I first read of John Boyd in 2007, and quickly became enamored with the manâs ideas, his bigger-than-life persona, and the tales of his exploits in the Pentagon. Though, in mentioning his name to just about anyone would only result in blank stares and uneasy, one-sided conversations; most only knew of him as âthe OODA-loop guyâ. Because of this, I started to feel a certain sense of being alone in my ideas and interests.
Slowly, Iâve became aware of others who had as much a passion for the ideas of Boyd as I do. To make a long story short, finding these kindred souls has culminated in attending the Boyd and Beyond conference last weekend at Quantico.
One such soul, Scott Shipman (Retired FTBC) has written two good accounts of the conference here and here. So, Iâll forego recanting the actual events and presentations of the conference and offer instead my thoughts arising from the conference.
The conference spent a lot of time on the first half of the OODA-Loop, Observing and Orienting. At some point I became convinced that the type of Sailor we need is one that is a âsituational autodidactâ. Major Marcus Mainz, USMC, during his presentation made the brilliant comment that âtraining is for the known, education is for the unknownâ in this sense, the spirit in which we must educate our Sailors must be towards making them capable of educating their self as needed when the unknown presents itself to them.
Iâve never been actively educated by the Navy in the sense of what the Major is talking about; Iâve always had to do that on my own. In doing so, I know that I am the exception rather than the rule on the deckplates. The Navy does not prepare their enlisted Sailors for the unknown directly, rather it trusts experience during the natural course of a Sailorâs career to do that. This makes sense, and indeed it is the best teacher there is. However, I believe the Navy could prepare its enlisted Sailors to take greater advantage of their experience.
For Sailors to take greater advantage of their experiences, they need to actively question their actions. By this, I mean that a person analyses a question more than they do a statement. But, it has been my experience that when someone recants an experience they had, it is a rare thing to hear someone say anything in terms of âwhyâ they did something. Much more often someone only tells the âwhatâ of their actions. Think of the Socratic Method, where Socrates would answer his students questions with another question. A Sailor who has internalized such a âSocratic processâ would be in a position to provide more cogent feedback as well as learn from their mistakes more often than we do today.
What I am saying is not that the training we offer Sailors falls short of its objectives as they stand today. But, that the spirit of the training is not where it needs to beâwe focus our objectives too much on acting rather than orienting. The training our Sailors receive are based on concrete and testable objectives that can be measured, quantified and turned into metrics, that fit well into powerpoint. We do no help Sailors to become autodidacticâwe are not training them to become students of their environment, but rather students of their school house.
We start to approach training Sailors to be autodidacts of their environment in the Operational Risk Management training we receive (One thing about ORM: It is Boydâs OODA-Loop operationalized. The Navy has totally ripped off Boyd, and yet we never mention his name outside of the Warfare Universitiesâshame on us). We need more and deeper training on ORM and how this method applies to everything we do, whether we consciously realize it or not. In giving this deeper level or ORM, we should also find Sailors able to be more articulate of the process theyâve gone through. Thereby becoming able to better train others of their experiences.
In this, it is my hope that with an improvement in how articulate our Sailors are we also will improve the Navyâs ability to self-synchronize. This improvement in self-synchronization will then lessen our dependence on a hierarchical organization structureâflattening decision-making and decreasing the time it takes to move from orienting to acting, and culminating in giving us a decided advantage over any opponent.
Forgive me for not delving into this further. But, I have 15 minutes of battery life left and no outlet at the coffee shop here on Q street in DC to charge my computer. In talking about Boyd and Beyond and my thoughts, I wouldnât be topical if I posted tomorrow, or later. Please, as I bleieve that such ideas are fleshed out via discourse, comment on this post, and as I have time I will respond and delve deeper regarding my thoughts here.
Lastly, I hope to see you all at the USNI Honors night on the 19th!
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- The Virtue of Being a Generalist, Part 2: Are All Nuggets Created Equal?
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- On Midrats 14 Sep 14: Episode 245: “The Carrier as Capital Ship” with RADM Thomas Moore, USN, PEO CVN