OODA at the species level

The basics

Each of us 7 billion people on this one planet run through John Boyd's OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, act) hundreds, perhaps even thousands of times a day.

Most of the times our actions are instinctive, related to small actions, and directed to basic goals like survival or comfort - the urgent cell of the "urgent x important" matrix.

The "orientation" element of the loop feeds into everything else, and the world is so complicated and complex that we need to ruthlessly select our perceptions, and severely limit our own options for action.

A concept and a story

When I learned about "alternatives" I was taught that there are alternatives for "what is" (different ways to look at a situation) and alternatives for "what can I do" (set of actions that are available to us there and then).

The basic example is the flowers on the office table:

  • Alternative what-is options include secret or not so secret lovers, unremembered birthdays, good job news, someone who left the flowers there by mistake, and possibly many others.

  • Alternative what-can-I-do options include throwing the flowers away, taking them home, giving each flower to a different person, drying them, or whatever other alternatives you or others can think of, then or later.

Some time later, a small story showed me we don't always look at alternatives.

A friend had waited outside the doctor's office and found the doctor wouldn't come and had told nobody. Her only explanation was "he's fed up with me". The only course of action was "I will look for another doctor or do without".

In 2 minutes of dedicated perceptual work, we came up with several other "possible reasons" for the doctor's behaviour: "he worked a lot last night and just had to go home to take a nap", "he has family problems that are unknown to us", etc.

The course of action now included "go and ask him politely".

(The doctor's mother had died.)

What to do

By the end of our OODA loops, we end up doing stuff that stresses and kills us, and stresses and kills the planet.

I feel we can only start to try and change that a little by a combination of "changing perceptions of reality", and "changing the available options". "Change" here means refinement, sharpening, reinforcement, challenging, reinventing, creating from scratch - you name it.

Not easy, aka lots of details and room for innovation, but that's what we need to do.

May write more later, but please do part of the job yourself. ;-)

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