Hired Thought #4 — Implicit Guidance
Hired Thought #4 — Implicit Guidance

– When I roll with a black belt, they’re not in their
orient loop at all. I do not ever force them into their orient part of this loop because I don’t
act quickly enough, I’m not fluid enough,
whereas they force me into that place all
the time, right. I have to think about
every single action I do. – I become effective
when ways of dealing with complexity are embedded
into the way I operate, and you can only achieve
that through repetition. And if you go tell
anyone in the street, “Look, that book that you
said you really enjoyed? “Yeah, you’re going
to have to read it “at least 15 or 20 more times
to actually get it”, right? I’m not going to be
very popular, right? – Hello everyone and
welcome to episode four of the Hired Thought Podcast. My name is Ben Mosior
and I’m very pleased to be joined today
by Mario Platt of Privacy Beacon, and Ben
Ford of Commando Development. These two people have
been amazing companions in the discussions
that we’ve had around strategy,
and thinking about how to be more
purposeful in business. I’m really excited
for the conversation that we’re going to have today. And without further
ado, I’m going to ask each of them to
introduce themselves to you. Mario, why don’t
you get started? What’s your background,
and what kind of brought you here today? – So I very early, at
age 13, I got interested in security, late
90s, and that’s mainly what I’ve been
focusing on since then. So I started as
many 13 year olds, when they get
interested in security, it’s not because of the control or the governance
or the strategy, because they would
like to hack, right? So that’s kind of
where I came from. So over the years, I’ve had
a lot of different roles, so from operations,
security engineering. I did assurance, did
compliance, risk management, and for circa, a year and a half to two years ago, I went solo. So I’m now an
independent consultant. And also a couple of years ago, I’ve not finished but
I decided to compliment my security skills
with a business degree. I’m almost finished
with that as well, to getting a bit
of a broader sense of how to apply security
to different context, and that’s also when
I got more purposeful in learning about strategy,
generally speaking. – Awesome, and congrats
on your nearing completion of the business
degree, that’s awesome. – Yes, thank you. – Ben, let’s move on to you. What’s your background? And tell us a little bit about what brought you here today. – Sure thing. So I’ve been a
software developer and a team builder, team leader for sort of 10 years or so. And before that, I was
a Royal Marine commando, which for the longest
time I thought, well you know, that was
something fun I did in my 20s. I had a great time, but that
was then and this is now. And it wasn’t until
I started building my own teams, and you
know, moving up the stack, I guess, if you like,
into trying to make people and teams more
effective that actually some of the lessons
that I learned, it became apparent that actually
they were quite important. Around about that time two
really pivotal books came out, one was Team of Teams
by Stan McChrystal, and the other one was Extreme
Ownership by Jocko Willink. And they really sort
of, I was already starting to see some parallels between my military
service and the things that I needed to be more
effective as a leader, and you know, a
builder of teams. And those two books
really just sort of, you know, gave me
a bit more impetus to go study a bit more. So you know, along the way I
came across Boyd’s OODA Loop. One of McChrystal’s later books, One Mission introduced Cynefin. And then from there
on, obviously, you know Wardley Maps is
basically where you end up, I think, when you’re
banging that strategy drum. And then obviously, you know,
we met a few months ago. We’ve chatted a bit
and I’m in this kind of nice but confusing
position where I see a lot of parallels between
my military service, some of the concepts of
functional programming and that, you know,
very, very kind of always seeking more
fundamental abstractions. And then in the middle of it, there’s all this kind
of research on strategy, and you know, this
is going to be a great conversation, I’m sure. – I’m really excited
to have you both here. Let’s get started
with Colonel Boyd. Colonel John Boyd invented
a model for sense making in, I guess it was
originally applied for dog fighting, right? – Yep. – Ben, do you have
kind of like a basic kind of history
background that you are familiar with, or you
could share with us? – Yeah, so Boyd’s a weird one, he didn’t really
write much down. So much of his
kind of teachings, you know, there’s
this massive kind of briefing that he gave,
lots and lots of people in the US military
establishment. There’s a couple of
papers that he wrote, but really most of
the kind of detail of what I think
I know about Boyd has come from his associates. So one really good
book if you want to kind of dig into his
background and history is his biography,
which is, I think, called Boyd, The Fighter
Pilot Who Changed the Face of Warfare, or
something along those lines. And that gets into
a bit of his history and his kind of motivation,
and quite important to understand his kind of,
how he developed his ideas over several decades. So the OODA Loop
wasn’t something that he came up with
while he was a pilot, it was something
that he came up with after he’d done, you know,
energy maneuver theory, and you know, a whole
bunch of other stuff. And he’d gone and got
an engineering degree, and you know, looked
into thermal dynamics, uncertainty principle. Loads of inputs into this thing that gets presented most often, you know, when you first
come across the OODA Loop, it gets presented
as quite superficial kind of linear loop,
which as I’m sure, we’re going to get into, and
this conversation is not even beginning to
scratch the surface. – For anyone who’s not familiar, the most simplistic
representation of it is a loop of observe, orient, decide and act,
and that repeats. And usually when
people explain it, they kind of accompany it with some explanation
about going through that loop faster than opponents, and introducing noise
into their decision making cycle because
of how out of date the way their ability to
orient to the situation is, relative to yours, if
you’re going faster. It all kind of gets
really hand wavy really quick, especially
because, for most of us, we’re not flying planes. And so I think there’s
an interesting way to look at this, however,
