This presentation looks at the relationship between the time-scales of OODA loops and the Deep Stories of narrative decision-making. It illustrates how the difference supports each other in the field and how it can influence training.
The physiology of decisions, actions, learning and memory, A Decision/Action Model for Soccer – Pt. 13
A Decision/Action Model for Soccer – Pt. 13
The physiology of decisions, actions, learning and memory
Deep Stories, enacting a spiral curriculum
“This is how the remembering self works: it composes stories and keeps them for
future reference.” 
“ Language is a screen through which we express and perceive meaning… English
is an adjectival language, and for this reason, a difficult language in which to
portray action happening. This is, in part, why it becomes important to tell the
story of action, in the story form, permitting the unfolding experience of action.”
Decision-making is embedded in a story
You can’t see a decision, only the story that’s left behind
“Recall that mental models are constructs that represent our understanding of
classes of situations that are more similar than not. Deep stories, by contrast,
are enactments that create sui generis mental models applying only to one
significant new situation. Simple enactments can unfold on the basis of existing
mental models. Deep stories, however, would be impossible without narrative
rationality. They require us to continuously improvise the background story
while acting. This means constructing the mental model as the enactment
unfolds (learning in the most general sense.) 
“The significance and uniqueness of an enactment depend on your role in it. A
priest may conduct hundreds of weddings, and to him, wedding might be a
routine enactment… From the point of view of the bride and groom, the
wedding may be a deep story…” 
“A story is about significant events and memorable moments… and the ending
often defines its character.” 
“We will adopt the Double Freytag triangle as our canonical
example of the structure of a deep story.” 
“The Double Freytag triangle represents a tractable level of complexity. It is
neither as simple as the basic Freytag triangle, nor as arbitrarily complex as
models of individual deep stories can get (which need only begin and end with a
liminal passage.” 
Double Freytag – Liminal Passages
The bookends to change
“The bookend liminal passages… are the most important elements of the Double Freytag
Triangle… Between the initial and final liminal passages, doctrines and self-archetypes
“During liminal passages, we are caught in the situational emptiness between rich
narrative contexts, so the only thing we can do is indulge in existential musing. The
musing can be either pleasurable or painful, and you can engage in it in either self-aware
or self-indulgent ways.” 
Liminal passages are the safe, comfortable stillness of personal narratives. The area
where being in a groove can become stuck in a rut. While life goes on around us nothing
new engages us. Routines dominate and
normalcy dictates our lives.
The difference between the liminal
passages are what’s between them, how
it’s used and retained. These become
the stories and heuristics kept for
Double Freytag – Opening Liminal Passage
Giving way to suspicion, getting out of the rut
“When this orderly (and pleasant) state is reached the concept becomes a coherent
pattern of ideas and interactions that can be used to describe some aspect of observed
reality. As a consequence, there is little or no further appeal to alternative ideas and
interactions in an effort to either expand, complete, or modify the concept . Instead, the
effort turned inward towards fine tuning the ideas and interactions in order to improve
generality and produce a more precise match of the conceptual pattern with reality.
Toward this end, the concept—and its internal workings—is tested and against observed
phenomena over and over again in many different and subtle ways. 
Such a repeated and inward-oriented effort to explain increasingly more subtle aspects
of reality suggests the disturbing idea that
perhaps, at some point, ambiguities,
uncertainties, anomalies, or apparent
inconsistencies may emerge to stifle a more
general and precise match-up of concept
with observed reality.” 
Suspicion, an emotional gut feeling initiates
the decision to begin searching the
environment for ‘something else, something
new.’ Exploration begins when we sense
that our goals will be soon be violated.
Double Freytag – Exploration
Climbing a hill in search of something
“We’ve identified learning, in the most general sense, as the process of constructing a
mental model from scratch. This process is open-ended and has no goals beyond
hardwired biological ones. It is unsupervised, uncertain, unbounded, unstructured and
mostly unrewarding.” 
