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Part I: DARPA, The Valley of Death and Answering the Crucial Project Questions Upfront

We continue our effort to underscore certain patterns and themes found throughout the OODAcast library of 100 conversations with leaders and decision-makers, on topics such as leadership, empowering a team, clear decision-making while operating in a low information environment, the qualities and best practices of a true leader, the future of intelligence, the future of cyber threats, the cybersecurity marketplace, innovation, exponential technologies, and strategic action.

In July of 2021, OODA CTO Bob Gourley had a conversation with Dr. Tony Tether.  Dr. Tether was the Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, from 2001 till his retirement in 2009.  DARPA is widely known for being the principal agency within DoD for research and development. DARPA is charged with investing in projects that aim for high payoff. They fund innovative ideas, develop solutions, provide demonstrations of concepts and systems and take any other prudent action required to move the right ideas from concept to reality.  Bob discussed with Dr. Tether some of his formative experiences, including a very unique job he held while awaiting entry to Stanford. He was a door-to-door salesman and while doing that learned the importance of quickly assessing challenges that were not being addressed and then forming an ability to express what needs to be done and how to do it quickly. This approach is very consistent with the famous “Heilmeier Catechism”, which ended up producing a wide range of DARPA breakthroughs.

In April of 2021, Bob spoke with Dr. Lisa J. Porter, who has successfully led some of the world’s largest and most critical technology efforts. Porter’s career started with a focus on academic rigor in pursuit of some of the toughest degrees (a B.S. in Nuclear Engineering from MIT and a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Stanford).  She would later lecture at MIT and then became a researcher for DARPA-related projects, eventually becoming a DARPA program manager. Dr. Porter would later lead NASA’s Aeronautics Portfolio, serve as the  Director of the Intelligence Community’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), along with leadership positions in the private sector as President at Teledyne Scientific and an EVP at In-Q-Tel.  She was then named as the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (an office that is essentially the CTO for the entire Department of Defense).  She now co-leads a consultancy she formed with Michael Griffin (LogiQ).  In this conversation, Porter recounts several situations in her early career where she learned from role models, including previous generations of great technology leaders like George Heilmeier and Dr. Tether.


Source:  Ebay

“I look in the paper to see what kind of jobs there are.  And there was a job to become a Fuller Brush Man…people don’t come door to door anymore.  That is all taken care of by our computers now.”

Bob Gourley:  One thing that just jumps out at me is you’ve had a very long and distinguished career that started with a degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), And I wanted to ask if you could give us a bit of your foundational story from that point on….

Dr. Tony Tether:  Well, first when I first went to school, I went to a two-year junior college, what we call a junior college now. And that was a two-year school in my hometown, Middletown, New York. And then I eventually transitioned to RPI for the last two years. When I graduated from RPI it was in the middle of the year. And I looked around and I found a job with Bell Labs.  Now Bell Labs was interesting to me because during the Summer I had worked for New York Tel (NY Tel) both my junior and senior year. So I was familiar with that company. And I thought this would be a great place to go work, especially since they promised me, I could go to school anywhere I wanted to get a master’s degree.

So I got married and I went down to Bell Labs at the beginning of February. And they had a great incoming program. They took you around and showed you things, and was just an excellent place. It’s too bad that we let that go away. But Bell Labs was really a premier organization and needed for this country. Anyways, I went down and I’m going around the tour. And I had to meet this fellow who said I could go to school,  Bell said I could go to school anywhere I wanted to for a master’s degree. So I met with him, and he said:  “We’re here to pick your school. And I said, oh, I know where I want to go. I want to go to Stanford. And he says “Well, you can go anywhere you want, but they just have to be these six schools.”

They were all good schools, MIT. And they were all east coast schools. I said, well, wait a minute. They told me I could go anywhere. I wanted to go to Stanford. And he says, well, you can go anywhere. You want to go if it’s one of these six schools. So we had this argument going and he said, “Look, I’m going to want to  see you next week and we’re going to  talk about this, and you need to pick the school.”

