Book Review: Warrior Mindset

Fighting wars, policing the community and saving lives and protecting property is hugely important. The fates of our nation and our communities, often rests on the mental toughness skills of our peacekeepers, law enforcement and emergency responders. The Warrior Mindset is a new exploration of thought when confronted with stressful situations.  It begins with the observation that up to 90% of a successful performance is attributed to psychological skills. It’s not simply physical-ability that gets an individual through a stressful incident, but the mental attitude of the individual involved. The authors, all authorities in the field, contend that what is missing from today’s warriors is the ability to master their own minds. The following quote in the book from General Patton says it all:

“If you are going to win any battle, you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do …”

The book offers a why, how and what approach to mental toughness, designed for use in any stressful situation. Why are some soldiers, airmen, policemen or firefighters far more effective than others? The Warrior Mindset examines the mind and body under stress and seeks to explain it.

The Warrior Mindset is an absolute must-read for anyone trying to survive in a complex and dangerous environment.

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Streetlights and Shadows: 10 claims about how we think.

How do people think in shadowy conditions where ambiguity rises and situations change rapidly? Klein believes that many of us have set beliefs on how to perform is these situations. Beliefs that may not be accurate. He has identified 10 claims that may mislead us into believing that we are thinking more effectively.

Following are the 10 claims that Klein uses to build his book. What are your opinions to each claim? You may be surprised with his answers.

1. Teaching people procedures helps them perform tasks more skillfully.
2. Decision biases distort our thinking.
2a. Successful decision makers rely on logic and statistics instead of intuition.
3. To make a decision, generate several options and compare them to pick the best one.
4. we can reduce uncertainty by gathering more information.
5. It’s bad to jump to conclusions – wait to see all the evidence.
6. To get people to learn, give them feedback on the consequences of their actions.
7. To make sense of a situation, we draw inferences from the data.
8. The starting point for any project is to get a clear description of the goal.
9. Our plans will succeed more often if we ID the biggest risks and find ways to eliminate them.
10. Leaders can create common ground by assigning roles and setting ground rules in advance.

What I'm Reading Right Now – Streetlights and Shadows

Photo by Tim Olk

I am researching decision making to prepare for my next Firefighter-360 columns. I have read other books and several articles by Gary Klein about how people make decisions and cognitive task analysis. I find it interesting, and maybe the most important area for improvement in the fire service. We need to get better at “bringing thinking to action.”

Do we make decisions with our gut or should we analyze every option? It depends! Klein offers realistic ideas about real-life situations.

The book begins with this story:

A policeman saw a drunk searching for something under a streetlight. “What have you lost, my friend?” the policeman asked. “My keys,” said the drunk. The policeman then helped the drunk look  and finally asked him: “Where exactly did you drop them?” “Over there, ” responded the drunk, pointing toward a dark alley. The policeman then asked: “Why are you looking here?” The drunk immediately replied, “Because the light is so much brighter here.”

Decision by Data

We seem to place a lot of importance on data (numbers, charts, graphs, etc.) these days. We tend make many decisions by comparing numbers and graphs from spreadsheets or charts. We ask ourselves, “What does it show me today?” Or sometimes, we look for what we want it to show us. We ask the data to help us prove our point.

Is data enough to tell us what’s going on, or what may happen? What do the numbers really mean? What do the charts and graphs really show? Should we just make our decisions based on data?

There may be more than meets the eye when it comes to numbers, pie charts or graphs. We should always step back and take another look at the intent and purpose of the data we are gathering. Following are a few good questions from the Root Cause Analysis Blog to help keep us on track when using data in our decision-making equation:

  • Where did the numbers come from?
  • What were the numbers originally designed to measure?
  • Are these numbers the same set of behaviors and tasks or are they independent?
  • Were the numbers created with limited bias and not driven by a reward or discipline factor?
  • Are these numbers occurring frequently or is this intermittent and infrequent data?
  • Finally, do you understand your numbers and does the boss know what the numbers mean when you show the charts and trends or lack of trends?

Using data can help us make more effective and efficient decisions, but the quality of those decisions is based on the first step: defining the problem to be solved. Data helps us ask the right questions; it does not provide the answers. We should use data for what it is, a part of the decision-making equation combined with listening to the input from the people on the front lines, the most important part of the decision equation.