“Given these characteristics, it should not be surprising that it is a very disorienting and
stressful phase in a deep story… This is the ‘blooming buzzing confusion’ that William
James speculated.” 
“All such natural exploration behaviors are varieties of random behaviors… The inherent
open-ended randomness of all exploratory behaviors leads to randomness in what is
Exploration is a response to a feeling of
unease or curiosity, the ‘blooming
buzzing confusion’ has our attention.
It’s leads to a myriad of decisions and
actions about what to search for and
where to look. But this constant
searching can’t go on for long.
Exploration needs a stopping rule.
Double Freytag – The Cheap Trick
Finding the leverage point – something to work with
“The moment occurs when you recognize an exploitable pattern in the raw material you
have collected in your exploration. The immediate consequence of this recognition is
drawing of a relevance boundary. Things that conform to the pattern are deemed
relevant and included in the mental model. Things that don’t conform are excluded.
The unexplained chaos in your head separates into exploitable meaning and ignorable
noise… This information is necessarily local in space and time… There is no known
systemic method for triggering a cheap trick.” 
“Every such insight is flawed, since it is based on excluding some part of reality as
noise. This will eventually catch up with you, so the insight merely buys you a certain
amount of time.”  The danger, “For every complex problem there is an answer that
is clear, simple, and wrong.” H.L. Mencken
The cheap trick is the ‘ah-ha’ or ‘oh sh_t’
moment when the data becomes
information, you found the difference
that makes a difference, an idea is born.
But “Timing is critical.”  If you stop
exploration too early or too late “you
will fall victim to either expediency or
perfectionism… the narrative-rational
decision-maker looks for steals and
bargains.”  Close enough will do.
Double Freytag – Sense-making
At last there’s something that makes sense
“A cheap trick is not just an exploitable insight, it is an organizing insight. It serves as a
speck of dust… It allows you to make sense of what you’ve learned.” 
“This is why ‘most compelling (comprehensive) and elegant (compact) story’ is the guiding
heuristic in narrative-rational decision-making. This compression and compaction creates a
mental model where the pieces fit together in a meaningful way…”  It’s a starting point,
“a cleavage term.” 
“Sensemaking involves the ongoing retrospective development of plausible images that
rationalize what people are doing. Viewed as a significant process of organizing, sensemaking unfolds as a sequence in which people concerned with identity in the social context
of other actors engage ongoing
circumstances from which they extract
cues and make plausible sense
retrospectively, while enacting more or
less order into those ongoing
circumstances.” [33, 34]
“Elegant and compelling, however, do not
add up to real… Your mental model has
not yet weathered an encounter with new
Double Freytag – The Valley
“Charging ahead in the dark.” 
“In the valley, you encounter diminishing returns from the organizing capacity of the
cheap trick. As the leverage provided by the cheap trick is exhausted, the enactment
requires increasing amounts of raw energy. You are sustained only by the belief that
you are cheating nature on a grander scale.” 
“The characteristic feature of the valley is decisive action without either reward or
“The valley is the longest and most difficult phase of a deep story, but curiously, it is
hard to say anything about it… In movies about underdogs winning sporting contests,
this is the part that screenwriters skip over lightly, with the help of a montage set to
inspirational music.” 
The plan is coming together but has
yet to be tested against the world.
Optimism and ignorance keep the
project going. The past is based on
the cheap trick and the future on timing
and opportunity. All this is played out
against a running clock, declining energy
and increased waste.
Double Freytag – The Heavy Lift
“We exit the valley with a massive effort of will: the heavy lift”
“If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter to finish a major project… despite doubts, to launch
the product of your efforts into the wider world, you’ve experienced the heavy lift.” 
“A heavy lift is always required in a deep story… the do or die of the effort is what
makes it a deadline. In any consequential situation, the decision to start a heavy lift is
deliberate, not forced.” 
“Like all mental models, the mental model created by the deep story is unstable. It
starts to disintegrate in the absence of a continuous stream of reinforcement through
situational feedback.” 