So I went home, I lived in Middletown, New York, and Bell was in New Jersey. I drove home thinking, oh my goodness. And I, when I got home, there was a telegram. Remember this was back in the day.  I think long-distance dial was just coming in. And I had a telegram from Stanford, which offered me a three-year scholarship to go to Stanford, to get a Ph.D.

And they were going to not only pay you all a tuition, but they were also going to give me a stipend, the $500 a quarter or something like that. So I go back down to Bell, and I meet with a guy finally in the second week. And I said to him:  “Listen, I’ve got this telegram. I got said, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to stay here until September. And then I’ll go to Stanford. And he says to me:  “Well, here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to  either pick one of these six schools today or you’re going to  leave today.”

So I left. So I was on the books as a Bell Labs employee for two weeks. But I go home. I’m married with no job. And I look in the paper to see what kind of jobs there are.  And there was a job to become a Fuller Brush man. Now, most of the people listening to this may remember the movie or have heard of the movie The Fuller Brush Man, Red Skeleton was in it.  But they probably don’t remember [Fuller Brush] people coming door to door. People don’t come door to door anymore.  That is all taken care of by our computers now.

Source:  IMDB

“What would I do if I was a Fuller Brush Man?”

Tether:  So I signed up and I became a Fuller Brush Man.  You go around and door to door as a salesman. The thing that you had to do was when you were knocking on the door, in fact, they taught you quite well. They said, look, you, you really want to be looking around and you want to…they gave you ways to get “in.”

One way was you knocked on a door, a person comes to the door, and you said, “look I’ve got these things I can give you, a brush, blah, blah, blah. And I get credit for them even if you don’t buy anything.” And so that usually worked and people would let you get in the door because they were in your bag, and you had to open it up.  And you would walk sideways.  No kidding, looking away from them. Cause the Fuller people had found people will tend to not slam a door on you if you’re not looking at the door.

Okay. So you get in the house and you’re opening your case and you’re going through all these things at the bottom of your case, and they taught you to look around the room and see if you can relate to anything with the people, so you can say “Hey, this product will help you with that problem over there.”

And you are sort of relating to them that way.  And they had you practice that, and it really worked. The person who ran that area would come around with you. And one time he came with me, and it was cold,  remember?  and we were selling a cream that you would put on your hands.  And so we go into this house, and I would say that I got that I was training the guy with me – he was the general manager – and I when I went through this spiel, I came out, I sold the can. And he said to me “Now, wait a minute. That was great. But next time we go, I want you to tell the person at the end, ‘would you like a six pack’”?

And I said a six-pack?  It’ll last him for years, nobody’s going to buy a six-pack. And I’m arguing with him. He finally said, “Just do it.”  So we go to the next house, and I go through the spiel, and I come to the end, and I said “Would you like a six pack? Then this person said yes.  So I sold a six pack.  Now that was like a $20 sale. And I got 40% of that. Now this is $8 in the early sixties.  I mean, so it was like “wow.”  So I come out and he said:  “Now, wait a minute. It’ll never happen again. But what you’re doing is that when you say this to somebody, if they really want to buy the product, they tend not to buy just one, they will probably buy two.  And so this is the way you get them to buy two things.

“…at DARPA that’s what we do. We basically first ask the question:  What is the problem you are trying to solve? But the more important question after that is:  what difference will it make if you solve it? And you’ve got to have those.  If you have the answers to those two questions, you’ll be able to get the money to develop what needs to be developed to do it.”

So it was a great learning experience. It was really looking at and what became sort of the rest of my life:  When you talk to somebody, you say [to yourself]:  “What problem do they have – what is the problem?  and then what must you do to solve that problem?

