June 07, 2016

I wasn't aware of that

This is precisely the claim that I have heard so many times, and have also used so many times, regretfully. The situational awareness workshop triggered this thought, alongside jogging several memories and recollections of this year as well as my entire life. The workshop was based around information gathering, interpretation and anticipation of the future. Of course this sounds so very simple, but this is actually quite hard, if done properly and correctly. As a result, we are often prone to so falling victim to errors of all sorts.

One of the biggest source of errors is in the gathering of information, which falls into four categories: information not being available, information not being observed, information being difficult to detect and memory errors. Errors are further caused by incorrect mental models and the failure to anticipate future events. I link this to the concepts I learnt with regards to robust decision making processes. A lot of errors or faults in judgement are as a result of individual biases. These are a result of beliefs formed in our childhoods and early teenage years, consequently forming our core values and beliefs. They influence our personalities and can, as an effect, also play a part in errors from incorrect mental models. Our experiences have formed a picture of expectation of how a situation is to be, or turn out, which makes us, as individuals, respond in a default manner. It is thus highly essential to be aware that this can happen and not to take things for granted, or be overconfident (a source of bias in itself).

In my opinion, the greatest source of error is that in information gathering, and is as a result of the process being subjective to the judgement of the collector. If individual biases are playing on the mind and leading to other biases such as confirmation bias, the information being collected will involve biases and hence errors. It is therefore so important that we always have a method of preventing this from happening, such as a mechanism in place to check that the data is reliable and can therefore be replicated. Being an engineer and having performed several experiments, this is the different between accuracy and reliability. Another source of error is what was discussed as ‘buddy-buddy training’, which involves one person transferring his/her tacit knowledge onto the next generation. In organisations, this is an intangible asset, which cannot be replaced nor replicated. If one manager is going to leave his role, or an experienced technician leaving as well, all the knowledge gathered in their experiences will not have been documented. They exist in the form of tacit knowledge. It is of great use to the company that the next generation is able to make use of this information in order to ensure sustainable productivity. However, care must be given that this doesn’t go wrong. This can be because of incorrect information being passed on, or short-cuts handed over or duplicated. This is an example of mentor training gone wrong.

Back to being aware of information, several times I say I don’t know something or where can I find something. This information is most often available to me, only I haven’t bothered to truly search for it. After all, all the information in the world is available out there for anyone to access at any time. I find myself criminal to this, especially when building things. I never look at the manual, and then complain when I something goes wrong. This is an example of information not being observed.

To finish off, it is so easy to identify situations where things could have been done better. The real skill is noticing this before it happens, the anticipation. Looking back, so many times I could have shared or used knowledge that I had somewhere inside my brain to prevent something from happening, however minor. But divulging and using this seemed to not be of urgency. And then comes the realisation that I could have done something to prevent it.. Why didn’t I think of that??


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