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

(Strategy and History)

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  234 ratings  ·  28 reviews
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.
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Paperback, 313 pages
Published September 23rd 2007 by Routledge (first published March 11th 2006)
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Rich
Sep 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommend! Frans Osinga's Science, Strategy, and War was a rich and esoteric examination of John Boyd's conceptualizations. Not for the faint of heart! Osinga's work remains far above the fray of hagiography, a common critique of Boyd biographies, which highlights a common strategy of ad hominem, too cowardly or simpleton to adequately counter Boyd's theories directly. Osinga does well to present the reader with the context and background that were the catalysts for Boyd's body of work.

Th
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Michael Burnam-Fink
Apr 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, academic, war
John Boyd was a genius, but he was not much of writer, preferring instead to spread his ideas through long, intensive briefings (supposedly he delivered his lectures on the OODA loop and modern strategy about 1500 times over the course of two decades.) Frans Osinga has performed an invaluable service rendering his ideas into a single coherent narrative that follows the intellectual origins of Boyd's theory through their development (including exact quotes of Boyd's key points) and their influenc ...more
John Carter McKnight
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic
I'm so glad I read this book. I can't think of anything like it since Plato's "Trial and Death of Socrates:" the works of an epically brilliant mind, not otherwise available, filtered through a very skilled analyst. Colonel John Boyd was a revolutionary military strategist in the US post-Vietnam era, perhaps the greatest in his field in a century, and one of the all-time greats. His work isn't broadly known because his form of production was the military slide-deck briefing, not the article or b ...more
Kars
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I went from getting intrigued about Boyd's ideas on Ribbonfarm, to learning about his life in the highly enjoyable biography by Coram, from there to getting a handle on the application of his ideas to business in Certain to Win, and finally buckling down and committing to reading this, in the hopes of getting a fuller understanding of Boyd's ideas, to in turn be able to apply in in my own work as a designer, and a (reluctant) entrepreneur. I was not disappointed.

Osinga does a great job describin
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Andrew Carr
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a first rate analysis of a strategic thinker. Osinga has parsed an often complex, diffuse, dialectic based thinker who worked through largely verbal presentations and slides and presented John Boyd's thoughts in clear prose.

Osinga not only masters the vast output of Boyd, he produces two valuable chapters which detail the scientific and philosophical developments of the 1960s and 1970s which directly informed Boyd's work (Ideas such as Structuralism, postmodernism, chaos and complexity t
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Ian Fleischmann
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military-thought
The central difficulty in Osinga's work is his portrayal of Boyd as a diviner of the zeitgeist of his time. Osinga depicts Boyd as an avid consumer of science and philosophy who adopts the post-modern and complexity perspectives of the community to develop a more agile and maneuverist approach to war and strategy. While this might be true, it debunks Boyd as necessarily the launchpoint for OODA-like maneuverist approaches. It's difficult to say Wass de Czege plagiarized Boyd in AirLand Battle if ...more
Matt
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
File this under challenging – Frans P. B. Osinga’s work thoroughly explores the strategic theory and thought of Colonel John Boyd. In some circles Boyd’s work has been superficially treated – a problem compounded by the fact that Boyd’s preferred medium was the spoken word briefing supported by a slide presentation. Now that Boyd is gone and we are left with just his slides there has been plenty of room for misunderstandings to proliferate. And so there was a clear need for a book-length scholar ...more
Ged
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
TL;DR - Read this and you realise how little Dominic Cummings understands about John Boyd's thinking.

Science, Strategy and War isn’t a book that would have normally made it on to my reading list, but we’re living in strange times. The book is an analysis of the history and strategic theory created over time by John Boyd.

Boyd’s thinking led to the development of post-Vietnam, pre-stealth fighter aircraft that dominated the world’s skies. Boyd employed his experience and the insight that a ‘Swiss
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Cedric Chin
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: boyd
This is the Boyd book I was looking for in my reading program. Osinga is thorough — not only does he walk you through Boyd's thinking, he spends Chapters 2-4 (out of a total of seven) to guide you through the changes in science and philosophy that must have influenced Boyd's work. If you have passing familiarity with the epistemological wars of the 60s and 70s, and if you have some knowledge of what a complex adaptive system is, you may skip all of that and jump from Chapter 1 to Chapters 5-7. T ...more
Doug McColgin
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Incredible.

