<a href="http://thinkshiftinc.com/">Think Shift</a> <a href="https://ca.linkedin.com/in/4davidbaker?rel=author">CEO David Baker</a> has been helping individuals and organizations find and realize their potential for nearly two decades. David is an enthusiastic speaker, engaging storyteller and experienced communications strategist. Teaching constructive transparency and intentional leadership, he works with professionals and business owners to identify and achieve their goals.

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Leveraging the OODA Loop to Create Strategic Advantage


“You have 15 minutes to get your hand off my knee.”

Many years ago, when I was much younger, my first girlfriend offered up this ultimatum on one of our first dates. I thought it was funny back then and it stuck with me, not just because of the humor, but rather because of what made it funny; the overt contradiction in the statement.  Her command of “get your hand off my knee” hardly seemed to line up with the generous amount of time provided for said hand to be removed.  In this case it was meant to be funny, by saying one thing while clearly meaning another. I wonder how often we as leaders (or companies) do the same thing  – but without the humor – that is say one thing, while we actually mean another.

This came to mind as I listened to a friend and successful business owner talk about the importance we place on customer feedback, yet how it so seldom appears to have any affect on those seeking the input. “Your feedback is very important to us” is a refrain we hear often as we are asked to provide input to companies we have worked with, or leaders or staff asking for feedback.  But the question is, do we really want the feedback?  Or is it just an inauthentic marketing ploy to appear interested in the information?

The military has a term for a procedure they call the OODA Loop.  This describes the process of:

  • Observing one’s situation,
  • Orienting with the surroundings and enemy situation,
  • Deciding how to act,
  • taking the Action,
  • and then doing it all again (the loop).

Consciously or not, we all do it, some faster than and better than others.

The military makes a big deal of the OODA Loop because the shorter the loop, the greater your advantage.  After all, your enemy is doing the same thing, and if you can complete your loop – which includes ACTION – before your enemy, they need to start again, because their orientation has changed or they are acting on bad data. Hence, a better (quicker, more informed) OODA loop equals a strategic advantage.

Which brings me back to customer feedback.  In his book Persuadable – How Great Leaders Change their Mind to Change the World, Al Pittampalli suggests that among the companies he studied, the most successful have a notable factor in common. It is NOT the fact they ask for feedback, but rather what they do with the feedback: they act on it – they change their position. I realize this is ridiculously simple, but that is the point. Pittampalli suggests that while the majority of companies (and I would also suggest leaders) say they want feedback to enable change, most don’t act on it – they are not shortening their OODA Loop.

It is a simple concept, yet it is so powerful; if we are willing to ask for feedback, we had better be willing to change accordingly, because the adage is true, “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” Does your feedback loop (or your company’s) actively seek input? Are you intellectually honest about that which you hear? And the big question – are you committed to change accordingly, based on what you hear and believe to be true?  If so, you will have created a loop that makes you better… and better.

As our OODA Loop improves, so does our competitive advantage. Conversely, as it stays the same, so do we.  According to Pittampalli the big secret is pretty straightforward, change before you have to!  After all, when was the last time you heard someone say,  “You have 15 more attempts to get my order right or I am going to stop doing business with you”?

source: Leveraging Customer Feedback to Create Strategic Advantage

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What are you waiting for?

Change: Realize Your Greatest Potential

It’s pretty clear the world is changing at a remarkable pace. And this pace, as overwhelming as it feels today, is poised to steadily increase – many say it will continue to double every five years. So if you thought the last 20 years were something, the next 20 will be something else.

For example, within three years there will 10 billion “things” connected to the internet, everything from your keys in case you lose them, to streetlights and garage doors so you can control them. Remote controlled air ambulances, cars that drive themselves and package-delivering drones were science fiction just a few years ago, but today they are real and tomorrow they will be commonplace.

The change is naturally spilling out everywhere, in culture, strategy, service, product development, communication, manufacturing and on and on. As evidenced by Kodak and Blockbuster and many more, those who fail to see to the change and course correct will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage – or even gone.

As Eric Shinseki said, “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.”

Today’s world is often defined as VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Volatile because challenges are unexpected and situations are unstable; uncertain due the lack of predictability and the likelihood of surprise; complex because situations have so many interconnected issues that chaos and confusion are often the norm; ambiguous because we have not been here before – precedents don’t exist for many of the opportunities and challenges staring us down today.

Yet in the midst of this appears to be the greatest panacea of opportunity the world has ever seen.

We take for granted how much is available to us now. We know where population is distributed and where it’s growing, we have unprecedented access to capital, knowledge, innovation and technology, and we have the ability to combine them to create value. The question is: will we?

Will we push to find new ways to create value, to connect with people and share ideas? Will we move away from what worked yesterday if it looks like it won’t work tomorrow? Will we push ourselves past what is in pursuit of what could be? Will we realize the potential that comes with change – in ourselves and in the organizations we serve – or will we settle for the status quo?

