Intersecting Ideas from Cross Disciplines...and Taking Boyd's Theories Beyond

“The future opponent may be as well armed as they are; he will be able to concentrate a numerical superiority against isolated detachments at the time and place he chooses. (United States Marine Corps, 1940)

I had the honor of attending and presenting at last weeks Boyd and Beyond Symposium that took place October 15-16 at Marine Corps Base Quantico. Stan Coerr organized the event and deserves much thanks for his efforts, as in my view it was an outstanding experience with many lessons learned i can use in adapting my workshops and training for law enforcement and security. Here are some of the lessons I learned by attending. My thanks to everyone who attended and presented. I learned  a lot!

How do we prepare for an adversary who is willing to attack and disrupt our response system? How do we develop individuals so they are capable of thinking on their feet and adapting to the actions of an adversary in real time? How do we institutionally develop this same ability so we can handle multiple attacks with multiple assailants? Does it take more than policies and procedures, checklists and canned responses when dealing with complex adaptive systems such as, human beings in conflict?  Just what does it take to actually have superior situational awareness, institutionally and individually and how does the observation, orientation, decision and action cycle get us to a proper orientation so we can all cohesively perform effectively in times of crises?

These are just a few of the questions that bounced around in my head as I listened to those presenting topics from various disciplines (military, business, and technology, historians). Those in attendance who asked outstanding and challenging questions brought even more insight into Boyd work and how its being applied today and what we need to continue to learn into the future. Adam Elkus an analyst specializing in foreign policy and security studies posted a recap on his site Rethinking Security and Scott Shipman who the owner of a boutique consulting firm in the Metro DC area that is putting Boyd’s ideas into action was fully engaged in the two-days asked numerous questions and made numerous comments that helped greatly with the learning  that took place recapped the event on Zenpundit web-site.

People like Robert Coram who wrote the Book,  Boyd: the Fighter Pilot who Changed the Art of War and Ray Leopold a man who worked directly with Boyd spoke about Boyd the man, and his work. Ray spoke of the lessons he learned from Boyd and spoke about the man who understood the true meaning of leadership and sacrifice. Boyd walked his talk of TO BE OR TO DO!

Don Vandergriff spoke about the inroads he has made transforming the Army with adaptive leadership methodology (ALM) and outcomes based training (OBTE). He is now working with the Marine Corps and for those of us in law enforcement Don has made an impact on Baltimore Police Department who just graduated their first Basic Sergeants school using these principles.

This excites the hell out of me because, it means there is a great possibility law enforcement will see the results of this type of leadership and training and its effectiveness through the eyes of a violence ridden major city. This  should lead to real change in how law enforcement leads, prepares and applies these concepts on the street, in the neighborhoods having a powerful impact on cities and towns crime and violence rates as well as how people we police perceive the police.    

General Paul Van Riper (LtGen, USMC, Ret) who was the keynote speaker who discussed talked about how Boyd's ideas were adapted by the Marine Corps. He also discussed how we learn and the differences in learning to succeed in simple and complicated linear systems verses the complex and chaotic nonlinear systems. My mind focused here on people and how complex we are at peace, which only becomes more complex as we compete and conflict with one another.  You cannot think in battle the same way we think in its aftermath critiquing, or during the planning stages, preparing.  We must understand the differences in how we learn and apply what we know in context with what we want to accomplish if we are to be successful. 

Linton Wells, PhD, (CAPT, USN, Ret) gave a talk on naval maneuver warfare. Terry Barnhart, PhD, (Pfizer R&D) provided unique insight into how he is using Boyd’s ideas in his company’s R&D efforts. Jussi Jaakonaho from Nokia spoke about his experience using OODA in IT security exercises and how the ability to adapt on the fly is necessary. This idea we in law enforcement could learn much from as we respond to crises situations. Chip Pearson, Managing Partner of a software company in Minnesota, gave a great presentation of how he uses Boyd’s concepts to start and successfully operate his software company. His premise in conducting his business was make meaning…not money and his business model focuses is values, capability and objectives.

Dr. Katya Drozdova of the Empirical Studies of Conflict (ESOC)  Project presented, Mining Afghan Lessons from Soviet Era a presentation to help U.S. Military and civilian leaders cut through the fog of war and make better informed decisions in complex environments. The presentation was outstanding but I focused on her discussion about slow transient maneuvers.

My understanding of this is that the speed of the OODA Loop does not always need to be more rapid than the adversary as long as we are setting the TEMPO in adversarial conditions. This slow transient concept needs to be explored more deeply as law enforcement (particularly street officers) often times thinks speed and forcing situations is the only answer.  A better understanding of slow transient maneuvers balanced with fast transients maneuvers as the situation dictates could be a key to more successful operations.

Marcus Mainz (MAJ, USMC, Expeditionary Warfare School FACAD) talked about the Boyd Cycle and its effect on the moral, mental and physical aspects of warfare and how training outcomes should focus on these dimensions of conflict and their effects on strategy, operational art and tactics. Marcus hit on a key aspect of the OODA Loop when he stated; “we often times get stuck in  the OO!”  this fact leads to danger and ineffective, inaction!

His premise was that training outcomes must focus on creating and nurturing better decision makers and doers.

Getting stuck in the “OO” (observation and orientation) phase of the Boyd Cycle got me to thinking law enforcement officers often are affected by this same problem as well as getting stuck in the “DA” (decision and action) which can and does create jeopardy in dealing with dynamic encounters. Example of Getting stuck in the OO would be the Officer Kyle Dinkheller case (GRAFFIC). Sadly Officer Kyle Dinkheller was killed back in 1998 during a traffic stop down in Georgia. Kyle observes and orients to the threatening behavior that escalates from serious warning signs (verbal and non-verbal), then to physical violence and then to the point the bad guy retrieves a long gun, readies it taking the young officers life in a 60 round exchange of gunfire. (I discuss this case in more detail, in the article  Critical Decision Making…Under Pressure).

Examples of getting stuck in “DA” (decision and action)  would be the countless calls street officers respond to, where thinking is along the lines of, hurry up and get there and then get the bad guy! Rushing to or into scenes where conflict and violence is still unfolding and then with no plan on the fly approaching the front door of  a home or business or stopping a car with known subject possessing weapons only to be ambushed or caught by surprise(Newhall 1970, Pittsburg 2009, second half of Oakland PD 2009 come to mind) .  There are many more examples of this problem as well.

I touched on some of the lessons I learned from the Boyd and Beyond Symposium here but one of the biggest lessons was in the exchange between people who came from various disciplines I described above. My good friend Ed Beakley at Project Whitehorse has taught me a lot about intersecting ideas from cross disciplines known as the Medici Effect.

Intersectional ideas are those resulting from combining concepts from multiple fields – areas of specialization gained through education and experience – as compared to those created traditionally by combing concepts within a field – noted as directional ideas. Success in intersectional idea generation is dependent upon breaking down barriers of association that would more than likely indicate a "non relationship" or at best limited context between or among fields.

Working together and minimizing problems in the process of dealing with conflict and violence not only requires a clear perception of the unfolding situation, but also that all involved in the operation have a common orientation as to what is going on in areas where they must work together. This common orientation comes from working and training together so that we implicitly  share the same outcomes and how things should be done. this starts with learning from history and then  communicating those lessons, adapting methods and then training methods and leadership that understands what it takes, what it really takes to get the job done.

Boyd and Beyond symposium has already been scheduled for 14-15 October 2011 at Quantico, same location. Hope to see you all there.

Stay Oriented!

Fred