On Spectrums & Dimensions



When The Illinois Model began to take form in the early 2000s police SWAT community in Chicagoland, it didn't take long for me to see a need to add depth and breadth. The very original form was a sense-making and tactical decision-making framework for police officers, 

The earliest form prioritized situational awareness, goal-setting, planning, & implementation. I've slowly transitioned this tiered pyramid below to one (1) axis in a multi-dimensioned model - as indicated by the blue axis above.





I've written quite a bit on this version or dimension of The Illinois Model. I refer to it often as the Strategy axis, where we link Why with How...or goals with tactics. 

When the framework began gaining popularity outside the policing context, I saw that the operating environments should be more clearly articulated. Enter the Predictability axis, where we discuss the controllability, knowability, or repeatability of a situation. We address constraints and the perpetual tension between standardized rules and open, organic creativity. 

When I joined The Virtus Group for a two (2) year stint, the team there helped me with the Rules-Creativity Spectrum:


I've heard comparisons between this spectrum or dimension and Cynefin. Some of the above columns also delve into the depth and breadth that was necessary to fully address the complexity we hoped to navigate. In most of my workshops, this Rules-Creativity Spectrum is condensed to a whiteboard sketch:


But in that colorful infographic above, we also breached the topics of human performance, development, training, education, mentoring, learning, evaluation, and testing.

This added human performance dimension had to factor in stress and learning. One (1) of the aspects was the tension between demands and capabilities:



The key to better performance is better capabilities -- through training, education, simulation, experimentation, mentoring, practice, and any number of other growth methods or theories. And each of these things must be done at the edges of comfort to stretch outside where new learning can occur. What also can happen is the attainment of subconscious competence, such as that we talk about with auto-pilot:



In this Stress or Fitness axis, we can talk about critical, rational, logical, higher-order thinking versus primal, intuitive, pattern-based "decisions." There are certain decisions that we might want to keep in our consciousness rather than relegate to our lizard-brain. We also account for the impact of stress (both good & bad) on human performance -- from a preferred heightened state of arousal/awareness down to dangerous breakdown/degradation of performance. 

So where is The Illinois Model now? 


Can we discuss how we can prepare ourselves for a rigid, technical factory-line type process by positioning our thoughts in a region in space of this 3-dimensional framework? 

How about mentoring our innovators to handle chaotic or unpredictable challenges, yet focused on a higher-order vision? 

How about visualizing the unnecessary demands placed on a team during relatively routine situations -- where appropriately-enacted structures are missing? 

What are the educational methods that can best be used for various environments or functions?

How does predictability factor into the design of policy or operating procedures? 

Are we appropriately prioritizing objectives, strategy, and techniques? 

Are we analyzing our situations for why things are happening? And also forecasting how things may play out?

I visualize this 3-dimensional space to help us answer all of these above questions. It takes spectrums and dimensions to tackle these complex issues. Depth and breadth with little separation, but plenty of volume and capacity. Boundaries and thresholds aren't fluid enough for me. At a very minimum, we need layers or overlays to build in a certain type of richness. 

Lastly, I struggle with the words attached to these depictions and drawings. This framework must contain labels and language for the sake of communication, but the concepts and principles will always be more important than however we try to pigeon-hole these axes' names. 

Can you see the usefulness and universality of The Illinois Model in what it is that you do...as I see it?

Just thinking outloud....

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Lou Hayes, Jr. is a criminal investigations & intelligence unit supervisor in a suburban Chicago police department. With a passion for training, he studies human performance & decision-making, creativity, emotional intelligence, and adaptability. Follow Lou on Twitter at @LouHayesJr or on LinkedInHe also maintains a LinkedIn page for The Illinois Model.

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