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Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Book and OODA Loop: A Worthy Read? OODA Loop in One's Life

A Decade in the Making

It has been a great while since I have posted here. As most long-time readers (probably less than five) know, I had been plugging away or finishing up my pièce de résistance, a baseball book, titled, Bringin' Gas and Dialin' 9: A Seven Score  Addiction to the National Pastime (1869-1949), Volume 1. Quite a mouthful, and well, I say a lot over 517 pages (with appendices). 

While I could give you a quick synopsis about all the topics, ranging from the faithful beginnings of the game to macrosabermetric analysis of top baseball prospects and their intrinsic value in the present day, I'd rather not. Instead, I want to say that while I accomplished something nearly a decade in the doing, I feel a severe let down in this moment.

Maybe it comes from the personal energies expended this summer to rewrite and edit together many working parts in the last section, in particular. Or the dissatisfaction I still have that I could have expounded more on the game, through its first century (the actual time frame is longer than the title suggests) of the game. Or even the much harder task of marketing the book - as I'm not all that keen to that proposition - even as I attend Valparaiso's MBA program and work on a Global Marketing class at the present. I should be really thrilled to apply lessons on branding, creating channels to the product, pitching it, finding markets, and otherwise, making people more aware of it through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Outbrain, and all the baseball websites in existence. (And create an outlet on Amazon - which is another story, tied to formatting.)

No, those things are in mix, to be sure, but don't quite nail down what is driving the undercurrent of the recent letdown.  I wish those loved the most dearly in life were alive to see the final outcome of the project: my mother atop that list. I acknowledged this here and here. I won't recount the story in this blog, but we all have reasons we do things and for people we admired and inspired us to just try. Just try. Give it the college try - as the cliche goes.

But motivation to carry on - that daily will to endeavor on something of greater significance - has been absent. Other priorities, namely, the pressing venture back to full-time employment and those unknowns (at the moment), seem hollow, and a bit underwhelming. If recent contacts and recruiters are of any indication to those prospects. (To a future employer: Look, if you are happy every single day with your career, family and daily tasking, I commend you. But I suspect that's not what is really going on. My realism on this subject is acknowledging a verity, for me, at least: I have a sinusoidal curve when it come to my emotions about things.)

 OODA Loop

 I guess to show I am making efforts to break this funk, I will include something of recent learning in my marketing class, which I have shared a few places online. The OODA loop, which like the DMAIC cycle and other ideas on learning, quick decision-making, or dramatic process improvement methods, has application towards creativity, breaking out of a rut, and acting based off all appropriate information and acknowledgement of internal biases versus an external world through feedback. Air Force Colonel John Boyd is given the most credit for creation of this concept. His thinking behind it significantly altered businesses, military strategy, and even, litigation methodology. 

Quote from Wikipedia:
Boyd’s diagram shows that all decisions are based on observations of the evolving situation tempered with implicit filtering of the problem being addressed. These observations are the raw information on which decisions and actions are based. The observed information must be processed to orient it for further making a decision. In notes from his talk “Organic Design for Command and Control”, Boyd said,
The second O, orientation – as the repository of our genetic heritage, cultural tradition, and previous experiences – is the most important part of the O-O-D-A loop since it shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act.
From Mindtools - the first two concepts break out into questions one should ask themselves.

Stage 1. Observe

At this initial point in the loop, you should be on the look-out for new information, and need to be aware of unfolding circumstances. The more information you can take in here, the more accurate your perception will be. Like an F-86 pilot with a wide field of vision, you want to capture as much incoming data as possible. The kind of questions you need to be asking are:
  • What's happening in the environment that directly affects me?
  • What's happening that indirectly affects me?
  • What's happening that may have residual affects later on?
  • Were my predictions accurate?
  • Are there any areas where prediction and reality differ significantly?

Stage 2. Orient

One of the main problems with decision-making comes at the Orient stage: we all view events in a way that's filtered through our own experiences and perceptions. Boyd identified five main influences:
  • Cultural traditions.
  • Genetic heritage.
  • The ability to analyze and synthesize.
  • Previous experience.
  • New information coming in.
Orientation is essentially how you interpret a situation. This then leads directly to your decision. 
Interpretation of events is analysis or synthesis part. Previous experiences (conformation bias) leads to all sorts of unfortunate "processing errors" (called Decisions cum Actions) once we move on into the decision and action phases of the OODA loop. Even with feedback - as we can readjust our observations or orientations in REAL TIME - many don't.

I have often failed at this.  As a flawed human being, I have more than my fair share of biases and erroneous observations that have resulted in bad conclusions. Guilty as charged.

Sadly, many millions, and billions, do this also. Even those that proclaim what is right, and defend their ideas quite arrogantly - because, well - it behooves them to in order to maintain face, credentials as an "expert," their current control, or status in life. Or to keep things just the way they want it - heritage or tradition in the orientation - because who really wants to change anyways? We all want to feel we are good enough at present - even when we add more complexities or technologies or stuff into our lives?  (With an undergrad in "change" engineering, industrial, I found most workplaces saying all the right things, "we want things to improve, run better, cost less, be more competitive," but somehow this also meant, someone's job or career would invariably be altered, or cut out from the team or reduced in some way. As a result, creative destruction is apart of any such cycle. It's also called a dirty word: progress.)