One woman – I used to have a huge catalog and there was a thing, there was a dust mop, which was about the size of a bowling alley, dust mop. And I was trying to sell it because it always gave me something to do to try to sell something that was crazy in the catalog.  And I walked into this house, and she had a hallway which was probably 20 feet long and about the width of a bowling alley.  So I said to her “You have this big hall and now if you go and try to clean it with a regular dust mop, you’re going to have to go back and forth and will take you a lot of time. She said “yeah, I do. It really does.”

I said I’ve got a dust mop here that with one sweep, one sweep! You can know what the problem is – and this is how you’re going to solve it. And she said “that’s right. I will take one. And I said “One?” I said, “well, wait a minute, you, you might be in a situation where you take the one and it’s dirty and you still want to do it again. So if you buy two of these things, I throw them in a bag.  She bought two of them.

I worked and then I finally went to Stanford in the Fall.  But, listen, that job really, I must admit that in my life from that point on, I  would constantly think about “What would I do if I was a Fuller Brush Man?”  And now it was bigger things. And so that really impressed me. It not only impressed me, but it really was something that I learned that helped me in later years in ways that are hard for me to explain.”

Gourley:  Yeah, that is fascinating. And I have a feeling, we will hear themes of this come out as we continue to discuss it. I wanted to say that those of us in the technology domain –  frequently people think of us as introverts, and we tend to be that way and not want to communicate. And it seems like at an early age, you had this experience where you had to communicate, and you had to listen for problems and understand what you’re trying to solve to close a deal.

Tether:  That’s right. Not only did I have to listen to problems, but I had to look around and see if I could point out a problem that sometimes people didn’t realize they had. She never thought of this big hallway as a problem.  And I said I got the solution right here.  And, that approach followed me for the rest of my life, even today. I, I think that way.   And of course at DARPA, as you said, that’s what we do. We basically first ask the question:  What is the problem you are trying to solve? Okay. But the more important question after that is:  what difference will it make if you solve it? And you’ve got to have those.  If you have the answers to those two questions, you’ll be able to get the money to develop what needs to be developed to do it.

“…it turns out fusion is ‘the energy source of the future and always will be’  – which is kind of the joke that turns out to be true.”

Bob Gourley:  Lisa, I’d love to hear a little bit about your foundational story, starting with your decision to apply to MIT and pursue a degree in nuclear engineering. What was motivating you back then?

Dr. Lisa Porter:  So, when I – this will date me, of course,  this is the problem with answering these questions is people immediately figure out how old you are – when I was growing up in the seventies, and I went to MIT in the mid-eighties, but growing up in the seventies  – and Bob you’ll remember this,  thankfully I’m talking to someone who will remember along with me – the gas lines were a phenomenon.  Sitting in those gas lines and the country was really worried about energy as a source, as a finite resource. And we were very dependent on foreign sources. And so there was a general sense that this was a major problem of societal impact and national impact. I always knew I wanted to be a scientist or engineer ever since I was a little kid.

I grew up in the Boston area, so I knew of MIT, and I was always enthralled with that. But I walked in the door of MIT knowing that I wanted to major in nuclear engineering and specifically fusion.  So I was very odd in that way because most people walk in, and they don’t have that specific a goal in mind. But I was determined to work on this energy source that was going to solve the problems that we had been facing as a nation at that time. So that is how I ended up in that major. Now I didn’t stay there and there are a lot of reasons for that, most notably that it turns out fusion is “the energy source of the future and always will be” which is kind of the joke that turns out to be true.

But it was a wonderful major because of course, it combined physics and engineering you had to know,  yet you had to understand nuclear physics. You had to understand plasma physics, which I loved. You also had to understand all the mechanical engineering aspects of system engineering that the design of reactors entails. So it was a great major to pick.

“…it was this great way to sort of jump into the fray of what DARPA does.”

Gourley:  And then you went on to get a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Stanford.

Porter:  I did.

Gourley:  What is Applied Physics? Could you help us out? I know it’s not theoretical. It sounds like an engineering kind of focus.

