‘Boyd Loop’: How to Gain a Competitive Advantage with Quick Decisions and Aggressive Strategy

I stumbled upon an interesting story the other day about a guy named John Boyd who flew F-86 Sabres during the Korean War.

And as the legend goes he never lost a single dogfight. Pretty badass, right?

So, in the Korean War, American pilots managed to gain superiority over their Russian counterparts who flew Mig-15 jets for North Korea, even though the Migs were supposedly better.

Boyd put it down to two main things:

  1. The F-86 Sabre had a canopy that offered better visibility, and
  2. American pilots were trained to be quick, flexible, and very aggressive.

Today we know his insight as the ‘Boyd loop’.

It’s a four-step process:

  • Observation,
  • Orientation,
  • Decision, and
  • Action.

The ‘Boyd Loop’ is based on the insight that being quick, aggressive, and decisive are the keys to winning in a highly competitive situation.

That’s how Nvidia beat Intel to the punch by bringing a new chip to the market in just 6 – 12 weeks, while it took Intel 18 – 24 months.

I learnt about Boyd’s insight from Richard Rumelt’s book ‘The Crux’, where he explains that in highly competitive situations, it’s sometimes more important to have your opponent believe that you’re in the lead than actually being in the lead.

Keep them on their feet.

When the situation calls for it, be quick, aggressive, and decisive.