Focus, Dwight, FOCUS!!!

On the stepper at the gym I usually read the FT. Tonight I did something I don’t do frequently (enough) I took a bunch of things I’d surfed and downloaded .

First up, a poorly written wikipedia article about “The Theory of Communicative Action,” Jurgen Habermas’s 1981 book. But it’s still illuminating, with one of those tri-partite distinctions I like so much-

three further types of discourse that can be used to achieve valid results in addition to verbal argument: these are the Aesthetic, the Therapeutic and the Explicative.

1. Aesthetic discourses work by mediators arguments bringing us to consider a work or performance which itself demonstrates a value. “A work validated through aesthetic experience can then in turn take the place of an argument and promote the acceptance of precisely those standards according to which it counts as an authentic work.(TCA1 p20)

2.Therapeutic discourse is that which serves to clarify systematic self-deception. Such self-deceptions typically arise from developmental experiences, which have left certain rigidities of behaviour or biases of value judgment. These rigidities do not allow flexible responses to present time exigencies….

3.Explicative discourse focuses on the very means of reaching understanding – the means of (linguistic) expression. Rationality must include a willingness to question the grammar of any system of communication used to forward validity claims. The question of whether visual language can put forward an argument is not broached by Habermas.

Next up I read the wikipedia entry on “Project Management“. Lots of graphs and diagrams that I am going to have to try to absorb and adopt for Work Purposes.

Then the real fun begins, with,“The Evolution of Crew Resource Management Training in Commercial Aviation”, a 1999 article by Robert L Helmreich and John A Wilhelm, from the International Journal of Aviation Psychology. It does what it says on the tin, and bigs up the idea of selling CRM to recalcitrant individuals and cultures by emphasising “error management”.

Here’s the abstract-

Changes in the nature of CRM training in commercial aviation are described, including its shift from Cockpit to Crew Resource Management. Validation of the impact of CRM is discussed. Limitations of CRM, including lack of cross-cultural generality are considered. An overarching framework that stresses error management to increase acceptance of CRM concepts is presented. The error management approach defines behavioral strategies taught in CRM as error countermeasures that are employed to avoid error, to trap errors committed, and to mitigate the consequences of error.

Apparently “the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB, 1979) had singled out the captain’s failure to accept input from junior crewmembers (a characteristic sometimes referred to as the “Wrong Stuff”) and a lack of assertiveness by the flight engineer as causal factors in a United Airlines crash in 1978.” (In a yet-to-be-posted piece I talk about the morbid joy of cockpit voice recorders…)

The problem with CRM is that it decays with time, and it doesn’t necessarily export well. This bit is fascinating-

The Dutch scientist, Geert Hofstede (1980) has defined dimensions of national culture, several of which are relevant to the acceptance of CRM training. High Power Distance cultures, such as China and many Latin American countries, stress the absolute authority of leaders. Subordinates in these cultures are reluctant to question the decisions and actions of their superiors because they do not want to show disrespect. Exhortations to junior crewmembers to be more assertive in questioning their captains may fall on deaf ears in these cultures. Many cultures which are high in Power Distance are also collectivist. In collectivist cultures where emphasis is on interdependence and priority for group goals, the concept of teamwork and training which stresses the need for effective group behavior may be readily accepted. In contrast, highly individualistic cultures such as the U.S. stress independence from the group and priority for personal goals. Individualists may cling to the stereotype of the lone pilot braving the elements and be less attuned to the group aspects of flightdeck management. A third dimension, Uncertainty Avoidance, refers to the need for rule-governed behavior and clearly defined procedures (Merritt, 1996). High Uncertainty Avoidance cultures such as Greece, Korea, and many Latin American countries, may be much more accepting of CRM concepts that are defined in terms of required behaviors. The U.S. is low in Uncertainty Avoidance, which is reflected operationally in greater behavioral flexibility, but also weaker adherence to Standard Operating Procedures (Helmreich, Hines, & Wilhelm, 1996). Management of cockpit automation is also influenced by national culture. Pilots from high Power distance and/or Uncertainty Avoidance cultures show more unquestioning usage of automation while those from cultures low in Power Distance and/or Uncertainty Avoidance show a greater willingness to disengage (Sherman, Helmreich, & Merritt, in press). The low Uncertainty Avoidance of U.S. pilots may account, in part, for frequent failure to complete checklists and the imperfect acceptance of proceduralized CRM in this country. So they look at error management, and it reminds me of something the late Neil Postman wrote about education being about how to avoid being stupid. A nice humble goal… Underlying the fifth generation of CRM is the premise that CRM as error management human error is ubiquitous and inevitable–and a valuable source of information. If error is inevitable, CRM can be seen as a set of error countermeasures with three lines of defense. The first, naturally, is the avoidance of error. The second is trapping incipient errors before they are committed. The third and last is mitigating the consequences of those errors which occur and are not trapped.

