Tempo Interview on ‘Smart People Podcast’

I am now officially a “smart person,” since I’ve been interviewed on the Smart People Podcast.

It’s a half-hour interview where I talk with Chris Stemp and Jon Rojas about TempoKinda fun, since it’s the first time I’ve talked about the book in an audio interview format.

Check it out here.


Tempo Review on BoingBoing by Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow has a thoughtful review of the book up at BoingBoing.

But I’ve just picked it up again, and finished it. Why? Because I kept on referring to it in discussions — all sorts of discussions. A critical analysis of a friend’s manuscript for a new book on security; a talk with my agent about the plot of an upcoming novel; a discussion of economics and bubbles; a practical political planning session for an upcoming debate at a party conference. Tempo had stimulated a lot of thinking for me, and I thought it deserved finishing.

So I’ve finished it, and while I very rarely bother to post about books that I can’t wholeheartedly recommend (see “life’s too short,” above), I find myself driven to post a rare mixed review. Tempo may be the most fascinating book whose thesis I couldn’t entirely grasp and whose author I couldn’t wholly follow that I’ve ever read.

Like many other readers, Cory appears to have found the book rather dense, but worth finishing.

Chet Richards’ Review of Tempo on Fabius Maximus

Chet Richards, author of Certain to Win and a close associate of John Boyd just posted a thought-provoking review of Tempo on the Fabius Maximus blog. I get a stamp of approval, overall:

[Tempo] is a synthesis, what Boyd called a “snowmobile,” that combines concepts from across a variety of disciplines to produce a cornucopia of new ideas, insights and speculations.  You may be confused, challenged, outraged, and puzzled (some of the language can be academic), but you’ll rarely be bored because every chapter, often every page, has something you can add to the parts bin for building your own snowmobiles.

Overall, Chet comes to the conclusion that Tempo resonates with the Boydian spirit of decision-making. I don’t entirely get out of jail free though:

Perhaps his unfamiliarity with the original briefings, however, led him to  make one characterization that is incorrect, although widely believed:

The central idea in OODA is a generalization of Butterfly-Bee: to simply operate at a higher tempo than your opponent. (118)

Guilty as charged. I didn’t spend enough time exploring how OODA gets beyond merely “faster tempo” to “inside the adversary’s tempo.” That’s something I hope to explore in a more nuanced way in a future edition. Over the last 6-8 months, I think I’ve come to understand the subtleties a lot better, and the challenge is to now spend more time thinking through clear definitions and examples.

There are several other great suggestions that I am filing away for future use, and things I need to clarify better. I definitely had to leave out more material than I could include in the book, so it is great to have encouragement for follow-on work from a leading steward of the Boydian tradition of decision-making.

Review at Zenpundit.com

Mark Safranksi at zenpundit posted a review of Tempo.

TEMPO is in my view, an important book that deserves to be widely read in the community concerned with strategic theory, professional military education and operational campaign design. Not everything Rao discusses in TEMPO fits with the manner in which strategic discussions are commonly expressed or has immediate application to all questions of tactics or strategy faced by all ranks of soldiers or statesmen. No book could do that and Rao’s scientific background and interests preclude that kind of subcultural intimacy, but TEMPO will sharpen the reader’s awareness of their own thinking and the situational dynamics in which strategic and tactical decision making must occur. TEMPO seeks to clarify and succeeds.

Strongly recommended.