Porter:  Yeah. So this is funny because you’re right, the department was primarily focused on what some people might call engineering physics.  It had a very strong focus, and strength I should say, in solid state physics. So that merging of again, solid state modeling but with the applications in mind around a lot of electronics.  A lot of great minds came out of that domain. But here’s the funny part. There was also a component of applied physics that was solar physics and astrophysics. And that’s how I ended up there because of my plasma physics background, which I still enjoy very much, even though I decided I wasn’t going to stay in fusion specifically.

I said “Wow, I can take all these different courses in the regular physics part of Stanford. I can get a lot of these applied classes, but I get to still do my plasma physics.”  So it was this great combination.  But I must confess my thesis was not applied. It was a solar physics thesis focused on plasma physics and the heating of the corona. It was a lot of fun, but it was not applied, even though I got to take a lot of applied courses.

Gourley:  And from there you moved closer to the defense sector, you worked at IDA and Logos Technologies.

Porter:  Yes,  I did. I went and did a postdoc for a few years at MIT and then I said, “What am I going to  do with my life here?”  I have got to figure it out. And I had always had that national security interest. And so yes, I moved down to the Washington DC area and took a job with IDA, which I loved, and that’s a great place to work and cut your teeth and learn about national security problems. And then I, I worked for Logos for a little while because I got to be more directly tied to DARPA. Logos was supporting DARPA and it was this great way to sort of jump into the fray of what DARPA does.

Gourley:  Both of those I think are interesting points that I think people should take note of if they are at the earlier stages of their career, it is a great way to learn the defense establishment and a great way to move a bit closer to DARPA.

Porter:  Exactly. Exactly.

“I had an opportunity to go to DARPA for the first time, and I became the Director of the Strategic Technology Office.”

Gourley:  So you did end up going to Stanford.  You got your master’s and a Ph.D. Then you end up coming back to the East Coast and you worked in the Department of Defense. You were in the department from the late seventies to the mid-eighties.

Tether:  Yes, when I graduated from Stanford, there were four or five of us that started the company. We were all control theory people. Okay. Control theory people are the ones that you look at a problem. You figure out how to solve the problem. And now I mean, it is hard for people to understand this, but computers were just becoming available. So before people, when they solved the problem, they had to then sort of say, this is the problem. And here’s the response. And maybe that problem really didn’t show up the way they thought it would. But if you had a computer that was doing this, they could be sensing what was going on and whatever the problem was that showed up, you could then pick an appropriate response to it.

And that was real-time resource and control that we were all that way. So we, we started a company to do that. And in fact, the company was very successful. The issue in the states was, remember the New York blackout, which spun across the country?  It knocked out all the stuff across the country, all the power went down. The reason was that when New York went down, it just cascaded because there was no way for anybody to understand that there was a problem and stop it from happening. It went by them so fast because they didn’t have any computers doing it.  It was people who were going to throw switches. And so we showed that we could have stopped that. And we did and we did quite well in doing that.

And of course, we had two parts of the company – one that did more domestic problems and one did military problems in the military. At that time, they would come up with a threat. They would make up a threat, a scenario, and then they would develop their whole system based upon that scenario and maybe some modifications to it. Well, if the scenario didn’t show up for everything they built, it was like going to be like the New York blackout.  And so we showed that we could create a system which when the threat came in, the system could figure out “this is the threat that is there right now”, and then respond to that threat so that we were no longer vulnerable if the threat wasn’t exactly what we thought was going to come in. And we were quite successful with it.

We sold the company to British Petroleum. And I took off and had the opportunity to go into the government to find out what it was about. I was always curious. I was on the outside. I was wondering what really goes on inside. So  I was able to go in and I became, at that time, the Director of National Intelligence for Harold Brown, who was the Secretary of the Defense. And stayed there and stayed there until the end of the Carter Administration.  And then when Reagan won, I had an opportunity to go to DARPA for the first time, and I became the Director of the Strategic Technology Office for four years. And that gave me my first experience at DARPA. Then I finally left the government and went out into the industry.

