This paper builds on my research into learning and reflection models and how they had been incorporated into business and coaching. My research led me to two models, Boyd’s OODA loop and Oettingen’s WOOP method, both quite different but able to provide structure to decision making process, again based on learning and reflection. Here I review these two models, their connections to learning models and some nuances that could be incorporated into the coaching process.

Boyd’s OODA loop is a decision-making process that was originally derived for fighter pilots for them to make fast, decisive, and correct decisions in an ever-changing environment. The Loop consists of four elements – Observe – Orientate – Decide – Act, with the key element of Boyd’s process is the second stage of “Orientate”, which he identifies that it is essential when making any decision to take into account the current environment.

Boyd’s OODA Loop

Tighe, Hill and McIntyre, describe orientate as “all about connecting with reality, not a false version of events filtered through the eyes of cognitive and short cuts” and Boyd himself stated “orienteering is not just a state you are in, it is a process you are always orienteering”. Reflecting on this and relating it to Schon’s model I realise that Boyd’s focus on the orienteering stage is a build on “reflecting-in-action” in that in order to make the best decision, the individual at the time needs to take into account all the external factors and real time information. Another area of similarity between Schon and Boyd, is Boyd’s view of building “mental models” which were scenarios based on experiences and taught learning, these models could be used in the future, I feel that this as a form of “reflection-before-action” or visualisation.

Dr Gabriele Oettingen conducted over twenty years of research which had identified that the more optimistic people are in believing a positive outcome the lower their success rate, which is potentially due to effort and the belief that “all would end well”. As a result, Oettingen questioned “if positive thinking really achieved anything and did it really take into account the challenge of reality” (Santos). As a result, Oettingen developed a model designed to help individuals achieve their goals by bringing reality, or as she terms obstacles, into a framework of reflection and positive thinking – The WOOP Method.

Oettingen’s WOOP Method

Having reviewed and practiced “WOOP” I realise its simplicity and adaptability is a very useful model to help make decisions. Dr Santos in her podcast “The happiness Lab” identified that “WOOP is an acronym for a four-step process “Wish – Outcome – Obstacle – Plan” and Oettingen developed it for everyday use and decision making. In my view as with Boyd there is a critical step which is about identifying the obstacle’s, both internal and external, and then coming up with a plan to overcome them if they arise through reflecting on scenarios and outcomes.

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Tighe, M., Hill, L. and McIntyre, L., 2018. OODA LOOP: What You Can Learn From Fighter Pilots About Making Fast And Accurate Decisions. Farnam Street. Available at:

Oettingen, G. (2014). Rethinking positive thinking: inside the new science of motivation. New York: Current

Santos, L. (2019). Episode 7: Don’t Accentuate the Positive — The Happiness Lab., from,

Santos, L. (2020). Interview with Gabriele Oettingen – Putting Strategies into Practice | Coursera. from