It's a slow, long, difficult read. But it is so extremely dense with insight, that I voluntarily wrote a book report for my own consumption after I finished. This is one of the most important, holistic books on strategy, organizational structure, knowledge, and philosophy that I've ever read.

I'm a big fan of Lean Startup, Steve Blank's work, design thinking, and other "pop" business topics. They all offer tremendous lessons, but in a vacuum, I've seen each of them misapplied and abuse
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John Schneider
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Osinga does a great service to John Boyd by writing this grand overview of his work. He also does the average reader a great deal of stress in how he does so. To be fair Osinga is writing an obviously academic work to convince academics that John Boyd should be studied. Still, Osinga’s poor prose literally caused me to throw the book down at points. For example, “ Boyd’s works conceptually follows, clearly, closely in the footsteps of ....” Don’t use adverbs like that! Embedding an adverb in com ...more
The Warfighting Society
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: j-lo-s-library
Frans Osinga’s work is currently the only detailed academic analysis of John Boyd’s theories in existence. Osinga assesses each of Boyd’s presentations as well as the seminal essay “Destruction and Creation,” which formed the kernel around which Boyd’s later theories coalesced. Digging down into the wealth of sources Boyd used as foundations for his briefings, Osinga explains the intellectual background of Boyd’s theories on conflict to help the reader understand the life-long learning process i ...more
Gleb Posobin
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very thorough dive into Boyd. The author spends the first half of the book just describing all ideas that inspired Boyd (apparently he looked through his old books and went through all the margin notes in them?), and then dissects his essay and his presentations. The same ideas are repeated over and over again from slightly different angles, which I think is good, though I still haven't constructed a coherent overall picture of Boyd's framework. Hopefully just thinking some more about them and g ...more
Levie Galapon
Mar 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Thoughts on the book: This is not an easy read by any measure. It would be useful to understand some military history and terminology to grasp the important concepts of where Boyd's theories lie in strategic thinking. Boyd's multidisciplinary approach is detailed almost painstakingly too much. Osinga points out in early chapters about theories from other disciplines such as Physics and other hard sciences. This led to a harder understanding of the read and at times begs the question why its here ...more
Loh Rui
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
And awesome deep dive into Boyd's theories and constant meandering down multi-disciplinary rabbitholes from which the theories were based on. Probably the best thing I've read this whole year - just read it, no summary could do the depth and breadth of the book justice.
Jurgen Rose
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Slogged through this in the original thesis format. It is dense reading but very well researched and a must read for any student of maneuver warfare, John Boyd, and third generation warfare.
Abhi Yerra
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book took me while to get through as Osinga essentially deconstructs all of John Boyd's presentations and papers and attempts to figure out how his ideas were shaped. It is a challenging book to read especially since it covers so many different things from postmodern deconstructionism, complexity theory, Godel's Incompleteness theory, evolutionary theory and more to help understand John Boyd's OODA loop and the complexity around that idea.

Boyd's ideas are to move war away from a Clausewitzi
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Nate Huston
Aug 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Boyd was a smart, smart, smart dude. Same with Osigna. In a discussion with the author, he said that his proudest achievements were the two chapters discussing Boyd's inspirations. I had hoped he wouldn't say that, as they were the two that made my brain hurt the most. With that said, they were definitely intriguing and I'd like to take another look...perhaps sometime when I have more than a night to read the whole damn book.

