? Am I sure my understanding is accurate? So I think that's, another interesting part that, the OODA loop has in common with Buddhism.
[00:16:24] With the example of your daughter, to get out of that habitual energy of I am the parent. I know more. You should listen to me. You're young. You are able to take a step back and let go of that belief and open your mind up to what your daughter has to offer. Be curious about this human being who is your daughter, but now an adult and has her own life and experiences. That is actually a great example of mindfulness and open awareness.
[00:16:56] That's what we try to learn from this practices.
Tom Dealing with Son
[00:17:00] Tom Looy: My daughter is the youngest of two. I've got an older son and I would be in very similar conversations to my son, and I would then become Mindful of, I'm yelling at my son again, then I would just keep going again. "Oh, Andrew, you just don't understand. it's this and this, and you're not thinking it all the way through." and the whole time in my mind I'm going, really yelling at my son and he's a smart kid and he's really conscientious and he's got a great moral compass. And I just really adore the young man, but I found myself yelling at him again and I didn't have the self-control to stop yelling at him.
[00:17:33] So I practiced with my son and got really good at it. Now I get to be good with my daughter.
Mindful Agility Helps Tom Develop OODA Loop Skills?
[00:17:39] Tom Looy: when I saw. Dr. Dan Greening, is doing this thing called Mindful Agility. What is he doing? That sounds interesting. there's probably something there I need to look into in the last session that, that we had together, when he talked about the four different types of meditation, and maybe Dan, you can go into those four different types .
[00:17:58] Daniel Greening: Right. I did a webinar on four meditation types and some of the neuroscience behind them. Without repeating that webinar, which listeners can view in the Mindful Agility community group on Facebook. Here's a summary.
[00:18:14] The most common type of meditation is actually non mindful meditation. I call it relaxation meditation. If it has music or chanting in it, it probably isn't mindfulness meditation. While relaxation meditation helps us get to sleep and reduces anxiety, it doesn't do much for our focusing and observation skills.
[00:18:40] The mindfulness meditation types, on the other hand, seem to improve focus and awareness. According to neurological imaging and psychological studies.
[00:18:51] Mindfulness meditation has you focus on a subject and while you're doing that, you also pay attention to your own mind. Is it wandering? Can you bring your attention back to the subject? When you experience an emotion, what emotion is it? How does your body change? We are discovering that this practice, done regularly, strengthens the frontal cortex, your logical control center.
[00:19:19] There are different types of mindfulness meditation, and they each do something a little bit different.
[00:19:25] The subject of focus meditation is usually breathing, but you can pick any single area on your body to focus on. It helps us become less distracted by things around us.
[00:19:40] The subject of open awareness meditation is all the senses that are coming at us without favoring any one of them. It increases our creativity actually.
[00:19:53] The subject of compassion meditation is emotions and perspectives of friends, ourselves, and enemies, interestingly. It helps us more easily imagine the perspective of others and respond with kindness. If you are a fighter pilot, I bet this type of meditation can help you win, but it's a bit counterintuitive
[00:20:17] University of Miami research from 2020 reveals that firefighters trained in mindfulness meditation, exhibit greater resilience than those trained in relaxation techniques. So i think you can see how this type of meditation lines up well with ooda. What do you think?
[00:20:38] Tom Looy: It's like, boom, that's the OODA loop right there, and if I want to become a better consultant, How can I practice observing better? How can I practice orienting better and challenging my biases and my own mental models? And Dan just laid it all out there.
[00:20:55] Here is a way that we can practice these things the thing that excites me about it is I love the mindfulness side of things. I'm very Mindful of what's going on in my own head. I got no self-control of what comes outta my mouth, but I'm very Mindful of what goes out in my head. And that's been very helpful for me because occasionally I'll be able to catch myself, but I can start teaching these things and using these things as I consult without having to reference meditation and Buddha and mindfulness. I can refer to something called the OODA loop.
[00:21:27] Tom Looy: John Boyd he started thinking about these things during the Korean War in the 1950s. So it took him 40 years or so for him to finally be able to put together all of his thoughts that related to not just warfare and strategy, but there are folks that have taken this and they've run it with business and so on.
[00:21:46] I would encourage listeners to find the original OODA loop diagram that Boyd put together. Don't find the simple things that look like a cycle where you just sequentially go from observe, orient, decide, and act. if you find his original one that he published 1995, that's the first time the OODA loop as a diagram form ever got published.
