Discover more from Krzysztof 'Chris' Daniel
Have we mixed the process with the result?
Situational Awareness means much less than we thought.
A meta-analysis of studies on the validity of situational awareness for performance found that, on average, situational awareness has a weak correlation with performance, but there are large variations among effects1. The paper goes as far as suggesting that existing research should be revised.
And I do have an opinion about that.
It is possible to measure situational awareness for a pilot, a firefighter or a doctor because they are supposed to use proven information-gathering strategies and predictably arrive at the same conclusion.
When we speak about situational awareness, we think about a mental model, which is the end conclusion. When pilots are evaluated for their situational awareness, we measure deviations between their current and desired thinking. The bigger the gap, the lower situational awareness, and the bigger are expected errors.
In business, it does not work that way.
There is no golden mental model against which we can measure our own models.
Moreover, we cannot process the world's complexity, so we have to use approximations. Always. This means that there is always a gap between our understanding and how things really are. And because the world is non-linear, even tiny differences can have a big impact.
The only thing that matters is whether you are getting the results that you want, and if not, how quickly and at what cost can you recover.
I deeply believe that Situational Awareness is not a mental model of the situation, but an exploration strategy that minimises the cost of undesired consequences.
It is not about the mental model but how efficiently you arrive at it.
Therefore, if you want to improve your situational awareness because you are not getting the results you want, ask yourself two questions:
what could I have done to discover this earlier?
what should I do to make potential undesired consequences more acceptable?