Boyd was an esoteric dude. His thoughts on strategy reflect his brillia
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Eric Walters
Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the greatest limitations we have in understanding the thinking of John Boyd--widely credited as the father of Maneuver Warfare theory in the United States--is that he didn't write a book or a series of articles. All we have are his briefings and recollections of others regarding his ideas. Frans Osinga has done us great service by outlining Boyds theories and providing the sources and intellectual bases for them. This is not a book for the novice--deep familiarity with military history an ...more
Christoph Weber
Oct 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military, history
Oh boy. Das Buch hat mich ein Monat lang beschäftigt. Es ist sehr dicht geschrieben, und ohne ausreichender Konzentration verpasst man zuviele Details.
Es erinnert ein wenig an andere Autoren mit militärischer Laufbahn, die irre lange Textwüsten produzieren - nur hat Osinga seine auf 300 Seiten verdichtet.

Das Thema ist John Boyd, der vielen als der Erfinder des OODA Loops bekannt ist: Observe - Orient - Decide - Act. Viele interpretieren ihn als genau so simpel, und dass man im Krieg oder auch Se
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Taylor Pearson
I went from getting intrigued about Boyd’s ideas on Ribbonfarm, to learning about his life in the highly enjoyable biography by Coram, from there to getting a handle on the application of his ideas to business in Certain to Win, and finally committed to reading his full papers.

Science, Strategy and War is a PhD thesis which makes an excellent companion read to Boyd’s papers offering a lot of context around the state and history of warfare and Boyd himself.
Greg
Apr 30, 2015 added it
This isn't light reading by any stretch of the imagination. It is one of the most densely written books I've ever read. It uses information from all of Boyd's presentations, but is more concerned with the background of how Boyd came to develop his principles. This one is best read by a scholar of Boyd himself rather than someone looking to get useful, actionable, explanations of concepts like the OODA loop.
Bastian
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Um das Buch richtig durchzuarbeiten, müsste man sich vier Wochen mit den Originalwerken Boyd's und seinen Referenzwerken einschließen. Es stecken so viele glasklare und augenöffnende interdisziplinäre Ideen im Buch...

Ich habe es kapitelweise "geskimmed". Mir ging es um seine Ansichten zu Unsicherheit und Komplexität und wie es unter diesen Bedingungen mit dem OODA-Loop bestellt ist.

Absolut augenöffnend aber nicht ganz einfach zu verstehen.
Travis Tazelaar
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It really takes time and patience to learn the full extent of Boyd's theories. Understanding the OODA loop is not just about speed, to understand his concept of mental models and their application, understand orientation, organizational structure, etc. This book did exactly that for me. Essential reading for any Boy fan.
Jaron Roux
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: saass-600


Air Cmdr Osinga does a great job taking Boyd's thoughts and translating them into a narrative format. He is a brilliant military thinker whom it was an honor to have him in our class to share his insights personally.
chakravarthy g k
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An Ode to John Boyd. The effort and detain is clearly seen through out the book. Excellent work done on Boyd's work. At Times it become repetitive and over the head , but that is out of necessity.

Well Done Frans P.B. Osinga.
Taylor Grayson
Jan 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
Really hated this book. The author takes a potentially interesting subject and strangles the life out of it by spending dozens of pages discussing something that merits maybe a paragraph or two.
Alper Çuğun
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
That was some climb to the top of this pyramid but in the end there was definitely a pot of gold. Essential reading for anybody interested in strategy, learning and operations.
Dennis Halleran
rated it it was amazing
Jul 20, 2017
Saurav
rated it really liked it
Jul 05, 2018
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“This time he asks his audience to join him in a mental exercise. As Boyd states, Imagine that you are on a ski slope with other skiers [. . .]. Imagine that you are in Florida riding in an outboard motorboat, maybe even towing water-skiers. Imagine that you are riding a bicycle on a nice spring day. Imagine that you are a parent taking your son to a department store and that you notice he is fascinated by the toy tractors or tanks with rubber caterpillar treads’.38 Now imagine that you pull the ski’s off but you are still on the ski slope. Imagine also that you remove the outboard motor from the motor boat, and you are not longer in Florida. And from the bicycle you remove the handle- bar and discard the rest of the bike. Finally, you take off the rubber treads from the toy tractor or tanks. This leaves only the following separate pieces: skis, outboard motor, handlebars and rubber treads. However, he challenges his audience, what emerges when you pull all this together?39 SNOWMOBILE” 1 likes
“what we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning’.77” 1 likes
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