in lean business building, Process, tips and tricks, tools

OODA Loops

OODA Loops – a method for measuring your speed of learning

Earlier today I was listening to my current favorite podcast: "Masters of Scale", by Reid Hoffman.
In the episode, covering Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, the subject of rapid learning came up.
Mark stated something to the effect of:

"I believe the currency for success in a company is how fast you learn".

The Lean Startup movement characterizes this loop as "Build, Measure, Learn".
In my rapid prototyping courses I talk about "number of experiments conducted" in a given time period.

The thing that differentiates startups from established firms is the cadence of this feedback loop. Note: This is a given as startups are defined as "a team with an idea in search of a business model" and

One way to measure the learning loop is using the OODA-loop.

What is OODA?

"The phrase OODA loop refers to the decision cycle of observe, orient, decide, and act, developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd. Boyd applied the concept to the combat operations process, often at the strategic level in military operations."; Source: Wikipedia

OODA = Observe, Orient, Decide, Act

When you can apply OODA

Launching New Ventures

  • Instead of coming up with fancy business plans and technical architecture, quickly move to something that can provide a feedback loop. This would be a mockup, a landing page with an offering, even something such as a pitch to a customer can simulate the real thing.

Developing new processes

  • Similar to launching new products you can prototype new processes. You can role-play, you can mock-up the detailed journey map, you can actually test it with limited users (do it in low-risk areas).

Launching physical products

  • Grab some tape, paper, hell even Playdoh and build it in rough form. Test it with users and see what the reaction is. This is 100X better than sitting in a room discussing how it should look!

Organizing or building new offices

  • Simulate by building it in cardboard. Build a miniature version and try it out with Legos. Simply getting it into form will help bring additional insights.

These are just some examples of when it makes sense to accelerate learning.


In any endeavor where uncertainty is present I recommend measuring cycles-of-learning.

One of John Boyd’s primary insights in fighter combat was that it is vital to change speed and direction faster than the opponent.

The faster you learn the better a chance of success.

Feel free to reach out should you want to know more about how to increase your cycles-of-learning. I’ve done a fair amount of Lean and Rapid Prototyping work and would love to understand how you use these principles and what you’ve learned.