I blogged about the first step in the OODA loop, which is to observe. Hopefully you spent some time with the observation tests I posted. They're interesting, but by the third one your mind was probably aware of what to look for. That's the point --- you can train your mind to observe. It's a discipline you can teach yourself through repetition and with intention.
Now we're going to figure out how to process what we have observed, in the step Boyd called Orient.
We're talking about an action strategy developed by USAF Colonel John Boyd.
Observe ----> Orient ----> Decide ----> Act
After you have made an observation of your surroundings, you want to quickly orient. Boyd spoke of the orient step as being the most crucial, as this is shapes how we observe, how we decide, and how we act. In orientation, we use the information we observed to form a mental image of the circumstances --- we synthesize the data into information. As more information is received, you "deconstruct" old images and then "create" new images.
You may have walked into a convenience store 100 times before, but this time you observe differences. A panicked look on the face of the retail clerk. A man with a hood in the back corner of the store. A second man fixated on the clerk. Your orientation is indicating to you that there is a break in the pattern you were expecting. You are decoding this data intake, and turning it into information. This is no longer an ordinary visit to the convenience store. Orientating to the new circumstances, you are constructing a new picture of the scene you are encountering.
Note that different people require different levels of details to perceive an event. Often, we imply that the reason people cannot make good decisions, is that people are bad decisions makers — sort of like saying that the reason some people cannot drive is that they are bad drivers. However, the real reason most people make bad decisions is that they often fail to place the information that we do have into its proper context. This is where "Orientation" comes in. Orientation emphasizes the context in which events occur, so that we may facilitate our decisions and actions. Orientation helps to turn information into knowledge. And knowledge, not information, is the real predictor of making good decisions.
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