What hath Boyd wrought? With Remarks

Or “wrote.” Written.

Boyd is sometime criticized for not having sat down and written Patterns and his other briefings into nice books. They claim that his ideas are hard to fathom just from his briefings.

But Boyd’s framework, although deep and complex, is not esoteric. In addition to “Destruction and Creation,” Boyd produced a continuous stream of writings from August 1976 until January of the year before his death: Continue reading Chet Richards piece here:


I just read a piece by Jim Hasik on the “Theoretical and Practical Problems in the Works and Legacy of John Boyd” and found it interesting and thought provoking. I believe the above by Chet Richards may have been inspired by Jim’s article as well. I had numerous questions forming as I read the material. It first brought to my mind, the first paragraph of Boyd's piece on Destruction and Creation: "To comprehend and cope with our environment we develop mental patterns or concepts of meaning. The purpose of this paper is to sketch out how we destroy and create these patterns to permit us to both shape and be shaped by a changing environment. In this sense, the discussion also literally shows why we cannot avoid this kind of activity if we intend to survive on our own terms. The activity is dialectic in nature generating both disorder and order that emerges as a changing and expanding universe of mental concepts matched to a changing and expanding universe of observed reality."

I agree with Jim's sentiment that empirical data is important, however human experience and thinking on ones own is critical as well, if we are to achieve original thought and develop new ideas that work in making individuals and organizations more effective. This obviously includes thoughts derived from reading others work and deriving meaning from these works. In my own quest to learn more about Boyd’s ideas, I have read the works of many strategists, such as; Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Hart, Luttwak, du Picq, (currently reading Battle Studies), Gray, Richards, Vandergriff, van Creveld, Poole and many others from different disciplines and professions from the fields of science, philosophy, psychology, human performance etc, inspired by the message Boyd left on me as I read his works, I Include Jim's paper now amongst these readings as well.

My particular focus is how Boyd’s ideas apply to law enforcement. Since I started exploring Boyd s work; reading, thinking, rethinking, developing and applying training programs and numerous back and forth discussions with those interested in his ideas, and those disinterested or in disagreement with Boyd’s thinking over the last decade. My thoughts; there are many unanswered questions on the unpredictable and complex nature of conflict and how we perform in, and deal with it. I am also of the opinion that Boyd himself had many questions left in his own mind as well. The paragraph above from Destruction and Creation, particularly “how we destroy and create these patterns to permit us to both shape and be shaped by a changing environment,” speaks to his unending quest of learning-unlearning and relearning (conceptual spiral). We must keep Boyd’s ideas expressed in Destruction and Creation, as we read his thoughts and attempt to interpret them. Just might be our (my) thinking or orientation is somewhat flawed and is in need of revision?

I believe (based on my own interpretation, inspired by many others) this ability to stay open-mined is what Boyd had in mind with Destruction and Creation and his full discourse on winning and losing, as over the years, I have had to shape and reshape my thinking as I read Boyd’s ideas and how they may translate to my particular profession. Individuals see things through their own lens and based on their own personal experience from birth to present. Open-mindedness and seeking different and opposing viewpoints is important to continued learning. I see the lack of open-mindedness and innovation often in my profession where a certain strategy is implemented, or a technique or tactics are taught and it stands as tradition or doctrine that becomes dogma. This leads to only one strategy, tactic or technique considered and implemented to the detriment of safety and effectiveness for the street cop in the physical as well, as, the moral and mental dimensions of conflict.

The emotional attachment or Stockholm syndrome effect, to a person, idea or ideas becomes problematic when it’s obvious that person, or idea needs improvement or to be honed and tweaked. This is where, in my view, collaborative efforts, including adversarial collaborations plays a great role in evolving ideas.

In Jim Hasik’s article he writes, Boyd loses credibility because he did not write a book. I am not so sure a book needed to be written by Boyd for his ideas to be worthy as I have seen and read many who understand theory but have no idea how to apply it in practice. I have also seen the opposite those who can do what needs to be done, but talk theory to them and eyes roll to the back of their heads. Hell, I have been victim of this phenomenon myself from time to time!

Teaching, educating, developing others thought is done in many ways to include presenting, talking and briefing others on the ideas and then listening, discussing, critiquing, writing notes, slides, training programs, etc, and then rebuilding our thinking till it becomes sound ideas to be evolved by others, so they can thrive and survive on their own terms in the times and circumstances they find themselves in.

Boyd’s work I see as a living piece of work meant to be evolved as he, himself, evolved it, in his time. Too many look at works like this in a linear way, its either right or it’s wrong. Conflict does not unfold neatly in a right or wrong way and neither does learning how to deal with it effectively. Understanding conflict takes continuously exploring it and adapting to it as it unfolds. Is a mans ideas formed in his own mind as a fighter pilot over Korea and evolved continuously till his death in 1997 that has inspired many people and many organizations such as the USMC, U.S. Army and countless organizations to adapt their way of thinking in an effort to improve and become more effective, worthy of consideration, to evolve his ideas further? The answer is pretty clear to me. Your thoughts are most appreciated.

Jim Hasik’s piece is attached below for you to read.

Stay Oriented!


Jim Hasik Problems of Boyd (2).pdf197.94 KB