Guiding Quote

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Einstein

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

OODA Loop and Six Honest Working men.

The famous British writer Rudyard Kipling wrote that in carrying out his work he used “six honest working men”: Who, What, When, Why, Where, and How. By asking these questions he could write an article for a newspaper, a poem, a story. They were the starting point for his exploration of a subject.

Similarly they should be the foundation for all project managers combating bias and the tendency to believe that “What you see is all there is” (WYSIATI). Forcing yourself to ask these six questions when you reach the Decide portion of the Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) loop will prevent you from rushing to a premature conclusion because your mind’s system 1 (the reptilian part) overrides your lazy system 2 (the rational analytical part). 

Certainly after every new piece of information you should ask yourself “so what?” What does this piece of information mean? What is its impact on the current situation? What should I do with it? And so on with the other “honest working men”. It doesn’t mean you’ll always come to the right conclusion, but you are certainly more likely to avoid a rushed one. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Conclusions, WYSIATI, and the OODA loop.

In his book 'Thinking: fast and slow' Daniel Kahneman introduces the concept that our brains have two separate systems, the first one is fast thinking and is what we use to recognize danger and decide whether to fight or flee, the second one is slow and is what we use to analyze complex situations: buying a car or a house. The problem is that system 1, to use Kahneman's terminology, is always on and always making judgments, jumping to conclusions on the merest amount of evidence. It doesn't evaluate the quantity or quality of the evidence, it just takes what it has and comes up with a conclusion. It doesn't search our memory for additional facts that might contradict or even confirm its conclusions. It acts as if 'What you see is all there is,' or WYSIATI. Unless we make a decision to engage system 2 then we are at the mercy of system 1.

This genetic predisposition has profound implications for the Orient phase of the OODA loop. Left unchecked system 1 can open the door to all kinds of filters and biases that will screw up our evaluation of a given situation. Causing us to make poor decisions. We need to discipline ourselves to always question what our first reaction to information is. Ask ourselves is this all the information there is? What is the quality of this data? Are there other facts available to help me to better analyze this situation? It takes time and effort but it is what a master politician or strategist does.