The model is finally exposed to the
environment. Friction modifies it from
its pure, theoretical tenets to a
constrained reality. Optimism and
ignorance are tempered by experience
and feedback. The opponents
opposition and teammates buy in play
a large role in the finished product.
Finally, as you pay more attention to
what you’re doing serial processing
increases the demand for energy. [12,23]
Double Freytag – The Separation Event
“The externalized mental model is an organic entity…” 
“The separation event is the moment when a significant proportion of the newly created
mental model, along with its momentum, is externalized into the environment, as your
act of creative destruction.” [7,27]
“It is no longer entirely within your control… This moment is commonly referred to as
the moment of truth, since it typically either validates or invalidates the assumptions
underlying… the valley and heavy lift.” 
“Besides being a major and irreversible encounter with reality, the separation event
involves a parting of ways… Through externalization, a part of the mental model…
becomes codified and embedded into a reality upon which others will… imbue with their
own meanings. Beyond the separation
event, we can only choose to participate
in the construction of shared mental
The action is now a part others
experience and new information. Your
private thoughts become part of the
public domain. Your control over
your own creation rapidly fades
Double Freytag – The Retrospective
The road from participation to reification
“In this phase, the decision-maker’s doctrine is… revised, to reflect the morals of the
deep story just experienced. The deep story itself, as a memory, is cast into its final
stable form, in a way that validates the revised doctrine.” 
“Since we rewrite history to support this expedient doctrine, retrospectives can lead to
delusions as easily as… to wisdom.” 
“The retrospective is not the same as a… debrief or assessment that might follow the
accomplishment of (an)… objective. It is the psychological consequence of either
success or failure…” 
At last the action has been vetted
against the environment. It’s now
ready to become a new memory, one
that carries what Rinus Michels calls
“emotional ballast”. It sinks into
history and becomes one more stored
mental model that you have to draw
from for future efforts. Participation
passes into reification.
Double Freytag – Closing Liminal Passage
“As the retrospective tapers off, once again we enter a liminal passage”
“With the benefit of hindsight, the stable memory of the deep story, as well as a
revised doctrine and self-archetype take shape during the retrospective. Whether
your reconstructed memories are delusions or critical histories depends on your
capacity for honest introspection.” 
“Talk is intrinsically problematic because the reconstruction of… activity in retrospect…
begins with the result that is now known, and it is shaped by that knowing.” 
The difference between the opening and closing liminal passages of the deep story
represent a “sui generis mental model.”  The change in elevation between the
liminal passages (double arrow) is due largely to the value of the deep story. Stress and
tension play a role in the value. Not enough, it’s boring. Too much, it’s overwhelming.
Managing this part of player
education is a coaching art. It
requires good fingerspitzengefühl
i.e. expertise in leadership and
Freytag Staircase, accumulating experience
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end” Dan Wilson, Closing Time
“Freytag Staircase: A view [of] a life narrative as a string of deep stories, with each
successive liminal passage being, on average, a little higher than the previous one. The
difference between the initial and final liminal passages in a deep story embedded
within the staircase can be interpreted equally well as doctrinal growth, or decay.”
Freytag Staircase, accumulating experience
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end” Dan Wilson, Closing Time
Some deep stories contribute to a broadening of experience (learning) while others
invalidate previous convictions and doctrines (unlearning). The later is usually disturbing
because it creates a conceptual hole where a model once was. That loss may not be
filled until a new deep story has been enacted.
The Freytag staircase handles the many personal identities that contribute to experience
and memory. Calculative developmental, i.e. closed system models, ignore these or treat
them as little more than inconveniences. The straight line to an optimized goal reflects
the path that teaching curriculums imagine the student will take. The messy path and
uncertain end of the Freytag staircase reflects life as it actually unfolds. Friction, chance
and luck produce anomalies in both the process and product of growth and
The older you get, the fewer Deep Stories you write
Fatigue sets in and doctrine becomes dogma
“In open worlds, understanding is a live, ongoing battle… this ongoing understanding of
the world… weakens over time for any decision-maker with finite capabilities. As we
age, we become more doctrinaire and less capable of open-world learning. Narrativerational decision-makers necessarily age over time.” 
