“What is a strategy? A mental tapestry of changing intentions for harmonizing and focusing our efforts as a basis for realizing some aim or purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests.” — John Boyd
What techniques do people use in the most extreme situations to make decisions? What can we learn from them to help us make more rational and quick decisions?
If these techniques work in the most drastic scenarios, they have a good chance of working for us. This is why military mental models can have such wide, useful applications outside their original context.
Military mental models are constantly tested in the laboratory of conflict. If they weren’t agile, versatile, and effective, they would quickly be replaced by others. Military leaders and strategists invest a great deal of time in developing and teaching decision-making processes.
One strategy that I’ve found repeatedly effective is the OODA loop.
Developed by strategist and U.S. Air Force Colonel John Boyd, the OODA loop is a practical concept designed to be the foundation of rational thinking in confusing or chaotic situations. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.
Boyd developed the strategy for fighter pilots. However, like all good mental models, it can be extended into other fields. We used it at the intelligence agency I used to work at. I know lawyers, police officers, doctors, businesspeople, politicians, athletes, and coaches who use it.