from the standpoint of organizational strategy,
and even individual strategy. Mario, I was kind of curious,
like what’s your background, what’s your
experience with using the OODA Loop or
thinking about it? What has it shown
you in your work, and maybe what do
you think about when someone starts talking
about the OODA Loop? – So the first thing that hit me in the OODA Loop, which is,
I have already been exposed, because there’s a lot
of different people talking about it, to
the simplistic way of seeing it as a circle, right? That you go around et
cetera, and there are even many security offers
that refer to that often. In order to appreciate
the complexity, the evolving threat landscape, what we’re gonna do about it, how we’re going to
plan to navigate ourselves through its cycle. Now once I started
digging a bit more, it was really an ah-ha moment. I think I appreciated
that I could actually try and use the loops, on my
rediscovery of the concept, than I did originally. Because originally, it’s
another kind of cycle type thing, right,
yeah it’s interesting but it doesn’t tell me much. When you look at
the extended version of the OODA Loop, what
was actually drawn, then it’s different, right? It’s a completely different
ballgame at that stage, because you have
increased guidance, you have feedback loops,
you have different ways that information can navigate. It’s not just a loop. You can find yourself
in different parts of the situation,
in not only that, as you mentioned, you
can use it for anything. For business, for
personal, right? So for instance, the
simplest example that I use when talking OODA to
non-technical people is really, what is your
implicit guidance, right? So when no one’s looking,
when you go to the fridge to get food, what
you pick up, right? If you’re someone
struggling with weight, or something along those lines. So the OODA Loop, the
extended version of it, I think is really, really useful to think about really anything. About the actions that you take, the feedback loop you
get from the world, and then how you’re
going to base your next decisions,
and where does the feedback loop enter? Where does it go,
and how you’re going to navigate around it. So when I discovered
this extended version, it was really changing for me. Now the way I sometimes
use the OODA Loop is I just go to Google and
open it in front of me, and think about
a problem, right? I’m not writing things down. I’m not trying to be
academic about it. I just look at the
picture thinking about a particular problem,
and I start thinking, well, is this implicit kind? I’m making a conscious decision, so what kind of
loops can I expect? Or what kind of
feedback can I expect from taking a certain
course of action? And for me, and it
is something that Mr Rivera is currently
writing about. There’s also a session in the US at the end of the month. It’s about how the
overlap between Cynefin and the OODA Loop. And one of the
things that I really, that I still haven’t completely figured my way around it,
to be completely honest, but it’s something that’s been kind of on my mind,
and hasn’t moved away for the past two weeks, is
in terms of the feedback loops that happen after
you make decisions. So particularly,
the view that you, as in poker, so I’m
referring specifically to thinking in bets book. In terms of after you
perform an action, you have two things,
you have an outcome and you have a decision, right? That separate
between the quality of the decision and the outcome, I think that’s so
much to explore there. It is something that, because
especially in strategy, and even the way Simon
Wardley presents, Wardley mapping, right? We’re always talking
chess, right? But chess, it’s a perfect
information guide. You see the board, right? When you don’t see the
board, I’m not sure that’s the best analogy, right? And I think a
poker based analogy is probably much more useful. But as I said, it’s something that’s just been
better in my mind. I need to think a
lot more about it, and hopefully hear your opinions to see if you can help me
move forward with this idea. – I liked the way
that you described how you approach
this kind of idea of using the OODA Loop. Like I’m just kind
of curious, Ben, do you have a similar practice where you just kind
of sit with the loop and try to understand
the implicit guidance, and think about the feedback? How does using this
framework look to you, especially in the
work that you do now? – So yeah, so I’ve
come at the OODA Loop sort of a bit later, I guess. So, and I’ve been
spending quite a lot of time in the functional
programming world, where everything’s about
recursion and hierarchy. So I’ve come to a maybe
slight heretical view of the OODA Loop. I think this
formulation’s wrong. I think the formulation
here is a limitation of the communications
medium at the time. So you know, when
Boyd was drawing all this stuff out, he
had overhead projectors and pen on whatever
the material’s called. I believe that what we’re really looking at here with the
OODA Loop is a hierarchy. So your orient bit,
and your beliefs and your values and
everything is in the middle. And the way you
interact with the world, or the boundary between
you and the world is at the outside, right? And in between, you
know, what crosses the boundaries from the
outside world inwards is the observations,
and those penetrate that bubble to differing levels depending on how
impactful they are. So for example, if you
have an observation of something that’s
completely familiar, you know, something
that you know how to do, something that falls
within the implicit guidance and
control lines there. It’s not going to
penetrate very high up the hierarchy of your
belief system, right? It’s going to be,
okay, I’ve seen this a million times before,
I know how to react. There’s no decision required,
it’s just an action. Now when you get
something that’s perhaps a little bit more novel,
then you need to start making decisions and hypothesis, and it maybe starts to
change your world view a bit. And that’s where
you start to impinge on that blue square
there, right? – I want to make sure
that I describe this for folks who maybe won’t
be able to see this. So if the OODA Loop
is observe, orient, decide and act, the
extended version of that looks like a quite
complicated diagram. And observe is
about observations which is that external
incoming information, which Boyd described as
unfolded circumstances, outside information,
unfolding interaction with the environment. And then that’s fed forward into this blue square that
