Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Turning Information into Knowledge

(Photo credit: Langwitches.org)
"To make sound and timely decisions, fire leaders assess the situation, seek out relevant information, weigh options, make judgments, and initiate action as required to create a positive outcome within inevitable time constraints." (Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 30)
It seems humans have always had more information than they could process. The type of information and volume may have changed, but the reality is we have always had to analyze information to make sound and timely decisions. The things that have changed are the technology and methods we use to obtain and filter information. Our inability to filter information may lead to a loss of situation awareness and an inaccurate view of the current reality.

Information and Situation Awareness

In Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, we define Situation Awareness (SA) as "how well perception matches reality. Everyone starts with an initial perception of any given situation and then continuously updates it with new information. People gather information through both observation, which includes input from the senses, and communication, which includes face-to-face conversation, written comunication, and radio or telephone exchanges.

Simply paying attention is an important part of maintaining good situation awareness, but even more important is determining what to pay attention to. All perceptions are subject to filtering and focusing: people constantly filter information and shift focus. People also produce a lot of internal inputs such as thoughts about what to do next, stress, memories of similar experiences, fear. Those with more experience in an environment often can more easily filter out distractions and unimportant details and focus on the most salient information. [pp. 31-32]

Overcoming Information Overload through Collective Curation 

Fire leaders want as much information as they can get in order to make a sound and timely decision. The inability to filter information decrease the amount of time fire leaders have to make those decisions. Effective fire leaders learn to filter information and surround themselves with individuals tasked with filtering information. Individuals who make decisions in a "bubble" or "vacuum," may subject themselves, their people, and the communities they serve to unnecessary risk and serious consequences.

Check out this short video on collective curation...

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge

We challenge fire leaders to
  • Be open to the views and perspectives of others. 
  • Develop collective curation teams to filter what can seem like information overload. 
  • Assess your filtering systems to ensure that a broken filter does not exist. 
  • Turn information into knowledge.

Digging a Little Deeper

Carl Shirky gives us his perspective of the information overload/filter failure debate and a glimpse into a possible paradigm shift regarding education and information.

No comments: