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Monday, May 30, 2011

Philosophy - OODA - Decide.

Let's face it, we're all faced with decisions every day. More often than not our decisions are mind-numbingly simple and non-critical. Every so often, whether you like it or not, you'll be faced with a scenario that requires you to make a tough call. Sometimes it won't be a popular choice and sometimes you won't have much of a choice at all. We hope we're not staring down this proverbial barrel of chance - but if you have to, wouldn't it be nice to be prepared?

OODA is nothing more than a philosophy. It's a step-by-step protocol to hopefully help you make decisions when they matter most. Sometimes you'll get the opportunity to Observe your situation and Orient yourself to possible outcomes but most times you won't. Bad situations typically happen fast so do yourself a favour and give OODA a shot in your off-time. Practise this sequence like you would any kind of exercise.

The third phase in OODA-inspired actions is critical to outcomes. Decide.

Think of it like this, you've taken in what's happening and figured out where you place yourself in the situation. Now is the time to figure out what the best possible course of action is. McCall would break this down into three distinct parts. Choice-set formation, Evaluation and Choice.

Choice-Set Formation
Here's where you're going to step back and figure out what your options are. We're not even going to consider them until we've laid them all out on the table. Remember, this process can be actively practised, just like any muscle memory test.

What you've formed from your observations and what you've learned from orienting yourself to the problem will line up some options for you. Let's take a look at a scenario we played with in the 'orient' phase; you've just been tackled to the ground by a police officer, knowing there's a large scale protest occuring around your location. You can hear the rukus from your position and are being held to the ground by a police officer.

Here, we've determined that the police officer ovbiously deems you a threat to public saftey. After all, why are you being held down - for fun?

Rightly or wrongly, you're under arrest. It doesn't how you feel about being under arrest. You are. Plain and simple.The situation has changed now - we're not talking about being arrested, we're talking about your behaviour after the fact. Your time to make a decision in order to affect your not being arrested is over. What matters now is how you conduct yourself - damage control. You've seen and heard mass protesting - almost rioting. You have tasted pavement once already today. You've been
deemed a threat. 

You now have a couple of options. You know that you are not a threat to anyone. You know you are innocent. You know that you've been confused with being part of the protests. You could run. You could proclaim your innocence. You could be quiet and sit still. You could fight back. There are possibilities. 

As you can see, these possibilities and thought patterns must run through your head a mile a minute. This entire OODA process, at this point, takes moments. Even broken down to each specific action, fractions of a second determine the actions you'll take - it's important to make every one of them count for something positive.

To decide on a course of action, you need to know what your options are - so lay them all out in the open first.

The most logical thing to do at this point is a strict, rational evaluation of your possible options. There's a key-word there. Rational.

It's easy to get caught up in the moment. When we let emotions control our decision making processes in times of crisis, it often leads to a one-way train of thought. We're usually very stubborn at this point and not easily coerced into a more logical, rational option, no matter it's relevance on the situation at hand.

There is a key factor in OODA that is almost under-taught in modern times. Self awareness.

It's important to know who we are and we're generally taught to forget about that.

To successfully evaluate our options, we need a calm, rational head on our shoulders. There's no trick to that, but it's what we need to tap into. It's what separates people in true emergencies. I can't remember the guy's name, but the gentleman who taught me First Aid last year had a really good way to explain it.

If it's possible to do so, when the situation is as hot as it's going to get, we have to step back and take one good, solid breath. Separate yourself and inhale. Exhale. It's in that moment that you'll probably cycle through an entire OODA loop and make that critical move that nobody else wants to commit to.

Just take a minute and think.

I really, really hate to quote a giant corperation when discussing philosophy, but really - there's no better way to put it. Just do it.

If you've gotten this far in an OODA loop critically and rationally, it's time to exhale. Come to think of it, that's a pretty good way to describe it. You take a big deep breath in when you evaluate your choices; when you exhale, move!

More often than not, time will not be on your side in a real bad scenario. 

If you know that, and you've observed, oriented and now have scaled out your options, knowing what's involved, it's right now when people usually whisper to themselves; "okay..."

Another important aspect to remember here is the average ratio of failure we will surely encounter. Obviously, we're not going to make the correct decision all the time. We're looking for some kind of balance between utility and positivity. We're trying to fix some sort of problem, as efficiently as possible. 

It's okay. We're bound to fail. Unfortunately, that's what turns a crisis into a tragedy. It's knowing that we can prevent that from happening that makes us continue to decide - to act.

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