he was talking about, which is in the orient step. – Yep. – But it looks like a pentagram of cultural traditions,
analysis and synthesis, previous experience,
new information and
genetic heritage. And then that feeds forward into a decision hypothesis, which
is in the decision step. And so that’s what
you’re describing right before the action
step that comes after, for different
kinds of decisions, it sounds like the loop
occurs differently, am I understanding
that correctly? – Yeah, I believe so. So the other thing that
you didn’t mention there is that between the
orient and the observe, and the act parts of the loop, there are this implicit guidance
and control lines, right? And these are places
where, you know, if I would make the
analogy of martial arts, if I may, so you know
I do Brazilian jujitsu, not particularly well. – Me too! – Yeah, great. So when I roll with
the black belt, they’re not in their
orient loop at all, right? I do not ever force them
into their orient part of this loop, because I
don’t act quickly enough. I’m not fluid enough,
whereas they force me into that place all
the time, right? I have to think about
every single action I do, whereas the black
belt is bouncing between observations
and actions, observations and actions,
because there’s nothing that I’m, I’m not
able to force them high enough up their hierarchy that I just mentioned, to
require them to think, right? And that’s, I believe,
what Boyd is really talking about when he’s talking
about getting inside someone’s OODA Loop. It’s actually making
them bounce around inside that orient step,
and closing them off from the outside world. So what I was talking
about earlier, you know, when
you’ve got something you’re completely familiar with, your observation
leads to action. You know, the action
changes the world in a way that’s expected, which
gives you more observations. And I love the fact
that you just mentioned there’s this word
“Unfold” in here, right? This calls directly
into Boyd’s paper Destruction and Creation,
because destruction and creation is his description of what’s happening inside
that orient part of the loop. And unfold is a term from
functional programming, which is the opposite of a fold. So the fold is the
destruction part, and the unfold is the
new possibilities part. And that’s where I first started to kind of think about this
in terms of hierarchies and recursion, and you
know, the OODA Loop is obviously the scale of
a company or a business, is very, very recursive. So there’s, you know, constant
small OODA Loops going on, you know, I’m a programmer,
one of my OODA Loops is my edit compile loop, right? Edit the code, as it
works, and I’m genuinely not thinking very much
about that at all, right? It’s mostly procedural,
it’s mostly intuition based, until I come across
a thorny problem, and then I might have to go out to a longer OODA Loop,
which is gonna be Google or look at stack over
flow or whatever. And all of these
different network of composable OODA Loops,
eventually builds this massive, very, very intertwined OODA
Loop of the whole company. And that’s the way I’ve been
kind of thinking of this. – It feels like
there is, in the way that you describe
that, there’s also this connection to the
complexity question, where if you’re a practitioner, and going back to the
Brazilian jujitsu, if you’re a practitioner
who’s very well experienced dealing with frankly
very, for most of us, unanticipatable actions,
without extensive training, they don’t spend very
much time orienting because they’ve already
run all the pathways and know how that works. And so this feels
really connected to the topic of complexity,
and in particular, you mentioned the Cynefin
framework earlier. And just as a quick overview, I’m probably going to butcher
this but I’ll do my best. The Cynefin framework
is five domains. It basically splits
between ordered systems and unordered systems,
where within ordered systems you have simple, which is
kind of straight forward push button interactions. There’s one best
way of doing things. There’s complicated where
it’s still knowable, but it might take
some expert analysis. And maybe just a long
time to figure things out. And then on the unordered side, it’s between complex and chaos. And complexity is,
there’s no predictable kind of interaction, but
there are stable patterns. So cause and effect
isn’t as predictable, and you can’t think
ahead, but you can probe and poke the system
and see what happens. And then in chaos,
there just is no order, and so the best thing to do is
to act to escape it, usually. And then the fifth
domain is basically this space where
you are not aware of which one of those
domains you’re in. So Mario, I’m curious
about your perspective of how something like Cynefin, something like making
sense of a complexity centric framework like
that, making sense of reality with it, how
that fits into OODA, in particular given what
Ben has described about how those decisions might
play out differently depending on things
like training, or familiarity
with circumstance. – Yep. So I think one of
the first things that I think should
be done is look at it from a historical
perspective, right? So when Boyd was
developing the OODA Loop, complexity thinking
wasn’t what it is today. Right, so there’s
been a lot of work that’s been done
in the meantime, particularly the
Cynefin framework, Dave Snowden, that have been,
so the complexity thinking has advanced
enormously since then. So I think that not
having certainly read as much of Boyd as
Ben did, I’m sure, but when I go through
information relating to that, it seems to me that John
Boyd appreciates complexity, but didn’t fully
grasp the concept, or how that would relate
in terms of different circumstances or situations
where you could be put, okay? And I think that’s
one of the reasons why I’m really
excited about the work that Rivera and
Snowden are doing with combining both
Cynefin and the OODA, because what Ben was
saying is exactly that. So when you’re in
a simple domain or in a complicated
domain, there’s a certain pathway you’d make around
the OODA Loop, right? That doesn’t need
to, so you know that you’re going to do X, you’re
going to get Y, right? It’s an ordered system. There’s no need to do a lot. Going back to the
martial arts example, if I’m having a
match against someone that is much more
experienced than I am, then I’m going to
be on the complexity or chaos side of things, right? It’s going to be difficult,
