DADA Loop: How to Think Like a Spy

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Spies have to think better than everyone. The consequences of their thinking results in war, death, injury, torture, prison and chaos. They’re always prepared for the worst. That’s why it’s smart to think like a spy.

DADA loop is one of the most popular ways of thinking like a spy. DADA stands for data, analysis, decision and action. The model is a remix of the famous military strategist, John Boyd’s OODA Loop.

Gathering data → feeds into analysis → which feeds into decision → which feeds into an action. — John Braddock

The DADA Loop

A man confronts John at the back of a subway car early in the morning. He tells John to give him his phone.

There’s a camera in the subway car. Clothes are shabby. His eyes are dancing. He’s not focused and not prepared for this moment.

This guy is not a spy. He’s probably a mugger. I don’t want to be caught fighting on surveillance.

I’m going to stand up.

Put phone in pocket. Stand up.


Mugger doesn’t respond.

Mugger is unphased.

I’m going to move to the side.

Move to the side.

The mugger moves to the side to block John. He grabs John, head-butts him and walks away laughing.

John used the DADA loop repeatedly and didn’t overreact. He avoided losing his phone and blowing his cover. He overcame a difficult situation with a simple way to think.

Read more about the DADA loop in John Braddock’s A Spy’s Guide to Thinking

Listen to the full story on NPR below.

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Entrepreneur, product advisor and breakfast taco fanatic based in Nashville.

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