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The Overlooked Key to High-Performing Teams: Collective Situational Awareness

May 17, 2024
Paula Patterson

Even the most talented and driven teams can struggle to achieve their full potential when faced with dynamic, fast-paced environments. The ability to collectively perceive, comprehend, and anticipate changes as they unfold is often an overlooked factor that separates truly high-performing teams from the rest.

This collective cognisance, known as team situational awareness, has emerged as acritical component of high performance according to a recent study published in the Oxford Review. The study found that team situational awareness is a significant and predictive factor for optimal team performance.

The Importance of Team Situational Awareness

Teams with heightened situational awareness operate with unparalleled cohesion and agility. They can swiftly adapt strategies, coordinate responses, and maintain peak performance under pressure. This capability is crucial in high-stakes domains as well as fast-paced business landscapes where teams navigate complex challenges and ever-changing dynamics.

Cultivating Team Situational Awareness

While situational awareness is essential for high performance, it must be actively cultivated through deliberate efforts, including:

  1. Clear and Structured Communication: Frameworks like SNAPPI (Stop, Notify, Assessment, Plan, Priorities, Invite ideas) and SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation) promote shared mental models and avoid critical omissions.
  2. Psychological Safety: An environment where team members feel safe to voice concerns, admit mistakes, and contribute without fear.
  3. Shared Vision and Goals: A unified understanding of objectives, providing direction and accountability.
  4. Complementary Skills and Cognitive Diversity: A balanced mix of technical expertise and diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and ways of thinking. This diversity allows for comprehensive situational awareness and drives innovation by challenging assumptions and generating novel ideas.

By fostering an environment that celebrates cognitive diversity and embraces different viewpoints, teams can enhance their collective situational awareness while unlocking creative problem-solving and innovation. Diverse teams are better equipped to perceive situations from multiple angles, anticipate challenges, and develop innovative solutions that homogeneous groups may overlook.

In today's rapidly evolving landscape, collective situational awareness fuelled by cognitive diversity is no longer a luxury – it's a necessity for sustained high performance, organisational agility, and competitive advantage.

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