I’m going to be trying things. I’m not sure they’re
going to work. I’m even stop doing anything, because I suddenly
feel overwhelmed by the situation itself, right? For someone that has
much more experience, who’s been through that
OODA Loop many more times. They’ve built the
implicit guidance, so that they can treat, there’s
a simple problem, right? So someone put his
hand over there, or his weight on
a particular arm, then I know I can go around, there’s nothing that he’s
going to do about it, right? Unless he knows a countermeasure against this particular
thing that I did there. So not only the
different applications, depending on the complexity,
going back to Cynefin, depending on which domain
you find yourself in, there’s this, to me,
what attracts me the most is that this is about
going through the loop many times over, as a personal
development activity, right? You know that the more
you can get yourself out of thinking
something is complex, in doing the things
that you need to do to get you from an
unordered complex system to a complicated
problem, you’re going to become much more efficient. Relating this to worldly
terms, it’s going to give rise to higher level
order systems, right? So you’re going to
be able to do things that you didn’t know
you were ever going to be able to do,
because you’ve mastered some components to a degree. Now you have available to you
much more complex activities that were even unimaginable,
or you could even figure out there were
things, a year ago, five years ago, whatever
may be the case. – Yeah, so thinking
about just like what it’s like to have
experiences in life, and develop skills, and
to develop capabilities. And actually, in a very
deliberate way, perhaps, think about what skills
you need to be anticipating that you need to build
in order to be able to navigate that OODA
Loop in that way, in your own domains
of expertise. Ben, I’m curious what
your response is to that, like how does this
show up in your life? And how do you play that
game of thinking about what capabilities to build, what to think about
in that sense? – Yeah, so that
was a really great summary actually, Mario,
it’s kind of sparked a few things off for me. So I think that the
bit in the orient bit, what you’re really doing there when you’re building a skill
is you’re building structure, or maybe sometimes
discovering structure, right? So with things like
chess, with things like Brazilian
jujitsu, people who are good at it are good at
it because they’re able to cognitively compress. And the only way you
do that is by allowing this massively parallel
processing thing we have between our ears
to do that for you, right? There’s nothing
really that can do parallel processing
and pattern recognition quite like the human brain. So I think that this
idea of going through the loop multiple times,
it’s a familiar one to me, because that’s exactly
what we do in the military, we drill, we drill
things, right? We drill how to
advance to contact, that’s a drill, right? It’s a drill that we practice over and over again, in very
different circumstances. The other thing that we do, as part of the orders process, is we have a very,
very structured system, almost like a ritual, in fact, because it gets you into
the right mind frame. And one of the
parts of that ritual is actions on, which is, okay, we’ve set out our happy path, this is what we want
to do, this is what we want to achieve,
but we recognize that we’re not in the obvious or complicated domain,
more than likely. We’re probably going to dip into the complex and chaotic. Sorry, dip into is not right. I believe, and Mario maybe
can correct me afterwards if I’m wrong, but
I think the lines in the Cynefin
framework are supposed to represent phase
transitions, right? So you’re in a phase, you know, like a liquid
going into a solid. The actual nature of
the way things work changes when you go across
one of those boundaries. So what you do with actions on, in the military orders process is you just sprinkle over a
little bit of what if thinking. So if something bad does happen, you don’t have to go
into this orient phase. You’ve already got a
next action picked, so that you can
just move forward and get yourself out
of that introspective downward spiral,
which is exactly what Boyd tries to
create in his opponents. The whole point of
what Boyd was saying about fast transience,
and getting inside somebody’s OODA Loop
is, it’s not going through the loop quicker. It’s actually, if you’re
in a competitive situation, is actually stopping
your opponent from having that
check with reality. It’s moving their concept
of what’s happening in the world further and
further away from reality, until exactly what
Mario described in Brazilian jujitsu. When you’re rolling
with a black belt, eventually you’re
just going to go, there’s nothing I can
do right now, right? I am so disoriented,
I’m so far away from knowing what the
next right thing to do is, I’m done, and then
you get joked out and then you go again. And then constantly you’re
building your structure up. – There was something
that you mentioned, that I think is really key also when dealing with complexity, which is because when you’re
in the unordered domain, one of the things
that you need to do is you’re not going to
get checklists, right? That’s not going to work to
deal with a complex problem. It’s based on heuristics,
right, that people can remember, they can relate to, and then
within a complex situation, they can refer to that
heuristic to help them get out of the complexity
of the situation. – Yeah, absolutely. – So what I’m
hearing too is this kind of interesting
thought around training, and preparation, and learning, and all of that work
that goes into it. So maybe switching gears
to the Wardley mapping side of things. What comes
to mind with all that, when I hear those words, is
the doctrinal principles step in the five factors
in Wardley mapping. So purpose, landscape, climate,
doctrine and leadership. And doctrine is
focused in on universal principles that you
choose to apply, as in, in your organization,
you choose to do these things. And the other way I’ve heard
that framed is the training. It’s like, not to use examples that I’m in no way
qualified to use, but the idea being that
if you’re in the military, you learn how to shoot
and clean your rifle and all these kinds of things, before you get deployed
onto the battlefield. So from the standpoint
of organizations, and preparing organizations
for engagements, not even with opponents,
because I think a lot of organizations
