Afer heavily revising my original work tying together the OODA loop to creativity, it has become clear that the project will involve much more than a few references in another paper. So I’m removing it from my current draft, but (for posterity) here were my final thoughts on Creativity in the context of OODA, at least before my work on the taxonomies of creativity changed my perspective.
The OODA loop was originally described to assist in understanding the nature of creativity (Coram, 2002). Creative thoughts, according to Boyd (1992), “permit us to rematch our mental/physical orientation [with the outside world] and grow” in the world (24). Before individuals can be creative, they must be experts. This requires reorientation. However, reorientation that leads to creativity is difficult because expertise requires considerable practice outside of an educational setting. Fortunately, educational psychology’s initial work on dual processing presents a way forward.
Modern research views creativity as a subset of expertise. This formulation is expanded on at length in Herbert Simon’s exploration of creativity in the arts and sciences . Expertise is defined by strong problem solving ability in a particular field, meaning quick scanning of a problem space for any of a large number of remembered patterns (Simon, 2001). Expertise tends to require more than ten years to develop, and a narrowness of focus that can involve both personal and intellectual sacrifices including slowed or reduced growth in other fields that are not focused on or practiced (Simonton, 2003).
The importance of reorientation in creativity is stressed by a recent overview of the growing literature on cognitive load. For instance, van Merrienboer & Sweller (2005) write that “expertise comes from knowledge stored in [long term memory] schemata, not from an ability to engage in reasoning with many elements that have not been organized in long-term memory. Human working memory simply is not able to process many elements” (149-150). Similarly, Sweller (2004) describes how random variations in ideas are necessary for creative products to be new, and not mere memories. The product of such thinking is “change via novelty” (20). Likewise, cognitive load describes originality is seen as random variations in the expression of long-term memory, and original ideas are kept or lost depending on their fitness in the landscape of thought (Sweller, 2004; van Merrienboer & Sweller, 2005). Yet as randomness in thought is assumed to be constant among all individuals, what makes those new ideas more likely to be useful is whether they are grounded in an orientation rich in relevant long term memory.
The scale of the difficult in encouraging creativity is gleaned from a recent discussion on minimal guidance instruction (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006). Directly addressing the question of discovery-based styles of instruction, Kirschner and colleagues distinguish expert from novice operating styles. Summarizing research on the expert/novice divide, the authors conclude that attempting to become an expert by replicating the style of experts is not a productive strategy. Yet in an increasingly complex world where many learners will go on to perform tasks that do not currently exist, some form of discovery-based learning will be necessary for the development of expertise in these fields of the future. The task of the educator is not enviable.
Fortunately, educational psychology’s early approaches to dual processing show the way forward. Motivation and good attitude, focused on by Sinatra (2005) and Gregorie (2005), provide an approach that will encourage learners to continue their own reorientation long after they leave the classroom. To put it simply, motivation leads to more practice, more practice loads to more expertise, and more expertise leads to more creativity. In creativity as with other fields of educational psychology, dual processing and OODA do not overturn what we already know. Rather, the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act dual-processing cycle enrich what educational psychology has already discovered about providing the best education possible to our learners.
Boyd, J.R. (1992). The conceptual spiral. Retrieved October 1, 2007, from Belisarius. Web site: http://www.d-n-i.net/boyd/pdf/intro.pdf.
Coram, R. (2002). Boyd: The fighter pilot who changed the art of war. New York: Back Bay Books.
Gregorie, M. (2003). Is it a challenge or a threat? A dual-process model of teachers’ cognition and appraisal process during conceptual change. Educational Psychology Review, 15(2), 147-179.
Kirschner, P.A., Sweller, J., Clark, R.E. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75-86.
Simon, H.A. (2001). Creativity in the arts and sciences. In Cultures of creativity: The centennial celebrations of the Nobel Prizes. Kenyon Review, Spring, 23(2), 203-220.
Simonton, D.K. Expertise, competence, and creativity ability: The perplexing complexities. (2003). In The Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise (R.J. Sternberg & E. Grigorenko, Eds.) New York: Cambridge University Press.
Sinatra, G.M. (2005). The “warming trend” in conceptual change research: The legacy of Paul R. Pintrich. Educational Psychologist, 40(2), 107-115.
Sweller, J. (2004). Instructional Design Consequences of an Analogy between Evolution by Natural Selection and Human Cognitive Architecture. Instructional Science, 32(1/2), 9-31.
van Merrienboer, J.J.G. & Sweller, J. (2005). Cognitive load theory and complex learning: Recent developments and future directions. Educational Psychology Review, 17(2), 147-177.