OODA Loop: The 4 Step Process For Making Better Decisions

Reaction time

Who Developed The OODA Loop Model?

US Air Force Colonel John Boyd devised the OODA loop in the mid-20th century. He was a Korean War fighter pilot. It was originally designed to train soldiers to make quick judgments without all the facts. The idea was to perform the OODA loop faster than an opponent to disrupt their decision-making process.

How Does The OODA Loop Work?

The OODA loop works are easy to understand on paper and it has four steps: (Observe Orient Decide Act).

Because the method is so simple, it is often criticized because it seems to be stating the obvious. But the goal of the OODA loop is to help people be more aware in small ways.


Observe step aims to make you more aware of your surroundings.

Before the fight starts, the observation step starts. As the fighter pilot gets ready to fight and starts flying, he keeps an eye on everything around him. He might not yet have seen the enemy plane. Still, he begins the military strategy to use the information from the radar to figure out how far away and fast the opponent’s OODA loop is. Most of the time, the pilot won’t know who the enemy is or what kind of equipment he is using.

When he sees the enemy, he knows more about what to do. He might know his opponent’s plane, where he is from, and what he might be up to. He can see the other pilot’s problems and figure out what he might do to solve them.

You don’t have to pick up on everything around you when you observe. On the battlefield, things move quickly. Keeping an eye on the right things is more important than keeping an eye on everything around you. Most of the time, you also can’t see everything around you.

The observation phase never ends because the technique works in a loop. The pilot is always watching and picking out the most important details. When picking what to watch and ignore, he considers his prior actions and their outcomes.

For example, a pilot might not have known what kind of plane the enemy was. Next time, he will have to pay more attention to the details to learn more about the enemy.

While the other parts of the loop are happening, the pilot keeps going back to observe. A small observation can change all the steps that come after it.


Under pressure, it’s customary to act before observing the situation.

OODA loop is about orienting before choosing. Before leaping to conclusions, the pilot considers what to focus on.

He considers future obstacles. The orientation phase helps people make reality-based decisions without bias. Our assumptions and cognitive biases can cause us to make poor decisions.

Emotions can sometimes cause mistakes. A pilot may pursue an opponent out of rage when he should back off. John Boyd believes the orienting step was the key to outsmarting an opponent in a bad scenario.

Genetics, culture, and experience impact our thinking and behavior. An aggressively trained pilot will take greater risks to win. A pilot who chased his opponent too far might think twice next time. Various things influence your actions.

Orient helps remove unwanted influences and focus on the right information. Creating Mental models is an analysis tool.

Charlie Munger popularized the term “mental model.” His stock market investment tactics varied. Boyd emphasized himself using arithmetic, thermodynamics, psychology, and physics. Inversion, statistics, economics, and evolution are among Munger’s strengths.

Evolution with stock market investing? Mental models help understand concepts and apply them to real-life situations.

Situational. What works in one won’t in another. Your success may not be mine. Good decision-making processes require self-awareness and bias-reduction skills.


Making a choice is the third step in the detailed OODA loop. The pilot knows what to do and knows where he is. To make a choice, he thinks about all the ideas from the previous steps. The fast-paced situation makes it hard always to do the right thing.

But Boyd planned to make a good choice and deal with the situation. The first conclusion bias makes it easy to make the mistake of making a decision and then closing your mind to new ideas. You keep doing different things in a loop that leads to the same conclusion.

The OODA loop stops you from thinking this way by ensuring you are always open to new ideas and information.


The last part of the loop is to do something. You’ve decided to handle the situation differently based on what you’ve seen and think will work. Acting is a way to see if your choice was the right one. Boyd thought the OODA loop was a technique to learn and make decisions.

How you go about the next cycle will depend on what you decide, what you do, and what happens. If the pilot’s choice made the opponent disappear from view, he can’t use his old plan anymore. He will have to look at different things, figure out where he is, and decide what to do based on what he sees.

The whole cycle makes up a step-by-step plan. Boyd thought the OODA loop was a technique to learn and make judgments.

The OODA loop helps you become self-aware, so you don’t make fast decisions.

Final Thought

OODA loop started as a way to get ahead in a high-pressure, fast-paced situation. Since then, the idea has spread to different parts of the business, court cases, law enforcement, and other areas.

You can use the technique’s basic structure to get better at any skill or make better decisions in your everyday life. All you need is a little ability to observe, a dash of self-awareness, and a pinch of mindfulness. Once you know how the loop works, all you need to pull it off is common sense.

To use the OODA loop in real life, you don’t need to know anything about rocket science. You can start to use the method right away if you want to. The question is whether you will.