Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Are Your Senses Tricking You?

Situation Awareness Cycle: Observation and Communication (input). Gather information, change, perception, no change, repeat. (cycle around an eye)
Making Sound and Timely Decisions

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.

The cornerstone of good decision making is good situation awareness. Leaders can increase their decision space by attaining and maintaining good situation awareness. Decision space is simply the amount of time that a decision maker has for considering options before reaching a required decision point.

Leaders can optimize their decision space by using time efficiently. Seeking advance information in new situations or utilizing standard operating procedures for routine tasks are examples of techniques that make good use of available time.

In the wildland fire environment, decisions have serious consequences and often can have life-or-death implications for others. With so much on the line, we have a responsibility to understand the decision-making process—the components, the flow, the effect of time— and to develop the skills and confidence that enables us to make the best decision possible with the information and time available.

Situation Awareness is depicted as a cycle because the situation and people’s perceptions are constantly changing. This internal cycle continues as long as people are awake.

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 communication, 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.

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge - Digging a Little Deeper

So how difficult it is to attain and maintain situation awareness? How does our body and its senses play into decision making?

We challenge you to see "dig a little deeper" into the concept of cognitive dissonance and see your your senses may be tricking you into a false sense of security and/or reality.
  • Watch Ash Donaldson's TEDxCanberra video on cognitivie dissonance and ask yourself the following questions:
    • What limitations does cognitive dissonance have on maintaining situation awareness?
    • Are you a victim of cognitive dissonance? 
    • What negative behaviors are you rationalizing? 

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