IA Summit 2008: Matthew Milan’s “The IA and the Fighter Pilot”

I love presentations that at the surface seem irrelevant but underneath have a lot to teach us about how we approach our work and think about our practice. Matthew Milan of Critical Mass did just that with his talk titled “The IA and the Fighter Pilot.” Thanks goes to David Armano for insisting that I hear Matt’s talk.

My Twitter notes below:

  • Conflict, emergence, destruction, synthesis, agility, adaptation and novelty as themes for IA
  • Fighter pilot John Boyd is topic of this talk
  • Boyd’s relationship to IA: he created one of the world’s first pattern library. Cataloged flight patterns
  • He took a theory turned it into a model to create best performance for aircraft, allowing the pilot to pick the experience from the aircraft
  • He was fundamentally concerned that there was something wrong with the military so he became a contractor where he could influence what was being done
  • Boyd saw synthesis as necessary to being a good decision maker
  • Stiil today the US Marines base all their fighting strategy on Boyd’s work — being in complex environments, having command and control structure
  • OODA loop = Observe, Orient, Decide, Act
  • Observations are unfolding circumstances, interaction with environment.
  • From Decide to Act is implicit guidance and control
  • Orient involves: cultural tradition, genetic heritage, analysis/synthesis, new information, and previous experience
  • Chi/Cheng: Cheng = orthodox, expected. Chi = unorthodox, unexpected.
  • Understanding novelty allows you to create novelty. Novelty produces change.
  • Organic design & emergence. Destruction & creation. Adaptation & fast transients. Novelty & change
  • As IAs we need to start thinking about OODA
  • Postmodernism: proliferate discourses and fit them into a permanent grid
  • “He who can handle the quickest rate of change survives.”
  • What killed IA? “It’s only 1/2 the discipline. We overthink the damn thing. We think about creation, but never about destruction.”
  • IAs think about structure, but never unstructure . “We can’t live in the loop until we’re able to deconstruct”
  • We need more discourse on what IA ought to be. We need to brief more with the people who disagree with us
  • We need to break the traditional navigation structure. We need to Chi as well as Cheng
  • Destruction: process we go through to understand the construction
  • Question from the audience: “What would Bruce Lee say about IA?” Answer: “He’d kick it.”

Check out the slides below:

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