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:

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

  1. This topic is so true; with the amalgamation of knowledge, experience, information, and urgency, decisions will be made accordingly. In my opinion, there’s always something that we could do better after every call; however, as long as the objective is meet, we can saunter away feeling proud and humbled, because there’s always more knowledge to gain to do our jobs even better the next time around. The better our sensemaking becomes, the more efficient we can operate. Thanks for the article!