[00:22:10] Daniel Greening: If you look up OODA loop on Wikipedia, you'll see the original diagram by John Boyd.
[00:22:18] Tom Looy: There's some very significant things in there. You'll see that from Orient. There's a feedback loop that goes back to Observe. From decide there's a feedback loop that goes back to Orient. From act, there's a feedback loop that goes back to Observe and Orient.
[00:22:36] So there's this constant feedback cycle taking place all the time. It's not a sequential thing. It's something that you must do all the time. And it's almost like challenging your assumptions everywhere that you go. looking a little bit deeper into that diagram, when he gets to Decide and Act, he actually has in parenthesis, underneath the side it's a hypothesis. You make a hypothesis. Your decision is, I think this is what it is. And then the act is actually a test to see whether you validate your hypothesis or not.
[00:23:09] So it's a constant looping that you're doing all the time. Now, whether you're aware of it or not, you're doing it.
[00:23:16] How do we just do it more effectively? How do we eliminate those causes of friction that slow us down from being able to do this more frequently? And then how do we go back to orient and challenge our existing mental models?
[00:23:29] He only wrote one paper. The rest of the things that he did were, the slideware, 300 slides that he presented, not using PowerPoint because they didn't have PowerPoint back then.
[00:23:38] Daniel Greening: Transparencies!
[00:23:39] Mirela Petalli: The projector,
[00:23:41] Tom Looy: The only paper that he ever wrote was something called Destruction and Creation. This blew my mind when I read it.
[00:23:48] Destruction and creation means sometimes you have some information that comes in that just doesn't fit your mental model, but you can't discard it.
[00:23:57] You gotta make it fit. So what do you do? You adapt, or sometimes you have to completely destroy the mental models that you have and recreate new mental models that still adhere to the original facts that you had, but also embraces the new information that's coming in. Boyd, said that we all apply the OODA loop. It's not something he came up with. He observed it. It is a pattern of how we approach problems and I was thinking that, if we all do the OODA loop consciously or subconsciously, and most of us fail to do it, skillfully in some ways because we still have the same habits,
[00:24:35] Mirela Petalli: So I was thinking that if we do the OODA loop but we do it in a not as skillful way, it might be probably because of what you said, because that, important piece there, the orientation piece and the questioning. And also those feedback loops, the ability to question our biases, to question our mental models.
[00:24:58] There is a key teaching there about our personal lives as well. Cuz if we are able to look at ourselves and look at our habitual patterns of behavior that we do over and over again, we say we're gonna work out more. We say, we're not going to reach out for that cookie or for those chips, but we still go back and do it.
[00:25:17] So maybe, yeah, there is a key teaching there about how do we become more skillful and more mindful in recognizing our biases, our mental models that are antiquated and they might have helped us in the past, but they don't help us anymore. And how can we change them?
[00:25:35] Tom Looy: You picked up on the two most important aspects of the OODA loop. One is the Orientation and possibly having to reorient and the feedback loops. first people need to be mindful that there is such a thing as an OODA loop that they're going through, then they also need to be mindful of what feedback loops am I using to validate that what I just said was right, or the decision that I made right?
Political World: Tribes have to be Curious and Confirm Statement
[00:25:56] Tom Looy: One of the things that frustrates me in our political world today is people make these statements and nobody ever goes back and checks on them to say, did what you just say really end up coming about ?
[00:26:09] There's no a validation of what people are saying and doing, and they just continue to perpetuate their old mental models and they refuse to let go. And they refuse to observe. What's worse is that they don't engage in conversations of diversity with people that might have a different perspective.
[00:26:26] It doesn't mean you have to agree, but you've got to listen. And when they say something that sounds intelligent, but not quite in alignment with your mental model, you've gotta figure out what's going on there and maybe you have a bias. that you need to examine, or maybe your mental model is not quite as realistic of what the world is like than what you think it is.
[00:26:47] And one of the great things about Boyd is he says, nobody's model is completely right. Everybody has to go through and OODA loop their way into more accurate mental models of what the world is like. Our mental models are not the world, it's our perception of the world. how do we make our mental models more and more of what the world looks like?
[00:27:06] Mirela Petalli: There is a lot to learn here from the OODA loop and mindfulness and Agility, all of them.
