To be or to do?

In the eloquent words of John Boyd: “To be or to do? Which way will you go?”


By Kevin-James Fench

Kevin is the founder and owner of JOB Search - and FENCI Consulting

Uncertainty. Ambiguity. Risk. Sadly, this is the world we currently live in. Whether you are business, the government or an important decision-maker, you have to take decisions in a constantly fluid and unpredictable ‘COVID19-dominant’ reality.

The dilemma faced is how to change perspective and recalibrate foresight in order to adapt to the constantly evolving and changing ‘new’ reality.

Many businesses are right now struggling to take important decisions in the midst of the COVID19 tsunami.

We need to change our mental modes of thinking and review current paradigms. We must think like fighter-pilots in the middle of a dog-fight.

To my mind, Boyd’s OODA Loop offers the best solution right now. This strategic tool advances a four step decision-making process: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. It was first developed by Colonel John Boyd for American fighter-pilots during the Korean War; when the American’s commanded an aerial kill ratio of 10:1. If you’ve never heard of him, I strongly suggest you read up about Boyd.

Core to the OODA Loop are the following four interrelated and overlapping decision-making processes:

Observe - Observe the unfolding circumstances around you;

Orient - Analyse and synthesise new data quickly;

Decide - Take a course of action based on your current mental perspective;

Act - The physical playing-out of decisions with speed and agility.

Boyd based his OODA loop on three theories, which are worth mentioning, namely: (1) Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem- ‘…any logical model of reality is incomplete and must be continuously refined/adapted in the face of new observations…’; (2) Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle- ‘…there is a limit on our ability to observe reality with precision…’; (3) Second Law of Thermodynamics- ‘The entropy of any closed system always tends to increase, and thus the nature of any given system is continuously changing even as efforts are directed toward maintaining it in its original form.’

COVID-19 is right now squarely inside our collective OODA loop and it is beating us hands-down. We therefore need to do the same and fight back. The key here is ‘agility’ or ‘adaption’ and not a litany of Legal Notices and public health authoritarianism.

Whether you are a business or the government, you need to constantly adapt according to the changing reality. Right now, I think this means voluntary self-testing at home and targeted COVID-19 risk mitigation policies according to risk profiles.

Allow me to explain: if people don’t need to wait for a PCR test appointment but can buy or even acquire for free a self-test (salvia test as opposed to the intrusive nasal swab) which is taken in the comfort of one’s homes, I think we stand a better chance of being proactive rather than always being reactive but also taking control of the situation.

Furthermore, we need to regulate according to peoples’ risk profile and not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. You can not treat young healthy school boys/girls the same way you treat an old or vulnerable person for example.

As soon as we have a flexible and common sense approach to risk mitigation which flexes according to peoples’ different risk profiles, the easier it will be to re-start the economic recovery without jeopardising public health.

A one-size-fits-all totalitarian public health policy which tells people ‘Do as I say or else’ will not get public buy-in nor will it allow us to save the economy and by consequence protect peoples’ mental and financial wellbeing which I am sure everyone agrees is as important as public health.

Lastly, I think as a country we also need to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in the fight against COVID-19.

I am here referring to an arthritis drug which cuts deaths in patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 by two-thirds (71%); Oxygen masks being more effective than ventilators; high doses of Vitamin D prescribed to a population as a cheap way of strengthening the immunity; the abolishment of the draconian law of the wearing of face masks when outside; the misinformation about vaccines and the importance of immunising the majority of the population by summer. The list is endless.

What I am talking about is what Boyd refers to as ‘destructive deduction’ and ‘creative induction’. We need to analyse and pull apart our mental concepts into discrete parts and then use these fragments to form new mental concepts which align with what we are hearing or seeing (and we need to do this fast).

The worst thing we can do is to adopt rigid authoritarian public health policy which is imposed on the entire population.

Or to refuse to listen to new ideas which adopt a ‘balanced approach’ and promote risk mitigation based on peoples’ different risk profiles.

I believe in military strategy they use the term ‘fingertip feel’ of the battlefield. We need to have a ‘fingertip feel’ of the COVID-19 battlefield and adapt accordingly quickly and continuously. Empowering people with information and choices is a lot better than trying to impose from the top!

In the eloquent words of John Boyd: “To be or to do? Which way will you go?”

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