Gourley:  Okay. And that is when you went to Ford Motor Company?

Tether:  That’s when I went to Ford Motor Company.

Gourley:  And then you would eventually rejoin DARPA as the Director in 2001?

Tether:  I did.

Source:  Slides Dr. Tether Reviewed in the original OODAcast:  Dr. Tether Presentation

“Eisenhower created DARPA. He created DARPA to mitigate the Valley of Death. And, and once you understand, this is what DARPA does.”

Tether:  It’s amazing how many people really don’t know where DARPA came from.  It all started with Sputnik on October 4th, 1957, the Russians launched a satellite, which was the first time it ever happened. This satellite, by the way, was built by the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians were really the engineers of Russia. They’re the ones that built the satellite and built a booster that launched the satellite.  Up until then, the United States was building an air defense system, billions of dollars going into it because we believe that the Russians were coming with air with aircraft.  That day, all of that went away. Because on that day, we knew that if somebody could make something that can go all the way around the world, they can make something that can go halfway around the world. And that was the end of the air defense. And that was the start of having missiles do this.

President Eisenhower, who was President at the time, was a great guy and was very intuitive. He asked, “How did the Russians beat us going into space? How did we get beat by a third-world country? How come the U.S., how could we get beat going into space? We had space programs the way it wasn’t like we didn’t have one all the services had somebody doing space.  The Army was doing it. The Air Force was doing it. The Navy was doing it. But there was this thing. Eisenhower really discovered what today, it wasn’t called this at that time, but he discovered the “Valley of Death.”

In the near term, we have people doing science and technology programs for the armed services, the armed services are doing this work.  They’re working on current problems.  Then we have these people who are out here on the far side  – they have fundamental research. They have crazy ideas. They have new inventions. The problem is that they can’t get over to the near side. There’s this big gap here that takes money to get these ideas and get them to the point where the near side becomes believable that, hey, we can produce this and get it out in the field is maybe three, four years.  So they are stuck. And this today is called the Valley of Death.

Eisenhower created DARPA. He created DARPA to mitigate the Valley of Death. And, and once you understand, this is what DARPA does. DARPA is the organization that basically looks at these people on the far side, finds out what they’re doing, and asks these fundamental questions.  What problem are you trying to solve? And if you can solve it, what difference will it make?

“‘Hey, I’ve got this idea.’ And they now know you might as well not come if you can’t answer at least the two fundamental questions.”

And these people on that side typically didn’t answer those questions, they didn’t think of them, but they got pretty good at answering. If DARPA felt that “what difference it would make?” is a big enough deal, DARPA is the organization that would fund those people to take them across the Valley of Death into the people who are going to then spend the money to make it a real thing. That’s what DARPA does. And that’s what DARPA does extremely well. Extremely well.

And all the things that you hear coming out of DARPA all usually came from somebody who came in and said, “Hey, I’ve got this idea.”  And they now know you might as well not come if you can’t answer at least the two fundamental questions.  And if we accept [their answers to those questions], we fund them to get them to the point where they can demonstrate it enough to have people who were on the near side take it from us.

Gourley:  I think all of us recognize that if  DARPA was not in place, we would not have things like the internet today.  And there are so many other capabilities that DARPA has brought us. If DARPA was not doing this process that you just described here, the deaths from COVID would have been just horrible.  Horrifying.  Who knows how much larger they would have been without DARPA’s investments in the biological sciences?

Tether:  Well, again, yeah. And DARPA was doing it on the come.  There was a problem. There was a person that came and says we got this problem, and we have a solution. And so DARPA was funding that when COVID came along.  It was too bad in one way, but fortunate that they were doing the research.   But that is what they do.

“Dr. Tether was the Director at the time.  And so he basically – he’s good at this – he convinced me:  I just needed to join the government. He’s like “You need to join the team.”  And, I even resisted. I said, well, I don’t know about joining the government. But he said, “Come on Lisa.  It’s time.”

