The Essence of Winning

Mark asks, on my twitter feed, a good question. I presume he made it after reading the post to the link in the tweet Critt also made on my feed:

Here is the post:

“What is strategy? A mental tapestry of changing intentions for harmonizing and focusing our efforts as a basis for realizing some aim or purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests.

John Boyd

This quote comes from Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd, Frans Osinga. Pg.13.”


While Boyd describes the essence of strategy, he does leave it open to Mark’s question. Is the essence of strategy about winning or is it in the calculations?

I don’t know Boyd that well to quote him accurately, but in essence he said that if you are not willing to take the steps to winning, then you should think about joining the other side. Clearly to Boyd winning is everything.

From Boyd’s quote: strategy is a bunch of steps structured as a mental tapestry that is mentally changing at different tempos and focus. At the end of the structuring process clarity is found in the forms created.

As the three domains of war are Honor, Interest, and Fear, out of the “many contending interests”, Boyd was building the structures for  the center domain “Interest”. Strategy builds a structure of form where none was before. Boyd was building interest out of human morality, and his Ends, Ways, and Means was through the OODA loop. In the context of the Double Freytag Triangle (also an structure/form building process) in which an OODA loop is opened, his introduction of the OODA loop to the world would be classified as his “Cheap Trick“.

So the essence of strategy is not about winning, but about the calculations needed to create (build). In Boyd’s definition of strategy he is creating interest through calculations, and one of those calculations is the OODA loop itself.

However, Boyd is not building a structure or domain to go to war on. To Boyd winning is everything which also means losing. According to Boyd, winning might mean joining the other side, which, like the son of Genghis Khan found out, is losing.

With interest, the possibility of losing is taken out of the “bewildering events”, and a strategy is born. A strategy has an End, Ways and Means, and, adding interest, strategy satisfies the End.

With interest, a structure is created in the past (the beginning of the “End”) to build Honor on; structurally Honor means there is less to Fear, because that structure called Honor is created. In other words, Honor is an “End” that can be seen and is somehow satisfying.

As I said here:

While building interest where interest was not before is a simple thought, I am sure that strategy is, (despite its need to fill an End, Way, and Means) essentially simple.

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