U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 6th Ranger Training Battalion, at Camp Rudder, Florida, conduct airborne water operations May 31, 2018 at Lake Jackson in Florala, Alabama. (Photo: U.S. Army / Patrick A. Albright)

This article originally appeared on Task & Purpose.

John Boyd forever changed the way the United States fights wars, both on the ground and in the air. This is rather impressive considering his own limited battlefield experience, as he just missed World War II and barely caught the end of the Korean War.

He prompted us to think differently about war. He first changed the way aircraft designers and pilots thought about aerial combat when he developed the energy-maneuverability concept with his friend Tom Christie.

He then extrapolated that concept out into a cohesive theory of warfare following an exhaustive interdisciplinary study of physics, mathematics, history, psychology, anthropology, and any number of other subjects. The OODA loop became just one of many important contributions to the body of work that produced Maneuver Warfare doctrine.

The OODA Loop: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act
(Image: Patrick Edwin Moran, CC by 3.0)

To understand the OODA loop, it is important to first understand what it isn’t. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the OODA loop is not synonymous with decision-making. While individuals process information in an OODA-like fashion preparatory to making a decision, it’s the last letter in the acronym that deserves the most attention.

OODA is an action cycle. More importantly, it is the action cycle of a system, not a person.

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