Gourley:  Later, you did join DARPA.

Porter:  I did.

Gourley:  This is one of the most famous organizations in the world…although people probably have different views of it. I think most people understand that it is a place where they’re creating things that are required for the Department of Defense but have spinoffs into the nation. And they have really done some incredible things  – the most famous being the internet.   But today people are talking about what they’ve done to facilitate vaccine creation.

Porter:  Absolutely.  Yes. The Moderna virus vaccine has a direct descendance from DARPA’s research. Yes.

Gourley:  I hope that DARPA always attracts the best and that people always try to pursue what you did in joining DARPA. And I guess what I want to ask is any tips for the person who wants to become a program manager at DARPA, how do people get started there?

Porter:  Well, everyone has their own story, so there’s not one little recipe to follow. Interestingly, I always said I wanted to support national security, but I never wanted to work for the government. . So I had a real concern about becoming a quote government bureaucrat. I’ll be honest with you. I was like, no, I like the freedom that the private sector gives and the flexibility. So I like supporting on the outside being an advisor and, and helping, but, and then 9/11 happened. That was a changing moment for a lot of us, of course. But I started rethinking my mindset about this and the never say never became, well, maybe I should think about it.

And to be perfectly honest, Dr. Tether was the Director at the time.  I had been asked to look at some specific things and, again remember 9/11 had just happened. So it was a “what would you do if you were a bad guy” kind of thing that prevents the surprise as a big part of DARPA’s mission. And I came up to his office, I remember, and I briefed him on things that I thought I would do, and he hadn’t heard those things before. And so he basically – he’s good at this – he convinced me:  I just needed to join the government. He’s like “You need to join the team.”  And, I even resisted. I said, well, I don’t know about this joining the government. He said, Come on Lisa.  It’s time.”

And I, I just remember that conversation. He was good at looking you in the eye and just calling you out on what you needed to do. And I thought, okay, I have got to do this. So, for me, that was my story, Everyone has a different way that they get to DARPA. Some people have a desire to be there, and they live across the country. And so they must go through a sort of interview process and all that. For me, it was very serendipitous. I happened to be there kind of doing my presentation without realizing it, by showing what could be done by the bad guys and what I thought we needed to do to prevent it. And therefore kind of going through the process that a lot of people go through.

“And then you say, okay,  walk me through the answers and they say, oh, wait a minute. That question shouldn’t apply to me. I’m special. That’s a lot of it. No, no, that, that’s a nice question, but I don’t need to answer that. No, you do need to answer.”

Gourley:  You gave a Heilmeier presentation (aka the  Heilmeier Catechism)?

Porter:  It wasn’t formally that, but I was answering the questions by explaining the problem and what should be done.

Gourley:  I think a lot of our listeners and viewers may not know what that is at all.

Porter:  Oh, that’s a good point.

DARPA operates on the principle that generating big rewards requires taking big risks. But how does the Agency determine what risks are worth taking?
George H. Heilmeier, a former DARPA director (1975-1977), crafted a set of questions known
as the “Heilmeier Catechism” to help Agency officials think through and evaluate proposed research programs.

Source:  The Heilmeier Catechism – DARPA

Gourley:  That’s a series of questions by an icon in the research community, which essentially says, what are you trying to do? How is it done now? How would you do it differently, and how will this make a difference?  Those kinds of questions.

Porter:  Exactly. And when you say that, it sounds so obvious.  You say, well, those are obvious questions, and they are, but that doesn’t make them easy to answer it turns out.  And the reason  Heilmeier is a hero to many, many folks for a lot of different reasons, He was a giant, he ran DARPA during the “Have Blue” time, which led to stealth technology, and he was a Texas instrument fellow and all these other things. But that framework is probably the thing that he is most famous for because he insisted on it. A funny story and you can Google this and find this interview that he gave, it was because the artificial intelligence community at that time, the AI community in the seventies was basically arrogantly telling him “You just must fund us because we’re brilliant.”

