Saturday, September 25, 2010

John Boyd - What do skis, a motorboat, a bicycle, and toy tractors have in common?

During my latest wanderings on the internet, I came across a writing by the brilliant military strategist John Boyd. The writing was a presentation entitled The Strategic Game of ? And ? (June 1987).

For those who haven't heard that name before, Colonel Boyd developed the OODA loop, which stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act and was originally applied to combat operations and has since been expanded to analyze systems and processes in general.  Definitely an interesting topic (and man).

So, what does Col. Boyd have to do with the title of this post?  Simply this:

  • Imagine that you are on a ski slope with other skiers—retain this image.
  • Imagine that you are in Florida riding in an outboard motorboat—maybe even towing water-skiers—retain this image.
  • Imagine that you are riding a bicycle on a nice spring day—retain this image.
  • Imagine that you are a parent taking your son to a department store and that you notice he is fascinated by the tractors or tanks with rubber caterpillar treads—retain this image.

Now imagine that you:
  • Pull skis off ski slope; discard and forget rest of image.
  • Pull outboard motor out of motorboat; discard and forget rest of image.
  • Pull handlebars off bicycle; discard and forget rest of image.
  • Pull rubber treads off toy tractors or tanks; discard and forget rest of image.

This leaves us with: skis, outboard motor, handlebars, rubber treads.  Pulling all this together, what do we have?
  • A snowmobile.

 (source:, starting at page 6)

Note:  I believe the passage above is permitted to be reproduced under the Fair Use doctrine.  If the legal copyright owner disagrees, I will certainly consider its removal.

No comments:

Post a Comment