are struggling, like they’re their own worst
enemy, in a lot of cases. So how does an organization
start to train, how do they start to
develop capabilities to enable them to
better execute, even just in the sense of
getting out of their own way? – So I think, to me, there
are two aspects to that, but the first one is,
most organizations probably create problems
with checklists, not necessarily on how to
deal with complexity, right? So that bit doesn’t help. There’s another aspect
to it, which is one thing that I love, and
sorry just referencing to Deciphering Sun Tzu book, which is, I completely
understand and agree, and it really rings
a bell everything that I read on the
book, but we also need to appreciate
that the world between 2500 years ago
was much less complex than what it is now, right? So I think that
sometimes, something that we need to not forget, right, because we didn’t have
as many identities, we didn’t have as
many distractions. We were able to focus
on doing something, and that was it, right? Right now, I don’t
think that any of us can have that type
of luxury, right? I’m not Mario the
security consultant, I’m Mario the
security consultant, I’m the bad jujitsu
guy, I’m the father, I’m the husband, right,
there’s a lot of identities to all of us, right? And I find that really
difficult to believe that there was so much
personal complexity in dealing with daily
life 2500 years ago, than it is now, right? But going back to the
original question on OODA, I think one of the
big reasons why organizations struggle is really on the individual
side of things, right? Because there is
one thing that only, probably for the past
year have I actually, it dawned on me,
which is one thing that I think I’ve done
much more consistently than mostly everyone I know
so far is repetition, right? I don’t read a book once, I
read a book 10 times, right. When I go through something
of learning material, that’s why I really
value getting, generally I don’t do
classroom led training, because yeah it’s going to
give me something to do, but if I don’t
get something that I can physically go through
over and over again, until my implicit
guidance lets my brain go into that type of
decision, or frame that I can actually be effective with the knowledge that
I’ve supposedly acquired. It’s not going to do
much for me, right? If I’m talking with a customer, we’re assessing a
situation, and I constantly need to go back, “I
think I read a book “a decade ago that mentioned
something along those lines, “I’ll get back to you.” It’s not that it’s a
problem, we all take things back a bit further,
but I’m not going to be effective, right? I become effective
when ways of dealing with complexity are embedded
into the way I operate. You can only achieve
that through repetition. And if you go tell
anyone in the street, look, yeah that
book that you said you really enjoyed,
yeah, you’re going to have to read it at
least 15 or 20 more times to actually get it, right? I’m not going to be
very popular. (laughing) – One part of me
wants to challenge you on whether things
are more complex, but then I immediately
think about, oh right, we have the
internet right now. When we consume information,
I think we’re finding that a lot of it comes
down to like volume. Like how many different
books can we consume? And there’s a value to consuming a diversity of
content and material, to basically calibrate
your understanding of what’s possible in the world, but to actually learn something, to actually learn how
to apply something, you have to have
experiences that help you apply that material, not once but many, many, many times. And so hearing you
describe how you read the same book multiple
times, that sends me back. Like one of the
things, this is such a youthful male thing, like
such a funny kind of thing. I read and re-read and
re-read and re-read the Art of War time
and time again, when I was in circumstances
that were frankly oppositional. And it wasn’t because I
wanted to just destroy the competition or
anything like that, it was really because
this one phrase, “Only someone who’s acquainted
with the evils of war “can understand the profitable
way of carrying it out.” And that quote to me says, so yeah you could
fight everybody, yeah you could find a way
to destroy your opponents, but actually it’s
probably just going to be better if you find
the lowest energy way to avoid conflict, but
still achieve victory. And that was my entire
motivation around that, was trying to understand
that material. And it was only when we started, I think all three of
us are really into the Deciphering Sun Tzu book. It was only when
I read that book that I realized
how little I could even understand the Art of War based on reading it
and re-reading it and re-reading it, because I
was re-reading one translation. I was reading the Lionel Giles
translation of this material. And what’s awesome about
Deciphering Sun Tzu is that it tries
to contextualize that material in
culture, in time, in history and in
frankly philosophy. So I am just floored to
hear that you also read and re-read and all
that kind of stuff, but I’m kind of
curious if we can move in this direction of
Deciphering Sun Tzu, and sort of exploring that
material a little bit, and how that impacts each of us. Ben, this is something that
you’ve read as well, right? – I haven’t actually,
the only thing I’ve read is your notes. (Ben M. laughing) – I’m honored, I’m so glad
that you read my notes. (Ben M. laughing) – So I have a slightly
different approach to reading and
learning, I guess. So one of the things
that I had to do was re-read a lot
of academic papers when I learned my
functional programming weapon of choice,
which is a programming language called Haskell. Very, very academic, you know, many of the ideas
are an academic paper and you either read the paper and understand the paper,
or tough, basically. Which has certain
similarities to my background in the Royal Marines, and
in any kind of armed forces training, but they’re kind of
semi-elite, or elite units. Much more so, there
is a standard, and we’ll do everything
to help you get to the standard, but
if you don’t meet the standard, tough
s***, basically, you go back a step
and you go again. So I have had to
take that approach to learning material
before, which is, you bang your head against it, no I’m an idiot, I
don’t understand it. Go away, maybe read
something else, come back, oh actually
there’s a little chink in the armor here that
now I can understand just that little bit more. And you slowly move