Applying the OODA Loop to Civilian Life
[00:27:12] Mirela Petalli: I was thinking from a perspective of being a very pacifist Buddhist, I could notice myself getting uncomfortable with all the fighting and, being faster and disorienting your opponent and all of that. And, as a mindfulness practitioner, I noticed that in myself and I'm like, oh, that's interesting how I feel uncomfortable about all those things.
[00:27:32] So how can I take the OODA loop and take it out from the context where it started and bring it into my world of everyday life and how people can use it in their personal lives where they're with their families or with their teams at work everywhere.
[00:27:50] If we are fighting with something in our personal life. You said with frictions, right, in organizations, there are frictions and there are impediments that don't allow teams to learn and to change and to adapt in our personal lives at an individual level, we have our dark sides, or, our things that we don't like that much about ourselves. How we can procrastinate or how we can be lazy or how we can think not such nice things about other people or even about ourselves. So we have the dark side of ourselves and maybe we can apply the OODA loop to that.
[00:28:24] Maybe when we are able to observe what's going on within our minds, with our thoughts and our emotions. And then maybe we can Orient and we can look at those mental models, and question them and our biases and our beliefs about our own thoughts, our own minds, as well as about the world around us,
[00:28:44] Maybe we can be faster. We can gain speed and realize and catch ourselves when we are about to fall back into old patterns of decisions and actions that have not helped us in the past. And we can notice them faster, recognize them, and be compassionate , and then pivot and make a different decision, act differently, and maybe that will help us, get better and make better decisions and actions.
[00:29:13] Tom Looy: Where my mind was going as you were describing that, is there's this meta thing above the OODA Loop, something from a higher level. And that higher level is mindfulness. We first need to be mindful of this is how our brain works. What are we doing with the decisions and the information that's coming in and reorienting, are we mindful that we're going back to old stereotypes, or we have a bias for one thing or another. Or, I'm clinging onto my existing mental model, and not giving up on it and ignoring other things that just seem.
[00:29:50] I'm not a Buddhist, never was a Buddhist, had no interest in becoming a Buddhist. But then I started learning about situational awareness. I started learning about biases. I started learning about the OODA loop, and it's I need to become more mindful. How do I become more Mindful? Where can I go to practice mindfulness and look who shows up on my doorstep?
[00:30:13] Dan Greening shows up and, he's now doing a podcast on Mindful Agility, and it's there it is. and so I can embrace concepts of Buddhism without having to worry about how it impacts my mental model,
[00:30:25] Mirela Petalli: there is the secular part of Buddhism, that's what we are studying and experimenting with and being agile with and trying to figure out for ourselves and also hopefully help other people to figure out with us, how we could use these concepts.
[00:30:38] Of course you don't have to be a Buddhist at all, or you don't have to be anything for that matter. These are tools that we use ourselves first, and we offer them to people if they find them useful, to use them as well.
[00:30:52] Tom Looy: Just to show you how I my mental models 30 years ago, I would've never engaged in this conversation. I would've said thanks to, because it just didn't fit my Judeo-Christian perspective of the world. But, I don't have to be afraid of these things. I can examine them. I can look at them and say, I think there's something meaningful here, and it does fit into my mental model of the world, so I don't have to discard it and I can embrace it and I can learn from it now
[00:31:17] Daniel Greening: Yeah. one advantage of secular Buddhism is it's highly compatible religious practice
[00:31:24] Mirela Petalli: Or lack of religion practices.
[00:31:27] Daniel Greening: Mirela and I know plenty of Christians who are also secular Buddhist s They adopt Christianity as a religious practice and then they use the philosophical principles of secular Buddhism to help them basically be a better Christian.
[00:31:47] So, that's. uh, So that's kind of an interesting spin.
Conflict and Buddhism
[00:31:51] Tom Looy: Dan, you were talking about the OODA loop there. My mind went off in the direction of the OODA loop isn't the final answer. It isn't the end all be all. incredibly powerful tool for me to use But there were two other things that I need to be good at in order for me to be an effective consultant.
[00:32:09] And one of those was I need to be empathetic. I just can't call them knuckleheads. I need to understand that they're doing their own OODA loop.
[00:32:17] They may not be taking the feedback, they may have their own biases, and I need to be empathetic to that and not judgmental.
