What “Top Gun” and Business Intelligence have in Common

November 18, 2013

One of the central visuals and concepts behind TARGIT’s technology and philosophy is the OODA Loop. 

The cycle of learning about the situation, making an educated decision, and executing on that decision is at the very heart of what we designed TARGIT to enable businesses to accomplish. The faster a business can move through the loop and make (and carry out) educated, effective decisions, the more agile and responsive it can be toward changing business conditions.

The OODA Loop doesn’t originate with TARGIT, though. In fact, the concept of the OODA Loop predates TARGIT by several decades. To find the origins of the OODA Loop, you’ve got to go back to the Korean War, when U.S. Air Force Colonel John Boyd, one of the fathers of the TOPGUN fighter school, took notice of the ways in which American planes (which were slower and couldn’t fly as high or fast as their Soviet counterparts) tended to fare well in combat.

Boyd posited that the reason the American fighters performed better than the Soviet fighters, despite being at a tactical disadvantage, was that the American planes offered a greater range of vision and a superior steering system. Pilots in American planes could see more of the battle and absorb more information at a glance than pilots in Russian planes. And the hydraulic steering technology gave them an edge in putting their decisions in action.

It all came down to how much information the decision-makers could take in and process. Boyd built his concept around this, describing the decision-making process as a four-step cycle:


The faster a pilot could observe his surroundings, take that information and process it (orient himself), select how to respond (decide), and carry out that decision (act), the more successful he was going to be.

Since the Korean War, Boyd’s theories have been applied to military strategy. And when I started in business intelligence, I thought about how we can apply those concepts to the business arena. I was interested in taking the idea of the OODA Loop and incorporate it into the way that businesses handled data and made decisions.

The TARGIT Decision Suite is the culmination of that experiment. The unifying visual and structural component of the Decision Suite is a representation of the OODA Loop, with corresponding business intelligence and analytics activities sorted by the stage of the cycle to which they most closely belong. This was a fundamental shift in the way business intelligence was approached – instead of focusing on the end result of creating a report or analysis for review, TARGIT Decision Suite focuses on getting users from raw information to an actionable decision.

It’s interesting that a technology and industry that are the product of growing data within businesses grew out of a military background. That discovering how pilots adjust to changing situations can teach executives how to adjust to changing situations. That the milliseconds that combat allowed for a run through the cycle would become the days or weeks that even a fast business can use to run through it.

The OODA Loop is the centerpiece of the Decision Suite. We use it ourselves to figure out how best to move forward as a company, and we teach it to customers starting with business intelligence and analytics for the first time. We all go through hundreds of OODA Loops on any given day, but knowing what it is, how to incorporate it for business, and how to use it to make educated decisions for complex questions is where TARGIT excels.

Want to learn more about Business Intelligence? Get the free BI & Analytics dictionary and find the information you need to make the tough decisions!