OODA Loop vs. Cynefin? Or OODA Loop & Cynefin?

Updated: Nov 15, 2019


Dave Snowden at Marine Corps University

“Fly the OODA loop” is the third critical skill behind successful enterprises, this according to Amy Wilkinson, author of The Creator’s Code and opening speaker at this year's KMWorld Conference. The same day, and a few hours after this keynote, Dave Snowden, Zhen Goh, and I departed KMWorld for Quantico, VA to meet with Marines and other joint officers to discuss how they can use the Cynefin framework in their air, sea, land, cyber, and space war gaming exercises. In a possible act of sacrilege, in the Marine Corps University library that holds John Boyd’s Papers, with Marines whose doctrine is based on the OODA loop, the Cynefin framework took center stage.


As the OODA loop continues to be repurposed by industry in such things as Scrum and The Lean Startup, and used in Big Data, AI, and Cyber circles, and as the popularity of the Cynefin framework continues to grow in all industries including the military, it is time to find out how others view the relationship between the OODA loop and the Cynefin framework.


Key Questions:

  1. What is the relationship between the OODA loop and the Cynefin framework?

  2. How would Boyd use Cynefin?

  3. Is Cynefin already part of the OODA loop?

Here are a couple of my short thoughts:

  • Place Cynefin, like Mission Command (Auftragstaktik), in the Implicit Guidance and Control (IG&C) links of the OODA loop.

  • Fractals. OODA in each Cynefin domain and Cynefin as part of OODA’s IG&C links. We may end up with a chicken and egg dilemma.

Join the conversation in the LinkedIn Cynefin in Defense group.


Brian “Ponch” Rivera is a recovering naval aviator, founder of AGLX, and the creator of the ZONEFIVE™ Team Performance Indicator. Contact Brian at brian@aglx.consulting.

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