Empathy and Compassion
[00:32:22] Mirela Petalli: Tom, I really like that you talked about empathy and about how to motivate people to change. As a teacher myself, it's the hardest thing to do. You talked about understanding that other people have their own OODA loops, have their own mental models. We are trying to see other people and, understand where they're coming from. Like us, they have experiences, they suffer, they have fears, and they have pain like we do. Their mental models, their biases, and their belief systems come from their experiences.
[00:33:00] If I were you and if I had your life and your causes and conditions, if I had exactly your life, I am pretty sure that I would be thinking the same things that you do, and I would be doing the same things that you do. And that is true for every being on this planet. When we have that understanding that we have this common humanity, that's when we can open up our minds and we can really let go of our judgements and our preconceived beliefs and opinions and mental models and biases.
[00:33:36] And I can really listen to you and I can really understand where you're coming from, and I can connect to you at a level of understanding that your fears are very similar to my fears, that you want to be happy and free of pain. Same as I do.
[00:33:53] Tom Looy: absolutely.
Evil People don't Exist
[00:33:54] Daniel Greening: so one thing that happened recently , I'm currently on this tiny island of 15,000 people. There was a bank robbery on Thursday, and the robbers wore rubber masks and had hoodies. They don't have identification for who these folks were. All of the cop cars on this island, seven of them this were all parked outside the bank. and their lights are going. and so that was exciting here on this island, cuz not a whole lot happens.
[00:34:30] I mentioned it to a friend of mine and he said, "Oh, it's too bad. There are evil people in the world." suspect Mirela would have the same reaction I had. I went, "Oh, I didn't even think of it that way." partly, perhaps because we're training ourselves not to think that way, to not attribute evil people generally. What I did do was wonder what their lives must have been like prior to committing this bank robbery and what were the causes and conditions that brought them to that place? And the risks for them are very high in punishment and potential problems going forward. We don't usually think that way in that objective causal but it's helpful it's super helpful understanding mental models to try to figure out what other people's mental models are.
[00:35:32] We can't attribute evilness to people and hope to establish any kind of understanding of another person's mental model. It's just not possible.
[00:35:45] Right. Do think this is true?
[00:35:47] Tom Looy: . Yeah, it's one of the things I didn't touch on when we talked about examining your own mental models, but also examining your experience, your own personal experience. if my experience is different than yours, then you've got an interesting perspective that maybe I should take in because that input from your perspective and your experience might have an impact on my mental models, or at least how I envision the world, or at least have empathy for people in the world.
[00:36:08] Daniel Greening: Hmm.
Is Love Needed Here (contrasted with Compassion)?
[00:36:09] Mirela Petalli: when we have, empathy and loving kindness and compassion, and when we examine our intentions and our motivations and our purpose, then we can, make sure that what we are doing is coming from a place of love and kindness, and wanting to do good, wanting to improve things for ourselves and for other people, rather than, we could use the OODA loop for things that are not as skillful if we wouldn't be using this skills of empathy and compassion and examining, "What are the consequences of our actions and our decisions? How are they gonna affect us and other people around us?"
[00:36:51] Do you think that's an element that is included in the OODA loop, or is it something that we should be Mindful to add as we go through it?
[00:36:58] Tom Looy: I, I think that's part of the feedback loops of you make an action, you see what the results of that action was. You observe the results and it causes you to reorient or, you continue with the way that you were doing things because you saw you got the results that you wanted, but if you didn't get the results you didn't want, maybe you need to change the decisions that you make and the decisions that you make are based on your mental models and the orientation phase.
[00:37:21] So yeah, being Mindful of, did I get the desired result of what I wanted based on what my action was? do you wanna be right or do you wanna change the world?
[00:37:30] Daniel Greening: Thanks for joining us today. The OODA loop is observe, orient, decide and act.
[00:37:37] The most important things in the OODA loop are first to observe what you can and reorient your mental model to fit the data that you have. Sometimes that means you have to destroy your old mental model of how the world works, because it's not working anymore, and substitute something new that does work.
[00:37:57] Mirela Petalli: Both the observation and the reorient part of the OODA loop require the skill of mindfulness. Which is to be able to be present with whatever is happening with a curious and nonjudgmental attitude.
[00:38:11] Daniel Greening: There's feedback involved in this loop. When we observe something anomalous, we might need more information to understand what is happening. So that's feedback that brings us right back to the beginning of the OODA loop.