The older we get the more we come to rely on routines. We can begin to live our lives
in a liminal passage rut. Anomalies outside of the norm are missed or dismissed. The
energy to explore the “blooming buzzing confusion” isn’t available or we rationalize the
need away through some previous bias. We’ve ‘seen it all’ and become prisoners of
either System 1, peer pressure - the moral/social system, lethergy or apathy.
The construction of Deep Stories requires hard work from System 2. If it’s not engaged,
we may stay stuck in a liminal passage. When that happens growth, learning and
development are stifled, even stopped. Even in a short run this can have disastrous
How long does it take to live a Deep Story?
Wag Dodge and twelve minutes [22,28,32,33]
“The Freytag staircase helps us to think about cradle-to-grave life narratives.”  But for the
practical purposes of learning we need shorter time-scales. The 1949 Mann Gulch Fire provides a
lesson in how rapidly deep stories can be enacted. [22,28,32,33]
At 5:45 Dodge turns the crew around and they start back up the gulch. He is still in his opening
liminal passage. We have a problem and routine procedure is the best option at this time.
As he moves back up the gulch he becomes suspicious, the fire is gaining and the current
procedure might not get the desired result, safety for himself and his crew. As he walks he begins
to explore other conceptual and environmental options.
At 5:53 Dodge departs from procedure, orders the crew to drop their packs, tools and to pick up
the pace. Suspicion begins to overwhelm the opening liminal passage. Exploration takes on
greater urgency, for some it becomes desperation and panic. A false cheap trick is enacted.
At 5:55 Dodge finds another cheap trick, the fire triangle and makes sense of the situation,
remove a corner. It’s a gamble but the environment is right. He sets the escape fire, a novel
semi-autonomous action. He has less then sixty seconds in the valley before the heavy lift when
he enters the ‘black,’ and the fire reaches his position.
AT 5:57 the fire has passed Dodge but caught thirteen members of his crew, the separation
event. Dodge never fully gets through the retrospective. The Forest Service however, quickly
realizes the product of Dodge’s deep story at the global level. They institutionalize “escape
fires/create the black” as a matter of procedure.
Deep stories help to explain how new archetypes are created but do little to shed light on how,
when or where decisions have been rendered. Furthermore, they require time-scales long enough
to enact the story, something incompatible with adversarial decision-making i.e. 1v1. These
aspects are covered by the shorter time-scales of OODA, LIDA cycles and loops.
OODA’s and LIDA’s, the circulatory system in Deep Stories
Blood, OODA’s, LIDA’s – connective tissues for feed forward and feedback
The OODA and LIDA models are based on models of human cognition. The quotes concern the
LIDA model and the comparisons are mine. Concerning input, time-scales and output I consider
the OODA and LIDA models to be identical due to the genetic constraints of both.
“We propose that human cognition consists of cascading cycles of recurring brain events. Each
cognitive cycle senses the current situation, interprets it with reference to ongoing goals, and then
selects an internal or external action in response… One cognitive cycle would therefore take 260–
390 ms.” [2,12,23]
“Conscious events occur as a sequence of discrete, coherent episodes separated by quite short
periods of no conscious content.” “In the LIDA model, single conscious episodes are discrete but…
not necessarily distinct – a current conscious ‘moment’ can contain percepts from a previous
The carry over of percepts allows two or more cycles to combine into a coherent idea over longer
times; continuity is maintained. [2,12,23] This allows more robust conceptual models to be built by
combining cycles and loops together.
This model does have its upper temporal and information carrying limits. Entropy incurred in the
processing of these cycles and loops, new information and feedback continually degrades/alters
the concept as its being constructed. Mismatches with reality grow. When a loop becomes fatigued
or outdated new cycles/loops can join during the “quite short periods of no conscious content.”
Like breaking into an on-going conversation the model is updated, repaired or replaced on the fly.
