The Sheepdog Coalition

Advertise with us! For opportunities email our Admin.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Philosophy: OODA - Observe.

Observe, orient, decide, act.

This sequence, when applied to any decision or scenario is instrumental in avoiding negative or harmful results. Most times, we're placed into negative situations because of either previous decisions or happenstance. If by coincidence we're confronted with a tough decision, OODA could obviously not have prevented this from happening. However, if the result of a misjudged decision has left you in another tough position, the philosophy of OODA might very well help you from making the same mistake twice.

That's all this philosophy is; help. We're not ever guaranteed to make wise decisions - especially when the consequences are due to human interaction. We're emotional creatures and this sets the stage for even the most logical choice to backfire. We can only hope to make reasonable, conscious decisions that will reflect our intent to defuse a bad situation - not the opposite. Even though sometimes your actions are not the popular choice, some situations require intervention.

The OODA loop was an idea generated by Boyd, a USAF Colonel. It runs through a decision, piece by piece. This model has been applied to military operations, business applications and more. Today, I'd like to begin looking at this philosophy from a personal context inside the sheepdog mindset.

Imagine any scenario where you've had to make a decision.

If I could guess - you're not thinking about what toppings you wanted on your pizza last Friday. You're probably thinking about some time where you saw two individuals fighting. Maybe it was last Tuesday, when you saw a lady slip at work, but didn't know if you should ask her if she needed help.

In any case, I do wholeheartedly believe that most common day problems, no matter their relevance, can be solved with OODA.

The first step - as you might have guessed, is Observation.

As Bruce Lee said - listen to the birds chirping. You have more than one sense that can be tapped into in a problematic situation. Let's review a scenario where observation includes more than our trusted eyesight.


Driving down a highway, mid winter, you encounter a rolled vehicle. Nobody else on the highway has stopped - it's too early, nobody is around. You slow to a stop 20 feet from the car, a four door sedan. Zipping up your jacket as you get out of the car, you've already made the decision to intervene - that's a separate issue. In any case, you make your way to the downed vehicle. Your heart rate speeds up as you strain to get back into that classroom, to remember every minute of the first-aid class your work mandated.

Mid stride, you freeze. Breathing heavily, you say to the 911 operator;

"I can smell gas. You need to get someone here fast. I can see someone in there, but I can't go any closer."


What I'm trying to illustrate here is a typical mindset. You'll notice the missing details. How did the phone get on your ear, already connected to 911? Why did you stop at the smell of gas?

There's a lot going on in an emergency. I know that I'm not a professional rescuer - that's probably why my brain misses critical steps in thought, as it becomes automatic. Auto-pilot of sorts. Luckily, you stopped when your brain interpreted the smell as gas - if you had have approached the vehicle, this could have gotten a lot worse. I've always been an advocate of professional rescuers - they have a job and they do it well - let them.

In any case, you'll come upon scenarios where that type of help is not available. We hate to think of it, but it's true. Rarely, a person might find themselves in a predicament where they are the only help around. It's for those situations that we should mentally prepare by practicing OODA. Not because we want to use it, but because if we have to be that person - we NEED to be ready. 

So, what's involved in 'observation'. Luckily, it's a skill that we can build everyday with little consequence. Using all of your senses, you're trying to find a few things; unfolding interaction with your environment, unfolding circumstances and outside information. 

Your environment - what's happening around you? What do you hear, smell, see and feel? Do you feel heat emanating from behind that door? Do you see blood or vomit? Do you smell 'burning'? Do you hear gunshots?

We don't ever think about experiencing these things outside of movies and video games, but what happens when it's happening?

Circumstances - What has brought you here? What made all of this happen? The second largest part of observation is asking; "Why?" Most times it only takes a few moments to figure out, but when you observe the circumstances surrounding a situation, try to find out WHY it all went down... it might lend crucial information about what you're facing.

Outside information - What have you been told? What is the most obvious, raw information that you can take in from what's happening? The third stage in observation, broken down to a micro-level, usually happens in a short amount of time. Think of it; "Help! A lady fell down outside!"... There's your situation - now, do you react?

As you can see, it all blends into a few minutes, sometimes less if the situation permits. 

You can practice this with very simple problems in your life. Treat your brain like a muscle, keep doing it. If you practice this with nothing on the line, I believe you'll be more likely to snap-back to it in a time of distress. Especially once your brain starts really firing, in a hyper-important scenario, you'll be relying on what you 'know'.

So next time you order pizza - practice observation. It sounds silly, but it may be very important one day.

No comments:

Post a Comment