Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Developing Situational Awareness Part 1

I talk a lot about situational awareness and paying attention. Especially pertaining to defense and security. I talk to my family about it until they have tuned me out. I want them to know and understand what situational awareness is and what to do to develop it. In this series we’ll talk about and try to explain situational awareness in more detail and how to develop it further.
To help understand this awareness we’ll use the OODA loop which we all use every day. As we go through out our day we Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. In competition or combat the one who goes through the OODA Loop correctly the fastest, usually wins. The First step is Observe.
Hone your observation skills by playing the A-Game. Here’s a game you can play with your kids called the “A-Game,” or Awareness Game, to help them (and yourself) strengthen your observational skills. To play, when you go into a business, make note of a few things about your environment: the number of workers behind the counter, the clothing and gender of the person sitting next to you, how many entry/exits there are, etc. When you leave and get into the car to head home, ask your kids questions like “How many workers were behind the counter?” “Was the person sitting next to us a man or a woman?” “What color was his/her shirt?” “How many exits were there?”
It’s fun to play, but more importantly it’s training your kids (and you) to be more mindful of their surroundings.
Master memorization. Another fun activity that will help improve your situational awareness is to practice memorizing things. Remember the scene in the Jason Bourne movie where Jason knew all the license plate numbers of the cars outside the diner? You can gain this skill by practicing with a deck of cards, or strings of numbers. It’s not as hard as you think.
What if you could play a game of cards with your buddies and recall every card that had been played? You can.
What if you could meet a client today and six months later see him at a football game and recall his name along with his wife’s and kids’ names? You can.
What if you could look at a 50 digit number for 90 seconds and then repeat the number forwards and backwards from memory? You can.
So how do you master your memory to this level? By utilizing a simple system of mental maps, you will be amazed at the amount of knowledge you will be able to store.
Here’s how to begin:
1. Select 5 rooms in your home or office.
2. In each room, number 5 large items. Number these items 1-25. The first item in the first room is #1, the first item in the second room is #6, the first item in the third room is #11, and so on. For example: Bedroom–1. desk, 2. bed, 3. tv, 4. dresser, 5. computer…Bathroom-6. toilet 7. window, 8. shower, 9. sink, 10. towel rack…etc. Remember, this is just an example. You want to select the pieces of furniture in the way they flow around your particular room.
3. Practice saying these pieces of furniture and their corresponding numbers over and over until it becomes second nature to say them forwards or backwards. We will refer to these pieces of furniture as “files.”
4. Now whenever you wish you to recall something, turn it into a picture and imagine it interacting with this piece of furniture.
Let’s say that you want to memorize all the Super Bowl winners. Once you have your files (the pieces of furniture) memorized, the next item of business is to turn whatever you wish to recall into a picture.
So you would be looking at a list that looks like this:
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Green Bay Packers
3. New York Jets
4. Kansas City Chiefs
5. Baltimore Colts
6. Dallas Cowboys
7. Miami Dolphins
8. Miami Dolphins
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
In order to remember anything, it must be an image that you can imagine. For example, if you wanted to recall the number 593787, it might be tough to recall. But a photo album with a coffee cup in it would be easy to remember. That is my picture for 593787. For now, lets address turning the football teams into pictures, a much simpler task that turning 593787 into an image.
What could you picture for the Green Bay Packers? Perhaps packaging. Coming up with an image for the Jets is easy–just picture an airplane jet. For the Chiefs, you would picture an Indian chief. The Colts would be a horse and the Cowboys a cowboy. This is pretty simple actually when you’re dealing with teams.
Now this is where it gets fun. Take each of these images and place them mentally around your 25 files in chronological order. For example, since the Packers won the first Super Bowl, imagine someone packaging a box on your number one file. To use the example above, you would picture someone packaging a box on top of your desk. The more action/emotion you can put into this image, the better chances you will recall it later. On your number two file, or your bed, you would also see packaging. On your number three file, you would imagine a jet landing or crashing into your tv. For your fourth file, you could imagine an Indian chief sitting on your dresser.
To memorize all the Super Bowl winners, you will need at least 45 files, but that is easy enough to mentally construct by simply selecting more rooms in your home (or other buildings and selecting 5 items in each). Because you are placing 5 files in each room, you should be able to memorize the numbers of your files rapidly.
The rationalization of 5 in a room, is that if you want to know what the 15th Superbowl winner was, it might take a minute to figure it out if you had 4 files in one room, 6 in another, and 9 in another. However, if there are 5 in a room, it is very easy. All you need to do is mentally jump to the 15th file in your home, or the last item in your third room, and you will see it getting raided by bandits, and this tells you the Oakland Raiders won Super Bowl 15.
Now whenever you wish to remember the whole list of teams, you simply mentally walk through your house, and imagine yourself looking at each piece of furniture–and its corresponding team–as you go from room to room.
This system can be used to memorize anything from 50 digit numbers, business presentations, chapters of books, college homework, product knowledge, or even sports team champions.
When I was a young Boy Scout I liked playing certain games. Basketball, capture the flag, and Kim’s game. You may recognize the first 2 games I mentioned, but maybe not the 3rd. Kim’s game.
This game was taken by Baden Powell (the founder of the Boy Scout movement) from Rudyard Kipling's book for boy's "Kim". This is the story of the orphan son of an Irish soldier in India who grew up among the native boys and was later trained for government intelligence work. The training began by showing Kim a tray of precious stones and gems for a minute's observation, then covering it, and asking Kim how many stones and what kind they were.
At first Kim could remember only a few, but soon, by practice, he was able not only to say exactly how many, but to describe the stones. Then he practiced with other articles, and ultimately was able to glance to see all sorts of details of items that were of value in tracing and dealing with criminals.
In its commonly used form, 24 articles of different kinds -- a key, a pocket knife, a CD, a coin, a marble, a comb etc. -- are placed on a table and covered with a cloth. The player steps up to the table, the cloth is removed for exactly one minute; the player looks, endeavoring to remember as many as possible, and the player writes down as many as they can remember.
As with Kim, the purpose of this is to develop the faculty for observation and memory.
If you’re like me you are probably the one that sits in the “gunfighter” seat at a restaurant. (Back to the wall, near an exit, good view of the front door.) Your family probably doesn’t do this as often as you would like. I try to emphasize safety and security and I am often met with lots of eye-rolling. I don’t really have a problem with that, but if you experience certain things, you tend to be more cautious. I’ve had training and experiences that drive me to be careful.
This why I play Kim’s game with them once in a while. This helps them to develop and keep a sense of awareness and observation. In other words, situational awareness.
Next we’ll discuss orientation.
Semper Paratus
Check 6

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