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“Left of Bang” and the OODA Loop

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Notes

  • While explaining the OODA Loop, I misspeak and refer to John Boyd as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force. He was a Colonel.
  • While explaining the decision tree for civilians, I say that our options are to “Control, Call, Capture,” the anomaly, when the decision tree is to “Control, Call, Contact” an anomaly that you identify.
  • Further reading: “The Tao of Body: How to Master the OODA Loop,” written by Brett and Kate McKay at The Art of Manliness.

Video Transcript

In today’s video we answer one of the most frequently asked questions that we get, how do the behaviors written about in Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life support people as they go through the OODA Loop.

Hey everybody, this is Patrick Van Horne, and for the long time followers of The CP Journal, you know that our goal is to help empower our nation’s protectors and warriors and police officers by teaching them how to read human behavior and assess people’s intentions. We do that because if we can help provide them with a higher quality information about the people around them, they can make better decisions when they’re in these very complex and dynamic situations. And in that context of how can we make better decisions, one of the most frequently asked questions that we get are how do the behaviors we’ve written about in Left of Bang or teach in the Tactical Analysis program or write about on the site support people as they are trying to go through the OODA Loop? For those of you who are unfamiliar with the OODA Loop, I certainly recommend you take a look at the article that we’ll embed below this video. Brett McKay from The Art of Manliness has done a great job highlighting the key points and talking about the theory of fighting that John Boyd fathered.

John Boyd, who was a colonel in the Air Force, took a look at the steps that people go through when they’re in a fight or when they’re in combat. He identified that a person’s going to observe their situation, they’re going to orient to the key facts around them, they’re going to make a decision once they pick up on something here in the orient phase, and once they make that decision, they’re going to take some sort of action, they’re going to execute that plan. And the theory is that if you can go through these four steps: observe, orient, decide and act more quickly than your adversary can, you will be able to take the initiative. The adversary and our enemies will be reacting to us. If the enemy or the adversary goes through it more quickly than we do, we will be reacting to them.

As we take a look at what goes into the behaviors and the process that we teach in our program, it’s designed very specifically to help warriors and protectors go through that more quickly. In the observe phase of the cycle, this is where you are taking in and collecting facts about the situation. You aren’t doing any analysis, you’re not determining if anything fits or doesn’t fit a baseline, you’re simply making statements about everything that’s happening around you. It’s at this part of the process where we talk about the four pillars of observable behavior or if you’ve read Left of Bang, we teach them in that book as the six domains of behavior. And we do that because we want to focus the observer’s attention on very specific and very quantifiable facts and assessments they can make about the situation.

For example, when we are observing an individual person, we’re determining if their body language shows they’re either dominant, submissive, uncomfortable or comfortable. When we’re assessing groups of people, all we’re determining is what is the type of relationship between them. When we’re assessing the environment, are we looking at a habitual area or an anchor point? Are people familiar or unfamiliar with their surroundings? When we get to the collective mood, that fourth pillar of behavior, does the area have positive or negative atmospherics?

There’s no analysis done in those, that’s just simply stating a fact by understanding what criteria is going into those. Once we can make those statements about each of those four pillars in our environment, we’re able to transition from the observe phase to the orient phase of the loop. The orient phase of the loop is where you begin to put all of those assessments together and start to make sense of your situation. This is where we are teaching you how to establish a baseline. While it’s not written about in Left of Bang because it was an improvement we have made on fairly recent history, the two ways that you can establish a baseline is through what we refer to as the hasty search and the deliberate search.

The hasty search is the first thing that you want to do when you walk into a new area. The hasty search is where you take a quick look at the collective mood and determine if the area has positive or negative atmospherics. When you determine let’s say if the area has positive atmospherics, that means people’s behavior should reveal the comfortable cluster, that makes our baseline for this area comfort, which means that we can quickly begin to focus our search on anyone who stands out from that comfortable cluster. Is anyone here displaying high intensity dominance or high intensity discomfort? If so, we have now oriented to that person and we can begin to make a decision about how we’re going to proceed. Or once we get into the area and if there’s no anomaly that presents itself during the hasty search, then we can turn to the deliberate search and start to go into a much more detailed and establishing a much deeper baseline for the area. This is where we’re going to begin to identify the underlying patterns and processes and routines of everyone present in the area who has a non-violent intent. And by doing this, our baseline for the area is going to become very detailed and very explicit.

In the orient phase, once you’ve established the baseline, this is where you begin looking for anomalies, so anything that deviates from what we established in either the hasty or deliberate search is the person that we need to focus our attention on. And as soon as you identify who that person is, that’s when you transition from the orient phase into the decide phase of the cycle. In the decide phase, you are choosing from the different courses of action that you have available to you. You are choosing the best option that’s going to get you to a successful outcome. When we talk about in Left of Bang and our Tactical Analysis program is how do you establish a decision tree for the options that you have available? In Left of Bang, we talk about the kill, capture, contact decision tree. For some of our civilian clients now, schools and security professionals, we teach them control, call, contact. The reason we define very specifically what decisions a protector has available to them and at their disposal, they can spend less time trying to figure out what are they going to do? They can rehearse and think through these different if-then statements about, if they see something, how are they going to react.

And once they finish and once they leave the decide phase of the cycle, they come up here, they execute that plan, they take that action and they end the situation. And once that action is over, they return to the observe phase of the cycle. When we take a look at why we teach behaviors in the process the way we do, it’s because we have to move through this loop more quickly than our adversaries can. The problem however is that it’s oftentimes much easier for our adversaries to identify us than it is for us to identify them. We might be wearing a uniform, we might be driving a certain type of car, we might stand out because of our actions. So if we don’t have a process, if we don’t have very specific things that we’re looking for, we might be a little bit slower than they are as they’re going to be able to observe their surroundings and orient to us very, very quickly. And so as you take a look at what goes into each of these first three components of the loop, they’re really designed just to help speed up the process.

Now if you go through this, if you just look out at a crowd of people and you quickly identify someone who stands out and it’s not because you looked at the four pillars of behavior and it’s not because you established a baseline using one of these two methods and you made a decision without using this decision tree, that’s fine and that’s a great way to recognize threats, when you can make those intuitive recognitions. The reason we go into this is for all of those situations, when there isn’t someone present who is very clearly attracted our attention, when there’s no one, like that blinking red light that stands out from the baseline that we have to do something about. So as you look at how these behaviors can really assist you here, one of the first ways to do that is by continually focusing on and learning about how to assess each of these four pillars of behavior. Go through individuals. Can you quickly and accurately assess someone as being dominant, submissive, uncomfortable or comfortable? Can you quickly determine if the area has positive or negative atmospherics? If you can do that, you’re going to be able to get out of the observe phase of the cycle much more quickly than if it’s an aimless, purposeless search.

Once you get into the orient phase, in order to make this a habit, in order to make this natural, you want to get very good at going through the hasty search, quickly determining what’s normal here, is there anyone obviously standing out from the baseline that we need to do something about? And once you get that hasty search out of the way, just practicing going through that deliberate search so that you can, again, make that process natural so that you can dedicate the absolute smallest amount of mental attention to this process and this pursuit as possible. While we teach kill, capture, contact in our courses for the police and for the military, you can create whatever decision structure and decision tree works best for you. And if you can go through that and you can quickly and continuously master those pieces, you’re going to be able to go through the OODA Loop more quickly than our adversaries can, ultimately getting you to this act phase, which is the ultimate goal of any process on situational awareness or threat recognition.

That’s all we have for this week’s video. Until next time, get left of bang and stay there.


 

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