Power of Observation

Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein captures the moment of victory in his comic-inspired painting “WHAAM!” (1963). Everything before was to make the moment unambiguous: “I pressed the fire control… and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky… WHAAM!” The power of decision (i.e., pressing the fire control), was the result of the power of observation.


USAF COL John Boyd (1927 – 1997) studied engagements of F-86 fighters against Soviet Mig-15s and found that even though the Mig-15 was a more powerful and maneuverable aircraft, the F-86s won principally due to its superior field of vision. This led to his theory of the OODA Loop: 

Observe > Orient > Decide > Act

OODA Loop depicts an intelligible model for most any zero-sum scenario whether it is military, business, or litigation. Observation and its interpretation (orient) are the required antecedents to success. The OODA Loop approach turns “uncertainty” from a problem into a capability – the victor has less uncertainty than the defeated by taking shorter loops.

Mastering uncertainty is to understand it as more than a state. Uncertainty is an evolving process. Repeated iterations resolve data into information, the trajectories of which create tipping points where there is certainty in outcomes.  The observations of these iterations turn an art into a science. 

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