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The Importance of Situational Awareness

In search of a central cause of corporate crisis? Look no further than a lack of situational awareness, a systemic issue across industry. But for such an important concept, it’s not that well understood. And so here’s a primer on situational awareness that answers why exactly companies need to improve theirs.

In its origins, situational awareness is a military concept. It still is actually. It’s just also migrated over to crisis management. Not overly technical in nature, situational awareness simply means being more aware of your surroundings. Easy enough, right? Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that.

That’s because to be really aware of your surroundings, you need to be able to clearly observe what’s going on, orient yourself to the situation, and then process (or assess) events as they unfold in context. In other words, situational awareness is what helps you answer the following questions:

  • What’s going on?
  • Why is it going on?
  • What’s going to happen next?
  • What can I do about it?
  • (Then, more precisely) What tools can I bring to bear to solve the problem?

You can see from that list of questions why situational awareness is highly relevant in corporate crisis management. Important to note also that situational awareness is just as crucial in ensuring that lower-level critical issues don’t boil over into crisis events. Research in crisis management tells us that a lot of the problems businesses encounter during the emergency phase of crisis happens when an organization tries to help a victim. That’s when individuals find themselves in highly novel and ambiguous situations and are most in need of situational awareness.

At the end of the day, situational awareness is all about being able to access the right mix of information, so you can make the best decision – on an individual, team, and/or organizational level. This isn’t too dissimilar to how situational awareness works in the military context, where more of it helps produce better combat decision making. 

Often during a crisis though, the bias towards organizational silos, which limits information sharing, takes over. Habits die hard after all, especially during an emergency. Corporate cultures that don’t address that kind of bias, i.e. those that resist information-sharing and restrict situational awareness, find themselves woefully unprepared for crisis.

Luckily, some crisis and incident management solutions help teams prepare for crisis by enhancing situational awareness. How do they do that – by giving teams a single, integrated system capable of tackling critical issues and crises in real time. What’s more, those solutions can offer chat, impact, assessment, communication, and planning functionality within the same package – that enables companies to provide updates and alerts to employees, thereby increasing their situational awareness during a crisis.


For more resources from Noggin, visit our Resources Center