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December 16, 2016
Weaponising your data: Take OODA to the next level
By: Dr Valtteri Vuorisalo

Nowadays, I constantly repeat the phrase, “It’s all about the data.” This has become my mantra because data truly is the greatest tool—or weapon—a defence organisation can have. One of the longest-standing truths in defense is that he who knows more and is able to act quicker most likely wins the battle. This military thinking has been formalised in the decision cycle called the OODA loop.

If you are new to OODA, OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. And whoever can execute this process the fastest will be most successful in a defence environment. And yes, today’s OODA loop is all about the data. You need data to understand what is going on, orient yourself, make a decision and act.

Oftentimes in a defence setting we try to disorient an opponent by destroying something or feeding incorrect data at key stages of a military process. Actually, all you have to do is inject doubt in the system, and that creates delay and friction. In other words, you can disorient with data. However, with OODA, you can reorient based on insights you gather and connections you make in the data.


Digitizing the OODA loop

OODA is a powerful concept, but with the help of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and super-strength computing power, we can create an “OODA loop on steroids”. For instance:

Observe – Defence organisations can combine large data sets from the internal and external world to observe a situation. With machine learning, you can spot patterns of behavior that no human could, and make predictions based on that data. Key to this step is visualising the data—whether on a PC, mobile device, tablet or through virtual reality—to deliver understandable results.

Orient – Artificial intelligence will enable you to use data to show the relationship of one thing to other things. By visualising data in a variety of contexts, your defence organisation can use “what-if” scenarios to explore what might happen. For instance, if someone were planning a military action, the orient phase would show the implications of a preemptive strike. This impact analysis could show from a legal or political point of view, for example, what the consequences of a certain action would be.

Decide – Based on the what-if scenarios created and impact analysis revealed in the previous phase, defence organisations are equipped to make a decision on the preferred course of action. The trail of evidence will make it easier for decision makers to choose what to do next—and which actions might be executed by technology, e.g. drones, instead of people.

Act – With the help of technology, the distance is much shorter between the guy who observes, orients and decides and the guy who acts. Digital diminishes distance, putting the decision-maker in the HQ in the same virtual foxhole as the soldier in the field. By dissolving these barriers, defence organisations can work more collaboratively and benefit from the insights gathered through the data they collect.

Honing your OODA advantage

Digital is creating an abundance of open source data. When you have huge amounts of data from different sources, the correlations you can make will give you insights into things you never before thought possible. But while data is a great source of information, it must be found, treated and visualised properly.

The OODA loop has been around for a long time, but even in today’s digital world, it’s a concept that holds true. Digital technologies make it possible to get even more out of OODA by weaponising your data—making data the most important tool in your arsenal.

See this post on LinkedIn: Weaponising your data: Take OODA to the next level

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