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Happy Birthday Col. John Boyd

January 22, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

John Boyd (January 23, 1927 – March 9, 1997) would have been 84 on Sunday.  If you are familiar with Col. Boyd and his work, raise a glass today.  If not, I recommend the following sources:  

Boyd’s Briefings at Defense and the National Interest

The Mind of War by Grant T. Hammond 

From the Inside Flap

The ideas of U.S. Air Force Colonel John Boyd (1927-1997) have transformed American military policy and practice. A first-rate fighter pilot and a self-taught scholar, he wrote the first manual on jet aerial combat; spearheaded the design of both of the Air Force’s premier fighters, the F-15 and the F-16; and shaped the tactics that saved lives during the Vietnam War and the strategies that won the Gulf War. In addition, Boyd led the Military Reform Movement in the 1970s and the 1980s, calling for radical change in Pentagon procurement procedures. A perceptive and original thinker, he synthesized ideas from across disciplines to formulate his own philosophy about warfare, competition, decision making, and the nature of leadership.

Many of America’s best-known military and political leaders consulted Boyd on matters of technology, strategy, and theory. His notions of time cycles and competitive behavior–known as OODA loops (Observation, Orientation, Decision, and Action)–have influenced not only military combat but also business models in the United States and abroad. Yet despite Boyd’s influence within the military and in a variety of professional circles, he published nothing, preferring military briefings as his medium.

In “The Mind of War”, Grant T. Hammond offers the first complete portrait of Boyd, his groundbreaking ideas, and his enduring legacy. Based on extensive interviews with Boyd and with those who knew him as well as on a close analysis of Boyd’s briefings, this intellectual biography brings the work of an extraordinary thinker to a broader public.

About the Author

Grant T. Hammond, director of the Center for Strategy and Technology and professor of international relations at the Air War College, is the author of Plowshares into Swords: Arms Races in International Politics, 1840-1991.

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War
A great American hero-a 20th-century warrior and military strategist who lived outside the spotlight but whose work has been enormously influential-is brought brilliantly to life in this acclaimed biography. John Boyd was the finest fighter pilot in American history. From the proving ground of the Korean War, he went on to win notoriety as the instructor who defeated-in less than 40 seconds-every pilot who challenged him. But what made Boyd a man for the ages was what happened after he left the cockpit. He transformed the way military aircraft-in particular the F-15 and F-16-were designed with his revolutionary Energy-Maneuverability Theory. Boyd dedicated his later years to a radical theory of conflict that was largely ignored during Boyd’s lifetime, but that is now widely considered to be the most influential thinking about conflict since Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. 

About the Author

Robert Coram is the author of three acclaimed nonfiction books and seven novels. Twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his work in the “Atlanta Constitution,” he has written for “The New Yorker.” He is also one of the few civilians to have flown in both the F-100 and the F-15. Coram lives in Atlanta

Science, Strategy, and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd 

John Boyd is often known exclusively for the so-called ‘OODA’ loop model he developed. This model refers to a decision-making process and to the idea that military victory goes to the side that can complete the cycle from observation to action the fastest.

This book aims to redress this state of affairs and re-examines John Boyd’s original contribution to strategic theory. By highlighting diverse sources that shaped Boyd’s thinking, and by offering a comprehensive overview of Boyd’s work, this volume demonstrates that the common interpretation of the meaning of Boyd’s OODA loop concept is incomplete. It also shows that Boyd’s work is much more comprehensive, richer and deeper than is generally thought. With his ideas featuring in the literature on Network Centric Warfare, a key element of the US and NATO’s so-called ‘military transformation’ programmes, as well as in the debate on Fourth Generation Warfare, Boyd continues to exert a strong influence on Western military thinking. Dr Osinga demonstrates how Boyd’s work can helps us to understand the new strategic threats in the post- 9/11 world, and establishes why John Boyd should be regarded as one of the most important (post)modern strategic theorists.

About the Author

Frans Osinga is a serving officer of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. His work has appeared in French, Norwegian and Dutch publications. He has lectured at various universities in the Netherlands, The Royal Netherlands Military Academy, and at the Netherlands War College, as well as foreign military colleges and institutions. He has regularly consulted major political parties on defence issues. In the aftermath of 9/11, during Operation Enduring Freedom and during Operation Iraqi Freedom he provided analysis for national TV stations and major newspapers

Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business 

Certain to Win [Sun Tzu´s prognosis for generals who follow his advice] develops the strategy of the late US Air Force Colonel John R. Boyd for the world of business. Robert Coram’s monumental biography, Boyd, the Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, rekindled interest in this obscure pilot and documented his influence on military matters ranging from the design of the F-15 and F-16 fighters to the planning for Operation Desert Storm to the execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Unfortunately Boyd’s written legacy, consisting of a single paper and a four-set cycle of briefings, addresses strategy only in war. [All Boyd´s briefings are available on Defense and the National Interest.]

Boyd and Business

Boyd did study business. He read everything he could find on the Toyota Production System and came to consider it as an implementation of ideas similar to his own. He took business into account when he formulated the final version of his “OODA loop” and in his last major briefing, Conceptual Spiral, on science and technology. He read and commented on early versions of this manuscript, but he never wrote on how business could operate more profitably by using his ideas.

Other writers and business strategists have taken up the challenge, introducing Boyd’s concepts and suggesting applications to business. Keith Hammonds, in the magazine Fast Company, George Stalk and Tom Hout in Competing Against Time, and Tom Peters most recently in Re-imagine! have described the OODA loop and its effects on competitors.

About the Author

Chet Richards was a close associate of the late US Air Force Colonel John Boyd beginning in the mid-1970s. He has consulted with a number of aerospace and professional services companies and has lectured at the Air War College and the Army’s Command and General Staff College. He is the author of A Swift, Elusive Sword and other works on applications of Boyd’s strategy. Chet holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Mississippi and maintains a business and communications strategy practice with Tarkenton & Addams, Inc., a public relations firm in Atlanta, Georgia.

Categories: Boyd, Strategists, Strategy

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