OODA Loop

I witnessed a hit-and-run in Cincinnati last week. A sedan clipped a motorcyclist. The motorcycle—one driver and a passenger—spun out. The sedan left, and I was the only one at the scene. What do to?

Motorcycle Accident

I applied a strategy that I had learned lately, the OODA Loop strategy. My friend Dan Hayes, a former antiterrorism and security agent of our military, shared the military strategy with his listeners in one of his podcasts. By last Thursday night, I had applied the strategy to several situations. Not nearly as dramatic as a hit-and-run, but I had conditioned my mind to the OODA Loop strategy just the same. Here’s how it worked in this emergency situation.

  1. Observe. Life happens. I was at a conference in Cincinnati walking back to my hotel from the conference center. I was crossing an intersection, alone, not many (if any) people around. And the accident happens right before my eyes. In the case of a motorcycle accident, it is shocking. It wakes you up. You observe, but before you act, you orient.
  2. Orient. I suppose this is where people lose their cool. The driver of the car should have oriented himself or herself: I just caused an accident…I should stop and help. I oriented the situation, too. I was the only one around. The accident happened on an off ramp from the Interstate. You can sort of tell by the picture that the Interstate (65 miles an hour) was screaming by, and anyone could have come flying off and run these people over. The orientation was key: I was the only one available at the scene at that particular moment. This was split second thinking.
  3. Decide. I needed to help these people. They were lying in the middle of the road where they easily could have been run over. I decided to get involved; it was the right thing to do. So…
  4. Act. I ran to the scene, perhaps about 100 feet.

I then looped back to the beginning. This is the OODA Loop. I was at the scene ready for another loop…

  1. Observe. The man had blood all over his head, but was conscious. “Are you all right, sir?” I asked. “I broke my arm,” was all he said. Sure enough, his arm was twisted and lying limp to his side. The lady passenger was also conscious but was on the side of the road, sort of sitting in shock.
  2. Orient. The first car was coming off the Interstate, slowing from 65 MPH.
  3. Decide. I need to wave that car down.
  4. Act. Run down the ramp, wave my arms, bringing the car to stop.

See how this worked? Again, through the loop..

  1. Observe. Holy smokes, Batman, this is serious!
  2. Orient. There are no emergency personnel anywhere.
  3. Decide. We need an ambulance and police here right away.
  4. Act. Call 911.

And on the OODA Loops went.

Others made OODA Loops as the event unfolded. Consider the driver of the car:

  1. Observe. I hit a motorcycle.
  2. Orient. I could get in trouble for this.
  3. Decide. I will run.
  4. Act. Take off.

Shame on them. The driver’s character needs to slow at orientation. Instead of “I could get in trouble,” he or she could have thought, “I need to help correct this problem.” I, too, could have acted better. Orient: “These low-lives could take off…” and I could have decided to take a picture of their license plate. That sure would have come in handy later on.

The first two cars off the Interstate were bad, too. They did this:

  1. Observe. There are injured people in the road on my way to wherever.
  2. Orient. I’m on the way to wherever.
  3. Decide. I will drive around them.
  4. Act. Leave.

The third driver had more sense:

  1. Observe. There are injured people in the road on my way to wherever.
  2. Orient. Who cares about wherever I’m going, I can help.
  3. Decide. I will turn on my hazards and stop anyone else from running these people over.
  4. Act. Hazard lights, stop traffic.

The police came. The ambulance and fire department came. The man and lady were rushed to the hospital. The police took my statement. I walked back to the hotel.

Exciting evening, wouldn’t you say? The OODA Loop strategy certainly came in handy, and I’m certain I’ll use it again.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Thanks for being an angel you saved my friends dad 🙂

    • Honestly, it was the least I could do. I’m glad I was there to witness it…and doubly glad that the cyclists are okay.

  • Ciera Samoa

    It’s always awesome to hear about those do the right thing! 🙂

  • Toshia

    That was my dad lying in the roadway that night I can’t say thank you enough it’s been 3 years and the ole man is doing great and of course riding his motorcycle the same one he crashed on because of your quick thinking he is alive he could have been very well hit again by oncoming cars and things could have turned out different from our family thank you and God bless you

    • Totally humbled. Thank you for posting, Toshia. Wish your dad well for me!

      • Toshia

        YOUR VERY WELCOME
        YOU ARE A ANGEL