up the hierarchy, and you build your
mental models as you go. – Yeah. – But there’s one
thing that I think is actually quite
important, especially given the really somewhat,
I mean I think they’re very fundamental,
but we’re talking at quite a rarefied level here, maybe a little bit
divorced from reality. We’re trying to
extract principles, and fundamentals from
everything that we talk about. And one of the things
that I’ve found, as I read more widely,
rather than read the same stuff again and again, is that I start to recognize
the fundamentals a bit more. So one of them is, you
know, the OODA Loop, I think, is a fundamental. I just read a book,
and this could be me over-recognizing
many, many things, but I’ve just almost
finished a magnificent book called The Origin of
Wealth, which looks at our ecosystems and our economies from an evolutionary
point of view, and treats it like a complex
adaptive biological system. And when you get into
the loop of evolution, and how things evolve
new capabilities, and explore their environment, I mean that was all screaming
OODA Loop to me, so. I think we’re all at the stage where we’ve covered
enough related but not the same
material that we start to recognize the
fundamental building blocks, and I think that’s
a real breakthrough. When you look at
being in that position versus say, I
don’t know, reading if you want to become
a better software engineering manager and your
read a book on agile, right? The book on agile
is not really about fundamentals at all,
it’s about practices that have been proven
to work somewhere else. And if you’re in that
linear environment, what works somewhere
else is more likely to work for you now
than if you’re in that complex
environment, and you take a set of practices that
work somewhere else, and you try and apply
them to the context that you are now,
and all of a sudden, no actually they’re not
that effective anymore. And that’s when
you need to go back and you need to
understand the fundamental building blocks, and
how they interact. So in software
development terms, that is how they compose,
and how they decompose, or destruction and
creation in Boyd’s world. So it’s really
important, I think, when you come across a
new piece of knowledge, to try and pull it apart. You know, this is Boyd’s
game of question mark and question mark, where he
has the several different pieces of machinery, and
he makes a snow mobile. It’s really important
to, you know, when you’re not in
that operations phase, and the operations
phase is all about doing what you know
and being effective, it’s really important
to take that step back and remove yourself
from operations, and think more expansively,
and try and pull apart and put together the concepts. So that when you do read a book, I don’t know what’s
a good example, I’ve got a book up on my
shelf there, Traction, a business book
talking about systems and talking about
how to build systems. And you could read that book, and you could think,
okay this is the system they describe, I
will use that system. But actually when you
look a bit deeper, what they’re really describing is the process of
discovering a system that’s right for you, not
taking something off the shelf. That was a bit of a
ramble, sorry about that. – No, no, that was excellent, and amazingly on
point, and it makes me want to ask a
different question, like Mario, thinking
about all the different reading you’ve been
doing to apply things to information security,
what are the fundamentals that you’ve noticed on all
the different materials that you apply across domains? Because Ben described some
really interesting ideas, I think, the Deciphering
Sun Tzu book, for example, like
for me that brings up conditions
consequences thinking, which is all about
paying attention to indirect factors,
and gardening, and all this metaphor stuff. And I’m finding all
the different ways that pops up, but I
know you in particular, Mario, are doing
a lot of reading across a lot of
different boundaries, and so I’m curious what’s
come up for you so far. – So I think with
regards to the OODA Loop, and the mention of agile
and all those other things, is that I think,
generally speaking, and this is something
that Derek M. C. Yuen also talks in
Deciphering Sun Tzu, is the west has been very good, superior perhaps, in developing
operations and tactics, because we are
very logic driven. That’s how are brains
operate, right? Dialectics is key here, right? Because a big part
of the reason why us in the west don’t
fully appreciate a lot of the Chinese
strategic thinking is exactly because that’s
not how we’re wired, right? Our dialectics, based on Hegel, Hegelian dialectics,
which means that when we are trying to
make sense of things, we explain them, and the
objective of communication is to ensure that we
all agree on something. In Chinese strategic thinking,
that is not the case. Contradiction is expected. You’ve got yin yang, right? So one part of the
thinking with regards, in answering more
specifically your question regards to cyber security. One of the things
that’s been on my mind, but I need to kind of sit down and think about it properly, and write an extended
version of it, is I believe the yin
yang of cyber security is the dualism between
resilience and fragility. I’m sure this has something,
I’m sure this will, this is making me
rethink about how I think of capital in worldly maps. Because if suddenly
you believe that the capital is not just the
money flowing up and down, but there’s actually a
dualism of something, of whatever capital that
you’re thinking about. There exists a dualism there, then things work slightly
different, right? It’s no longer just
something flowing down your valley chain, and
effecting the things underneath. It’s how they mutually
support each other in different types of capital
that you can think of, right. So I haven’t
completely made my mind on what that means, but
that’s where my head has been going in
my recent reading. But I think mainly,
but the key point I think is really the
difference in dialectics, right? That we don’t, in
the west, we always need to resolve contradictions, otherwise we will not finish
the conversation, right? That’s usually how it goes. Well we’re going to
schedule a meeting for next week, right,
and then to resolve the contradiction,
we have no way of communicating and
moving forward, right. And the Chinese, they
don’t get encumbered with all of that, because
they deal with paradox in a natural way, it’s