The Synthesis of These Connections

Synthesis of these two topics together: I am feeling caught in orientation traps unable to DECIDE what is the best path ahead. I know it. My prior experiences say, "what gives now?" How do I take a route I haven't been on before? Because those have worked out so well - insanity doing the same.

Observe. The world is not getting easier to stomach as it is. The facility in this country to seek some version of the American Dream correlates to how adept one is/becomes with an accelerating technological path at home, or abroad. At 42, I don't feel that's my best use of my time: to dive head long in technology field. Namely, I am no coder; no app writer; and not one that's gonna make a mark writing code in whatever programming language is gonna be hot. Not saying it has to be "totally" about that - but you still have to find your place in that technology pie. And get on the inside somewhere.

Yet, I feel I can identify the useful mechanisms to improve myself, and more importantly: society.

So, at 42, I don't want to operate at all on a "should schedule" unless I get a whole new life experience from that.  By that, I mean, I don't want a 9-5 that (maybe) pays high XX,XXX dollars or devolves into me showing up at the same plant or factory for 2 years. Because that's the sheer limit of my patience - 2 years. I get restless very easy. And I can't afford to jump ship (probabilistically) anymore.

Orientation. Independence. I want that too. We are told erroneously we all have our bosses. Well, aside from God, I tend to feel I have to answer to no one. That means I deem society's rules just a mish-mash of current propensities to favor whatever is the most vocally expressed and the most convenient for a politician to vote on to keep the masses mildly contented, at best. And most superiors found at work are generally hypocritical and loyal only to themselves - if Ayn Rand had remotely a clue. (Not that I agree much at all with her dogmas.)

But, I think I can follow the minimal, 'big rules': don't kill, don't steal, covet a neighbor's wife, and don't bear false witness. Do unto others as you'd like them to do unto you. Honor a father and a mother. Well, 50% ain't that bad on that particular one. The other rules of 'humanity' are getting really tired and unfortunate in their concept and usages. And depending on where you are - and yes, culturally, the rules are starkly different if you have the slightest concept of the globalized world - the rules and values are pretty fungible. To succeed in one cultural arena likely means you are doing some wrong in another part of the world. Keep that straight for a while, and you'll find yourself doing what others want more than you want. (As the movie Road Trip taught us about cheating.)

At Valpo, they implored us to explore values-based leadership. Well a few of my values are: loyalty, honesty (bluntness), invested, and determination. Once you show I can depend on you, I am loyal to you, almost to a fault. Quite a few people in my life haven't understood this about me to their loss. (As they became undependable for support; or sadly, I gave them too much loyalty before they were dependable on too many occasions - such are the erroneous judgments that abound my life.)

I am damnably blunt - I don't think beating around the bush, or using PC language helps us understand the way the world works or addresses the crises very well at all. Invested in doing better, or time on something to get it better (not perfection), and locked on a path, a direction, of some redeemable nature. Determination - if persistence and perseverance can't win, well, nothing can aside from divine intervention can. So be determined to accomplish a good goal. Maybe God will too.

Stage 3 Decide.

 I look at it in this calculated way. We sleep or rest 1/3 of our life away.

As of now, if I live to 70 - 28 more years - I got about 18 plus years of wake time left to do something I think will survive me. 20 years, if I don't sleep in too much. If 80 years of age, that puts me at 25 plus years. So, should I do more than half of it working for some monolithic company, knowing, as I know, once I die, my efforts with them will be basically a blur, a forgotten, an unnoticed cog? (Maybe a retirement dinner - ha!)

Leaving me with less than 10 years of time to accomplish much else? (Mom, and both her parents, passed away at 59-64 years of age. So, I am being quite generous - OODA genetics and heritage, folks!)

I realize I could start a family. Well, she hasn't presented herself to me. I've looked, and I've waited too. Time's a wasting on that idea. I'd like to have a couple of kids. Teach baseball. Would even be a stay-at-home dad, if she desires to be the "career person," my ego will not be crushed. (This doesn't mean I am lazy...) I suppose she'd have to love me first. Applications are taken here.

Stage 4 Action. 

See, I do have many more thoughts, in book form. I'd rather do that instead - if for nothing else - to somehow leave a record on things I noticed: history, people, the journey, love and the mysterious sadness of it all too. Sadly too, the book market ain't gonna pay the bills. So, I asked myself: "what is the minimal amount of money I need to do what I want, but still survive?" Or: "What can I do that I can work 3-4-5 months and get enough out of, then spend 6 months writing and researching?" Or: "Should I get a PhD in Business? (4 years of school on a stipend with the dissertation to complete? Can I even get accepted? This delays the decision of what to really do too.)

I'd like feedback - from my outside environment, my peers, the external events that could lead to other choices.


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