Making decisions based on data is very common for all of us. But does the data tell us everything? Does the data show all of the variables or impact on the organization, process, or our people? What is our purpose for collecting the data and how do we intend to use it? How do we conclude that the decisions made were effective and efficient for the people, the organization, and our purpose?

Of Related Interest:

Are you in an Information Bubble?

We are exposed to lots of information today that can either challenge or broaden our worldview. Listen to Eli Pariser explain how information is tailored to each of us and the dangerous unintended consequences that go with it: we get trapped in a “filter bubble” and don’t get exposed to new information.

Rapid Decision Making: Coup d’oeil (intuition) helps answer “What to do?”

Coup d’oeil, or intuition, is the commander’s ability to recognize the truth of the situation, or in other words, a very high level of situational awareness (What’s the story here? What can I do?). How do we make decisions in complex and dangerous environments, such as the one in the video below of a building on fire with occupants still inside?

I offer the following 3 takeaways to consider when viewing the story below:

1.      Making critical decisions depends on 4 factors: information, experience, knowledge, and urgency (there’s no doubt that the sense of urgency found in this situation (people trapped on the second floor of a building on fire)) is the important link driving the question, “What do we do first?”

2.      Understanding and practicing sensemaking will help bring order to chaos. It all starts with noticing and [bracketing] the real problem (prioritizing), which will help guide the decision maker’s response to the situation. This sensemaking ability is acquired through previous work, training, and life experience.

3.      Training adaptive leaders to think clearly, to make better decisions, in dynamic and challenging environments will produce safer and more effective outcomes. Leaders must be able to think while performing: assessing the situation, scanning for information, dealing with individuals under stress (in this case, the firefighters, the trapped civilians, and the civilians on the street), and managing the multiple activities of a complex plan (what to do with what we have).

Watch this video of a building fire in Brooklyn, NY before the FDNY arrives. People are at the second floor windows, yelling for help with smoke venting around them.

With your fire department response and your firefighting crew, what would you do first? Note that even the bystanders on the street made a decision to do something; they carried a large mattress over for someone to jump onto. They used their intuition to make a decision of “what they could do with what they had.”

Video retrieved from STATter 911. Pre-arrival video: People waiting at windows at Brooklyn All-Hands.

Of Related Interest:

What is Sensemaking?

What is sensemaking, and how can it make a difference in our lives?

In our complex and fast-forward world, we are constantly challenged to make sense of our environment. Faced with unknowable and chaotic situations, we easily become immersed in trying to find out how this happened or who was responsible, in turn leading us to in-action.

Leaders in high-risk organizations such as firefighting, medicine, law enforcement, and the military are often confronted with making sense of dangerous, highly ambiguous, and rapidly changing environments. While most leadership research is focused on more stable conditions that promote time-challenged theories, sensemaking is a way to quickly and effectively materialize meaning to inform and act on.

Sensemaking provides a grounded process that enables leaders to perform effectively during extreme events. It is not just a decision-making tool, but a way to open our eyes and reframe a situation into a question of meaning. Themes related to trust, situational awareness, agility, knowledge, and high-reliability highlight the collective sensemaking process that brings sense back into an ambiguous situation. Sensemaking organizes ambiguity.

Making sense out of our experience in the world is a compelling task. Most of us are just trying to answer two simple questions, “What’s the story here?” and “Now what?” Sensemaking has been around since the early 1970’s and the research has produced several applications, including organizational, educational and social approaches. The study of sensemaking has even lead to the creation of changemaking, but that’s for a later discussion.

The focus of my study is on the use of sensemaking to become better leaders in complex and chaotic environments. Follow me as I explore sensemaking and how we can apply it to our leadership practices. I like to say that, “Good sense makes better sense than common sense.” Good Sensemaking may help us bring thinking to action, leading us to safer and better performance, and better outcomes.

Whether leading in high-stakes business operations or in dangerous environments, how do you make sense of challenging situations?

Of Related Interest:

Where good ideas come from / TED: Ideas worth spreading

Humantific: Making sense of Cross-Disciplinary Innovation Now!

High-Reliability Organizing at Wildfire Lessons Learned Center