Situational Awareness: Passive or Active?

Are you positioning yourself to see all there is to see, as quickly as it can be seen? 

When I talk with most folks about Situational Awareness, they mention phrases like:
  • being aware of your surroundings; 
  • know what's happening around you; 
  • observing things that stick out. 
These behaviors or characteristics aren't wrong. However, they do bring out a certain flavor of passivity. It's as if the person is passively monitoring their environment as a receptor of stimuli. It's, in a way, a defensive way of opening oneself up to receive information, whenever that information decides to reveal itself. In short, information comes to you.

What if we looked at a different posture of situational awareness? 

What if we became more active in our pursuit of information? 

What if we went on the offense to hunt out information? 

What if we pulled information early, as opposed to waiting for it to be pushed to us? 

What if we purposely increased the channels, scans, alerts, sensors, triggers to allow more information or stimuli to flow into our view? Do we hold the bandwidth to process it all? How would we deal with the avalanche of too much information? How would we filter out the noise? 

How do we ensure that the information that we are seeking is significant? What channels are most reliable? Most clear? What summaries are the most accurate, unbiased, most harmonious with reality? 

What if we tapped into our personal networks to learn how those people receive information? Who seems to be the most well-informed? Who is finding things out faster than the rest of the herd? Who is making sense faster than their peers? 

How can we increase the situational awareness of our people? How is information shared? How do we (or can we) share mental models? How do our organizations turn loads of data and information into intelligence that helps us stay informed? 

It seems to me that there are people who are consistently ahead of the curve. They seem to know where to look, how to seek, when to probe, who to ask, what is important. They make sense before others. They are in-the-know. And they position themselves, as hockey player Wayne Gretzky has said, "where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been."

If you sit back watching passively, you will never catch up with those actively pursuing the same. They will assemble patterns before you even have the pieces of the puzzle.

If you want faster OODA Loops, you've gotta make sure you're seeing early. Fast trips through OODA means that we must move through all the possible pathways of OODA with a certain greased efficiency.

Are you positioning yourself to see all there is to see, as quickly as it can be seen?


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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