Porter:  And he was saying, well, that’s not a good enough reason to give you money. I need to at least know what problems are you solving. And how are you going to tell me if you are succeeding or not? And what metrics are we talking about here? And they were mad at him about this, but he wouldn’t back down. He said, no if you can’t answer these questions, I’m not going to fund you. And that became the basis every director since then has used to discern does this program manager and this team have a good idea that’s worth putting money behind.  Taxpayer money. So they are important questions.

Gourley:  People who haven’t encountered them before will appreciate them because they are so simply put.  I think an elementary school student would understand them.

Porter:  But answering them is not so easy. People think, oh yeah, those are obvious. And then you say, okay,  walk me through the answers and they say, oh, wait a minute. That question shouldn’t apply to me. I’m special. That’s a lot of it. No, no, that, that’s a nice question, but I don’t need to answer that. No, you do need to answer.

Part II: DARPA, NASA, IARPA, DoD, Courage, Leadership and Aurelius’ Meditations

Part III: Dr. Tether and Dr. Porter on Cybersecurity (forthcoming)

The Original OODAcasts

Tony Tether On Technology Leadership and Lessons Learned From DARPA

Slides Dr. Tether Reviewed in this OODAcast are at this link: Dr. Tether Presentation

Lisa Porter On Innovation, Technology, Security and Lessons in Leadership

Heilmeier’s Rules

George H. Heilmeier, a former DARPA director (1975-1977), made all who came to DARPA (with a new idea or project request) answer a set of very simple to understand questions that are still in use today. These simple questions, now called Heilmeier’s Catechism or Heilmeier’s Rules, were not always simple to answer, especially if an idea was not firmly rooted. They are:

  • What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.
  • How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
  • What is new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?
  • Who cares? If you are successful, what difference will it make?
  • What are the risks?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?
  • What are the mid-term and final “exams” to check for success?

Further Resources

Deep Tech, the “Valley of Death” and Innovative Technologies for the Warfighter

Stay Informed

It should go without saying that tracking threats are critical to informing your actions. This includes reading our OODA Daily Pulse, which will give you insights into the nature of the threat and risks to business operations.

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Explore OODA Research and Analysis

Use OODA Loop to improve your decision-making in any competitive endeavor. Explore OODA Loop

Decision Intelligence

The greatest determinant of your success will be the quality of your decisions. We examine frameworks for understanding and reducing risk while enabling opportunities. Topics include Black Swans, Gray Rhinos, Foresight, Strategy, Strategies, Business Intelligence, and Intelligent Enterprises. Leadership in the modern age is also a key topic in this domain. Explore Decision Intelligence

Disruptive/Exponential Technology

We track the rapidly changing world of technology with a focus on what leaders need to know to improve decision-making. The future of tech is being created now and we provide insights that enable optimized action based on the future of tech. We provide deep insights into Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cloud Computing, Quantum Computing, Security Technology, and Space Technology. Explore Disruptive/Exponential Tech

Security and Resiliency

Security and resiliency topics include geopolitical and cyber risk, cyber conflict, cyber diplomacy, cybersecurity, nation-state conflict, non-nation state conflict, global health, international crime, supply chain, and terrorism. Explore Security and Resiliency


The OODA community includes a broad group of decision-makers, analysts, entrepreneurs, government leaders, and tech creators. Interact with and learn from your peers via online monthly meetings, OODA Salons, the OODAcast, in-person conferences, and an online forum. For the most sensitive discussions interact with executive leaders via a closed Wickr channel. The community also has access to a member-only video library. Explore The OODA Community.

Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira is research director at OODA. He is a foresight strategist, creative technologist, and an information communication technology (ICT) and digital media researcher with 20+ years of experience directing public/private partnerships and strategic innovation initiatives.