Worthy of note:
Item #1: Last week I accidentally denigrated the WWF when I said business leaders are, metaphorically, “… trapped in a cage match without the script.” Unbeknownst to yours truly the World Wildlife Fund successfully sued the World Wrestling Federation and the wrestlers are now WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). Allan West, who informed me of this, did like the mental image of panda bears in a ring jumping off the ropes to smash one another. I find it disturbing.
Item #2: Some additional correspondence solved the mystery. A reader who had complained about my apparent bias two weeks ago explained that in the 2000 election, many commentators described George W. Bush as the candidate you’d rather have a beer with. I recommended that you not choose who to vote for based on who you’d rather have a beer with. His conclusion? I was covertly suggesting you vote against Bush.
For the record: Don’t vote for the guy with whom you’d most like to have a beer. Don’t vote against him, either. When you choose who to vote for, leave the beer out of it.
You’ll need it after you vote.
Item #3: Last week’s column, about making ethical choices when none of your choices are particularly good, generated quite a bit of mail.
A couple of readers contested the main point — that when all of the choices available to you are bad, you should hold your nose and choose the least wrong among them. One said I was “playing the victim” because we can always say no and walk away, or stand up for what’s right and take the consequences.
We can. That doesn’t make these good choices. Maybe they’re less wrong than the alternatives, but even that assessment is uncertain. For those who have families to feed in a shaky economy, for example, walking away or getting fired for standing on principle can be downright irresponsible.
Keep in mind that while for some, “getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me,” many more end up unemployed or underemployed for months and even years. I know. Some contact Advice Line for suggestions.
They just aren’t the ones in a position to write inspirational books.
Item #4: Okay, don’t call it the Vince Lombardi syndrome.
Few contested my suggestion last week that we’ve changed from a society that values fair play above all to one that values winning above all.
But many wrote to defend Vince Lombardi, who, it appears, never said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” Brad Mitchell was the first to provide Lombardi’s actually statement. It’s “Winning isn’t everything — but wanting to win is,” an admirable sentiment.
So it isn’t the Vince Lombardi syndrome. Call it the Bobby Knight syndrome instead. He deserves it.
Not that winning is a bad thing. Even if the game is a stupid one, if you have to play, winning is better than losing.
Which brings us the OODA loop, mentioned here before.
A military theorist named Colonel John Boyd developed this formulation for winning at maneuver warfare: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA). Then do it again.
According to Boyd, whichever side has the faster OODA loops wins. The faster you can observe a situation, orient yourself to it (which includes recognizing your own biases and how they affect your perceptions), make a decision on how to proceed, then act on that decision — and then go through it again — the more likely you are to win.
There’s a fascinating consequence: According to OODA theory, thoughtful analysis loses to quick decisions and disciplined execution. It’s an unsettling proposition for those of us who consider careful thought to be a worthwhile investment of time and energy.
OODA still values thinking, but quick thinking: Observe, Orient, and Decide. Speed beats perfection. When, that is, you’re engaged in a contest to be won in real time — OODA’s domain. OODA is the wrong tool for (for example) good science, good policy, or even good chess. But like the guy with a hammer who sees a world filled with nails, many who excel at OODA loops limit their view of the world to a succession of battles, which is to say, time-constrained transactions with one winner and one loser.
OODA masters win the battles they fight. That gives them a tremendous advantage and confers tremendous power. It also creates a very real danger: They’re unlikely to make sure they should be fighting in the first place. They’re winning, after all.
So why should they care? Winning is, after all, the only thing.