[00:38:24] Then when we stick data into our model, we may discover that the model generates something weird or it doesn't match what we expect. So we need to get more data. We need to adjust things in our model. We may go right back again to observe more stuff before we can even make a decision. So that's why there's feedback directly from observing back to the beginning of the OODA loop or from orienting back to the beginning of the OODA loop.
[00:38:57] Mirela Petalli: When we use the OODA loop this way, similar as with mindfulness practice, we may discover that our mental models are not what we thought they are. They might be some old antiquated beliefs and stories that we adopted early on and never really thought to question. Until now. This can be an interesting process of discovery and insight into our own mental models and ways we act in the world. The loop allows us to go back and forth and gain better understanding of what do we do and why do we do it.
[00:39:32] Daniel Greening: Now we decide, based on our mental model and the data we have, what to do next. That decision is a hypothesis. That is, if we do this thing, if we act in a certain way, we predict the outcome will be something. And we act. And after we act, we look and see what happened.
[00:39:55] If the outcome of the action was what we expected, woo woo! We have a model that works. And we just go back through the loop again, because we're adapting to new situations as a result of changing circumstances. If the result, wasn't what we expected. If our hypothesis is invalidated by the outcome, now we have to revisit our model. We have to check to see if there's something we need to change.
[00:40:23] This is kind of complex to think about , but it's a worthwhile exercise to look at how we make decisions. What John Boyd discovered was that the faster we can operate through this loop, the more success we'll have in many areas, not just in military combat.
[00:40:43] Faster looping wins because if we're looping faster than our opponent, our opponent doesn't have time to reorient their own mental models. And so we just confuse them. And win.
[00:40:59] So the whole idea here is getting inside your opponents OODA loop.
[00:41:05] The funny thing is the opponent may even be our own unwanted impulses. So if we think about habits, bad habits in particular, such as eating too much or smoking or procrastinating or. other stuff like that. If we can orient our mental model and we can act quickly. We can kind of subvert our own unwanted impulses to eat more or to act out of rage or other things like that. If we can interfere with those and slow those down. And we can make mindful decisions a little bit faster. We can have better outcomes.
[00:41:46] The funny thing is the opponent may even be our own unwanted impulses. So if we think about habits, such as eating too much or smoking or procrastinating. If we can orient our mental model and we can act quickly, we can kind of subvert our own unwanted impulses to eat more, to take a cigarette, to goof around. If we can interfere with the execution of those habits. And slow them down. And if we can make mindful decisions a little bit faster we can have better outcomes.
[00:42:24] We discussed today that challenging our assumptions was very important and we heard lots of examples from Tom about that.
[00:42:33] One prevailing model among many people is that there are evil people and those evil people cause the problems we see in society. With that model, the only thing you can really do is get rid of evil people, which explains why people who really get into that have trouble getting anything done. Except perhaps starting wars or putting people in jail or killing a lot of people.
[00:43:00] In fact, we can think of individuals as responding to the things around them. We are a product of all of our experiences and generational inheritance as well. Our mental models are very well-established neural pathways and it's not easy to change them.
[00:43:19] And so when we free ourselves of this notion that there are evil people and instead look at the preconditions that resulted in what those people did. Now we have a chance. We have a chance to intercede and make things better.
[00:43:35] We got a lot out of this conversation and we hope you did too.
Credits and Call to Action
[00:43:41] Daniel Greening: Many thanks to our guest, Tom Looy,
[00:43:44] Check out our show notes for references and other helpful stuff.
[00:43:48] We also write about Mindful Agility at mindfulagility.com/posts. Sign up for the newsletter at Mindful Agility dot com. It keeps you up to date about new posts and episodes.
[00:44:03] If you're interested in working with a group, trying to apply these concepts to our own lives, consider joining us in our Facebook group called Mindful Agility Community, which meets every couple of weeks.
[00:44:17] Daniel Greening: If you're still with us, here's something you can try. First think about a purpose or goal. What oppositional forces would you like to slow down? And what OODA sequences would you like to speed up?
[00:44:34] You might want to advance your career, or you might want to encourage your kids to do their homework, or you might want to encourage a good habit in yourself.
[00:44:44] Slow down the observe orient decide act sequence for impediments. Speed up the observe orient decide act sequence for improvements. We're curious what you decide to do. So if you feel like it, send us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:45:06] I'm Dan Greening. See you next time.