OODA’s/LIDA’s are the control systems which never rest
The Deep Story is in command
Every phase of a deep story runs on a longer time-scale than OODA’s/LIDA’s. “Against
such a background, actions and decisions become critically important. Actions must be
taken over and over again and in many different ways. Decisions must be rendered to
monitor and determine the precise nature of the actions needed that will be compatible
with the goal.”  OODA’s/LIDA’s work as the lookouts for the lazy System 2 keeping it
updated as needed. Their shorter time-scale allows them greater sensitivity to changes. It
also allows these short-term “working memories” to be easily disposed of keeping valuable
computational space available for real problems.
Deep stories face two major challenges, changing goals and entropy. For the former the
goals of survive, survive on our own terms, thrive and grow are constrained and influenced
by changing environments, internal and external. A threat one moment/cycle can become
an opportunity the next. This can reverse the course of an action in milliseconds. Entropy
means that each phase of a deep story faces decay without introducing new energy in the
form of work, i.e. new information. Even in quiet times updating needs to be done to
match a changing environment.
Simply doing more of the same thing, or doing it better works for awhile. In the short run
the desireable steady state maybe maintained. This is often the view within an organization
or an internally focused system, don’t fix what ain’t broke. These systems exist in a bubble
and are resistant to change.
Working with time scales
OODA’s-fast and short-lived; Deep Stories-slow and long lasting
OODA’s are sensitive to anything that “engages the spotlight of attention.”  A short list
includes; novelty, relevancy (to the norm or an anomaly), informativeness, problems,
inconsistency (a break in the patterns necessary to maintain the current state), violated
expectations and whatever can’t be dealt with by System 1 (we maybe in over our head).
 Once something new has “engaged the spotlight of attention” System 2 can begin
The difference in time scales between OODA’s and Deep Stories makes this marriage
possible. The shorter time scales of the former allow for quick observation, faster
reorientation, rapid decision-making and action at a small energy cost. These rapid cycles
and loops are rendered at every stage of the deep story. It’s their short time-scale that
makes them invisible when viewed against the longer time-scale of the story itself. We
know that a computer is composed of atoms, but we can’t see them, just the hardware
they make up. This is a short-coming in language.
“Action is seen, as it were, through the prism of ‘a decision…’ It is not a decision but a
sequence of acts of deciding being described as though it were a single decision. Language
is always reducing complexities.” 
Deep Stories, conflict and OODA’s
"War is… an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will.”
Carl von Clausewitz
“In making the final cut of ideas to include in the book, I decided to leave out adversarial
decision-making, so I limited my explicit discussion of the OODA loop to a few passages.
I was surprised to discover just how deeply the ideas in Tempo resonated with OODA.
Though I was using a different vocabulary and exploring decision-making phenomena in
non-adversarial settings, I seemed to have converged on many of the same core
foundational themes, such as entropy, mental models, narratives and of course, tempo
We cannot understand decision-making in soccer without considering an active, hostile
and capable opponent. The opponent will not willing submit to our will. He or she must be
compelled to do our bidding. At the same time they will attempt to compel us to do theirs.
Decision-making resembles a rapid (OODA time-scales) negative feedback loop between
efforts to isolate the opponent and to interact with teammates physically, mentally or
morally against the background of the on-going enactment. Both parties have a say in
how the story unfolds and ends.
Whoever can get the jump on their opponent and operate at a higher tempo (shorter
time-scale) has an advantage. They will be able to shape the deep story as it’s being
enacted. Players who think “what effect can I have on the opponent” will have a
significant mental edge over those who think “what can I do.” The former starts with an
external target, the later with internal capabilities and constraints.
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“I’ll live or die by my own ideas.” Johan Cruyff
Presentation created January 2014 by Larry Paul, Peoria Arizona.
All references are available as stated.
All content is the responsibility of the author.
For questions or to inquire how to arrange a consultation or workshop on this
topic you can contact me at email@example.com, subject line; decision/action
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