yin and yang, right? It’s part of the cycle. Both are true, right? A and not A can both be
true at the same time, as you can, we having
a conversation. Right, they’re not
having to argue. I think that’s been
affecting how I think about security,
generally speaking. Some other aspects on
Deciphering Sun Tzu that have been coming
in my mind a lot is also regarding,
let’s say the history, and the actual
ebook where Sun Tzu wrote Art of War, which
was kind of around the same time that
Tao Te Ching was. We now know that they
influence each other. But one of the things
that also jumps out to me is that Derek M. C. Yuen
also mentions in the book that it was around
Sun Tzu’s time where there was a
separation, a bifurcation in how government was dealing, in that officials got separated from the military strategy,
from the colonels. And I think that’s
really interesting, and I think that’s why
Derek Yuen mentioned that there was this
need of Sun Tzu focusing more on the
military aspects of it, and left an empty
space for Tao Te Ching to address the more political, and the military aspects
of Chinese strategy. So one of the things that
Derek M. C. Yuen says is that the works
compliment each other, because they deal with
parts that weren’t completely addressed by
either of the authors. What I find is that once
that separation is done, I think it led to
a lot of things, particularly, I
think, Clausewitz then comes much, much
later and develops his own theory of war,
that is much more, again going back to
what I said previously, much more grounded on
operations and tactics, right? But not so much something
that unites dualism, that deals with
contradictions, right? That deals with not
being an expert, right, because one of the
things from Clausewitz’s is the concept of,
he doesn’t call it really like that, but
Derek M. C. Yuen mentioned the concept of genius, right? So the non-democratization
of strategy, right? In that there is
the trinity of war, but there’s the bit in there that is just for some, right? You know it’s part of
genius, it’s going to require something that many
people may not have. It’s the colonel,
it’s the experience, what he brings to the table. So not necessarily something
that is accessible to everyone. And I think that’s a
really key point as well. – Yeah, not to conflate
rank with genius, but it takes me
back to the metaphor of Brazilian jujitsu,
it’s like that is not just someone who just spend a
lot of time doing this thing. That is a learned,
trained behavior, and that same concept
can exist there as well. The dualism seems
like one of the most important takeaways for me
from Deciphering Sun Tzu. I think that’s just
because I have lived in a world where there
can be no contradiction. I’m very used to that
kind of thinking. And allowing paradox
into my life, and being willing to say,
A and not A are both, they can both be
true, that’s fine. And in particular the
interplay between them where, take any set of opposites,
any direct action, indirect action, or
strength and weakness, and the idea of each one
leading to the other, as in strength
leading to weakness and weakness
leading to strength. There just being this
constant interplay of accessible options
and accessible
manifestations of this. And those interactions
of those two things becoming one idea, one concept, is just immediately
transformative. The problem for me
is I have to work really hard at doing
it, because I’m so used to the way that I think. – And there’s a
particular concept in the book, in
Deciphering Sun Tzu that I think is,
I’d call it almost the essence of the OODA
Loop, which is the concept of absolute flexibility. So it doesn’t matter
what types of operations or tactics that we get
a lot from the west that we’re doing, that we have, as are available with full view of ways we can deal
with the situation. There’s always this concept of
absolute flexibility, right? Even if, look, if you find
yourself in a situation, there’s nothing in the
book where you can make it a simple or complicated
problem, right? It’s not an issue, right? You know that it’s
embedded in the framework, let’s say, the
absolute flexibility. It doesn’t work, you
try something else, and you keep at it until,
yeah, until make it work. – Ending without breaking,
and flowing like water, these metaphors
keep cropping up. – This is reminding me
of a book that I read some time ago, I
think it was called something like
Becoming Superhuman. It was about elite
performance in mostly sports. And there’s a bit in that book describing Laird Hamilton, and
doing his big wave surfing. And he was surfing, I
think it may have been a wave that had never
been surfed before, or it may have
just been something that was super, super
gnarly, scary wave. And it was very steep,
I can’t remember the exact story, but
basically what happened was he started to fall down
the face of the wave and he did something that nobody had ever done
before, least of all had he ever done it before,
and it was something like he reached across and he
grabbed the opposite side of the board, which
stabilized him, and enabled him to
ride this wave out and not die, essentially. And that’s this, I
mean that’s the idea of accessing a
state through having just supremely
developed intuition, that I think was what Mario
was talking about genius there. You know, you’ve never
seen a situation before but you’ve got enough
pattern matching in your experience,
and it has to be very, very deep and broad
experience, I think, that you just intuitively
make the right call at the right time, and you know, it’s a pivotal
moment that either, super high stakes
usually as well. And it just drives
you into this sort of, you know, to do with
the flow state as well, but it drives you
into this state where you’re able
to access the right, incredibly multifactorial
action at the right time. And I think that’s
what sprung to mind when Mario was
mentioning genius. And the other thing
is this duality thing, this is something that
I’ve come across as well in a lot of my reading. I did quite a bit tweet
storm a few months ago. And it’s, you know,
I’ve got something here that, you know,
you’ve got something that looks an issue,
like completing your contradictory goals,
or practices are actually an essential symbiotic
dance between different complimentary systems. So you know, you’ve got
discipline and freedom from Jocko Willink. Destruction and creation
from the OODA Loop, which is what’s happening
in the second O. Survive and thrive, double
and single loop learning, thinking fast and