I am convinced that most of us are missing out. That far too often we become lulled into a false sense of security and the belief we should wait, accept the role, status or result we have been assigned.

That we should let things work themselves out as opposed to getting out there and making them work. That we should wait for permission or approval before taking action. The question, as David Lazarenko put it, is, “Are you a waiter or a creator?”

So, while many accept the notion that we should stand in line and patiently wait while someone else decides the next opportunity or right move, we know that day has come and gone. And it is no longer up to anyone else.

We have an opportunity to think differently and go beyond what “is” today to find the potential in people and organizations, and be intentional about making it a reality. We combine intentionality and potential and call it “potentionality.” It’s what drives us, and it is at the heart of why we go to work every. It is a made up word, but it’s apropos to the idea of seizing opportunity in change.

If you don’t see an opportunity, just create one!

Shift in Thinking is a monthly article from chief storyteller David Baker with a call to action for organizations and individuals. Using engaging narratives and probing questions, he seeks to provoke a new way of thinking around brand, culture and leadership, and to help readers intentionally realize their potential – Potentionality!

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Caution: Falling Axioms

axiomWith a background in advertising, I am keenly aware of the influence that engaging and colorful words can have on the acceptance of an idea. However, I had not connected this with the business axioms that are so often embraced without challenge.

Axioms are “statements or propositions regarded as being established, accepted or self-evidently true.”

I wondered about the cultural consequences of not challenging these underlying beliefs when I read an example in “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. It caught my attention, perhaps because I have often shared the adage:

“If you are going to bring me a problem, make sure you bring with it a solution.”

On the surface, this phrase makes good sense because behind the expression are two juxtaposed attitudes: one of a “passenger” type employee who has nonchalantly identified a problem but is not adequately engaged enough to offer a solution, and one who also perceived the challenge but is committed enough to wrestle with the issue until a solution is found for it. One is building and the other is throwing rocks. Which person would you rather work with?

With the above judgment in mind, step back and examine the axiom and the issues that might arise from with this thinking. The first is based on a belief that lives in many organizations: “If you point out a problem, you have a moral obligation to fix it.” If this holds true in your organization, then speaking up when you see a problem can be a great way to ensure yourself of getting more work! (And remember that your best people are probably your busiest.) Second, today’s business landscape is changing so rapidly that there are many new and undefined challenges out there. If the above obligation exists, pointing out a problem without a solution is tantamount to admitting, “I don’t know how to keep up with the changes, perhaps I am obsolete.” And third, what if I see a problem that has absolutely nothing to do with my department? If I say something, might I be creating adversaries with people I might need help from later?

In all three scenarios, the people closest to the work and, perhaps more importantly, those who see the problems best are incented to stay quiet. Then, of course, the problems go unchecked and are repeated.

In all organizations, there are beliefs and mandates that everybody knows but are not actually written.

While the notion of “bring a solution with every problem” may still be the right approach, we should explore the potential consequences of holding that belief. In this case, a danger of people thinking, “it’s better to stay quiet.” And, left unchecked, these beliefs can grow into signposts for all to see and follow.

For example, one organization we work with had an unwritten protocol that all staff knew about, accepted as valid and even promoted. It even had a name and an action to go along with it, which was meant to signify the sentiment “cover your butt” – it was like a fraternity. Quite without intention, a cultural signpost had been created, suggesting the narrative that any type of mistake will be met with fear and retribution. It was nursed over time and made easy to pass from one employee to another. And even though it was not true, new employees were quickly indoctrinated to the understanding and carried on the tradition. And so it is with culture – if we do not define it, others will. Leadership has an obligation to be “wary of what we believe and intentional of what we promote.” (Unless, of course, that’s just an axiom.)

In an attempt to define cultural “signposts,” Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans has developed what he calls Quicken Loan ISM’s. It is a trait that can be attributed to a person or organization as reflective of personality – such as kids calling Dad’s bad jokes a “DADism.” He does this to be clear about what is required to join and stay at Quicken Loans and he is dramatic in its elevation.

Another commonly shared saying is “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.”

Is this true? Are culture and strategy even separate? Perhaps. However, I would posit that the issue is not “culture eating strategy;” rather, it is the absence of the integration of the two. Many organizations have not been intentional in identifying the underlying causes, good or bad, of their culture. And whether you use ISM’s, share axioms or put up posters with motivating core values, stories will develop in the minds of your staff. Those stories will develop not based on the axiom or the poster, but on the sustained actions of the leadership. The opportunity is to ensure culture is not separate but rather PART of your strategy, and that leadership believe in and curate the culture so much so that the posters, axioms and ISM’s demonstrate the organizational narrative as authentic. When that happens, culture doesn’t eat strategy for breakfast, it sets the table for it!


Food for Thought is our way of sharing interesting concepts on corporate leadership and management with others who might find it useful. The thoughts offered are intended to be controversial and thought-provoking. They are intended to help our readers intentionally realize their potential, what we call Potentionality.

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