The OODA Loop is a “decision cycle” for observing, orienting, deciding, and acting, especially good in a potentially dangerous situation. It was developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd.

I learned about this because a neighbor described an encounter in a parking lot with someone who wanted to scam her into having him “fix” her tire. When she realized there wasn’t a think wrong with her tire, she brushed him off and went on her way. Then on the NextDoor forum for our neighborhood, she tried to describe the man and his vehicle. She had really not paid much attention to how he or his car looked, so couldn’t give much information. Someone else pointed out that she should Google “OODA Loop” and learn the process.

Knowing that I’m not very good at observing things either, I decided to look it up. I know I would have had the same problem with description as the other woman did.

And a big bonus for me is that it shows how my main character in a story can overcome the villain in a way I think the reader will buy into.

Not only did this seem like a good idea when not particularly threatened, especially if you’re a writer, it was an even better one when I looked further into it for when we are threatened. My search’s first page never mentioned women at all—just men, for example in combat and business (is there a difference?). And I thought women should be using it, too, for their own safety.

There is, of course, much more to it than simply telling yourself to observe, orient, decide and act.

You are getting a bead on your opponent’s intensions while masking your own intentions, which should be unpredictable.

The steps:

  • Observe—get information to determine what is really going and what you can do about it
  • Orient—how is the other person acting and reacting? (Okay, it took me a while to figure this part out, but I finally got it. The word “orient” didn’t quite do it for me.)
  • Decide–decide what to do about it
  • Act—unpredictably and faster than the “opponent” is best

Keep in mind that if you get out of a bad situation, you will probably want to tell other people about it, including sometimes, authorities who can arrest the other person. So when observing, take in as many details as you can, using all your senses—sight, sound, smell, and taste or feeling (hope it doesn’t come to those last two!).

If you’re a writer, having your characters perform these steps can be helpful. You can just use them to show the character acting, or you can have the character actually thinking (not naming the steps, of course) in this particular manner. Remember the opponent will also be going through a similar process, but not being aware of these steps could be a disadvantage.

Change the situation faster than the opponent can comprehend. Create confusion, uncertainty, chaos and panic so the opponent will over- or under-react.

Don’t you love finding something unexpected you can use to perhaps write better? I hope this helps us all.