slow, and they’re all abstract and concrete, kind
of bouncing off each other, melding into each
other, and this duality is kind of like a
phase transition from one state to
another, in some ways. And I find it
incredibly fascinating, and probably will find
it incredible fascinating for the rest of my life,
because it’s not something that anyone’s ever going to
get to the bottom of, probably. (Ben M. and Mario laughing) – Imagine getting to
the bottom of a paradox. – Yeah, exactly. (laughing) – Yeah, I am looking
forward to spending the next few years of my life really diving more deeply
into this material, and into these
ideas and concepts. And I love particularly
the idea of pulling fundamentals out
of multiple works, and also reading and
re-reading and practicing, and exploring the same
material in new ways. I want to thank you
both for being here, and for having this
conversation with me. This has been
absolutely fascinating. Before we go, I was
wondering if either of you have recommendations of
reading for people to do. We’ll start with Ben. Do you have anything
that you think our audience should be
reading and looking into that might, if
they’re interested in this material,
they might appreciate? – Oh my God, how many
more hours do we have? (everyone laughing) Yeah, so I mean
two, so the stuff that we’re talking
about, I believe there are actually
people with a rigorous scientific background looking
into this kind of thing now. So physics is obviously
very, very interested in the micro level. Slowly these people,
so one of the books I’m reading at the moment,
as I mentioned earlier, is The Origin of Wealth. And there’s a bit in
there where they talk about the origins of economics, and then about 20
or 30 years ago, so really very, very recent,
physicists got involved, and they started
to actually apply some rigor and some
science to economics. And that book, I’d
heard of it before, and I started reading
it, and I was like, where did I hear of this book? Where did I hear of this book? And it’s actually Ryan Petersen, the CEO of Flexport, has it
as his number one book, right. And Flexport is this
company that has basically taken over an industry that’s centuries old,
which is shipping, and it’s managed to seep
in, and they’ve grown to like 900 people
in a few years. And there’s absolutely no
way that he’s done that in a traditional,
western management style. Just definitely not happened. In fact, in his podcast
he says it’s not happened, or his interviews. So The Origins of Wealth is one I would definitely recommend. Unfortunately
there’s going to be a lot of recency bias
in a lot of these, but whatever, bad luck. (Ben M. and Mario laughing) Another one that
I read recently, which calls out this
kind of duality, and it’s bio guy with
a physics background. So he doesn’t call it duality, he calls it phase
transitions, is Loonshots, which is about how
you can maintain this kind of open,
questioning mindset as a company, as you
pass over something which in traditional companies
would be a phase transition, about 100 to 300 people. How you can cross the boundary and still remain in
the more open phase. And I could go on
for hours and hours, so I’m just gonna leave it
with those two, I think. – We’ll start with those. Mario, what about you? What would you recommend
folks look into? – So obviously in the
spirit of the conversation, I think Deciphering Sun Tzu
would definitely be one of them. The other big book would be one that I mentioned at
the beginning as well, Thinking In Bets. I think there was, it
got me to see things a bit different as well. I think it really
helped some people, and especially myself,
and other people who like to think
that I got this because I did that, right? Sometimes it doesn’t
help in not getting a big ego when things
actually turn out well for you, right? But I think it’s always
good to keep in mind that there was chance, right, there was did do, I
may have done a lot of the things that
are to get me, to give me good odds of
getting a good outcome, but it could have
gone horrible wrong without me having done
anything different than what I did
for it to be right. So I think there’s
thinking in that manner also brings a bit of
humility back into it. On one hand, for high achievers, it brings a bit of
humility into it, and for people who may
not perceive themselves as high achievers, or
they are go-getters, it gets them to
think, are they making the decisions that will improve the likelihood of the outcome that they’re looking for, right. So I think that was
definitely a book that I would highly recommend. And another book that I’ve been, it’s about the
second or third time, no second time that I’ve
read this year is Will Power. And it goes into kind
of similar things. And I actually connect
the information a lot with Cynefin,
on the appreciating that we have
multiple identities, and understanding that
will power has a reserve, and if you’re trying to
tackle seven or eight problems at the same
time, you’re probably going to fail at
all of them, right, because there’s just
too much going on. So having those
two books combine with Cynefin, I think,
makes it really powerful. And it’s not a book
yet, but I’m hoping that in the next
five years or so that Cynefin will makes it’s way more into mainstream thinking, because I think at
the moment it’s still a bit in the realm
of the academics, on people dealing,
that are at the edge of things like resilience,
and government space where it’s being used to
see problems at scale. But I really welcome
the day where these things are
distilled down more to the common person,
because I think there’s tremendous potential
in the regular person understanding the
difference between a simple, complicated
and complex problem, and how they should
try, and strategies they can employ to
deal with themselves whenever they’re in a
different problem space. – I’ll take that as
a cue to recommend a book that I do know
exists about Cynefin called The Cynefin
Mini Book and– – Interesting. – I’ll make sure
that there are links to all of these materials,
and also to Ben and Mario’s Twitter handles and
websites, you can find them and reach out to them. Thank you all for
listening, and thank you Ben and Mario for being here today. – Thank you. – Thanks, that was awesome.

1 thought on “Hired Thought #4 — Implicit Guidance”

  1. Mike Biggs GAICD says:

    Love this conversation. There are a few real gems in here. I hope you guys are successful with the podcast.

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