Yeah, John Dewey said something about not making mistakes being the thing, but in creating the conditions where you could learn from ’em… [I am so anal that I googled it – “the great thing is not to avoid mistakes but to have them take place under conditions such that they can be utilized to increase intelligence in the future.” Reconstructions in Philosophy, 1957, Boston- Beacon Press, page175)

Oh, and look, who’d a thunk that alpha males are the same the world over –

Pilots from all regions of the world have been found to hold unrealistic attitudes about the effects of stressors on their performance — the majority feel, for example, that a truly professional pilot can leave personal problems behind while flying and that their decision making ability is the same in emergencies and normal operations (Helmreich & Merritt, in press; Merritt & Helmreich, 1997a). This attitude of personal invulnerability is a negative component of the professional culture of pilots and physicians (Helmreich & Merritt, in press). But the good news is that Training that demonstrates that these are erroneous or over-confident beliefs and that every individual is subject to stress can foster more realistic attitudes by reducing the onus attached to personal vulnerability. In turn, pilots who recognize the performance degradation associated with stress should more readily embrace CRM training as an essential countermeasure.

On the same topic, “Military Human Factors – where are we now, where we might go” from the last ever “Defence Aviation Safety Culture Journal (2008) The two authors are Wing Commander Jon Taylor (insert bunch of letters here) and Dr Sue Tayler (ditto). They say (between the lines) that everyone is run ragged and crossing their fingers from “operational demands” (military jargon for killing foreigners at a higher intensity than money and common sense would normally allow). Civilian aviation lessons don’t always apply, and aren’t replicable anyhow, so they asked a bunch of different grades what they thought mattered, extrapolating from the 12 human factors currently used in flight safety publicity (the “Dirty Dozen”)

Oh look, another tripartite division-

External factors (tasking, resources, distractions and the prevailing operating environment)

Conditional factors (stress, fatigue, which are well, conditional on circumstances)

Internal factors (knowledge, experience, ability, cognitive capacity and other psychological factors).

Here was their opportunity to use the phrase “helmet fire” but they didn’t. Oh well…

They then go on to talk about the (unmet) need for a “just culture” And their final point before the conclusion, about the need for a “spiral curriculum” is interesting… “Adult learners ‘like their learning activities to be problem centred and to be meaningful to their life situation, and they want the learning outcomes to have some immediacy of application.’

From the references the following look interesting

Antonacopoulou, EP (2001) The Paradoxical Nature of the Relationship between Training and Learning Journal of Management Studies 38 (3)., pp. 327-50

Besnard, D, Greathead, D. and Baxter, G (2004) When mental models go wrong: co-occurence in dynamic, critical systems. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 60 (1) pp. 117-28

Dekker, SWA and Holinagel, E (2004) Human factors and folk models. Cognition, Technology & Work, 6, pp. 79-86

Reason, J (1990) Human Error Cambridge,: Cambridge University Press

Vaughan, D. (2004) Theorizing Disasters. Analogy, historical ethnography and the Challenger accident. Ethnography 5 (3), pp. 315-47

Finally, I read the CV of a Social Psychology Prof called Aaron Kay, at the University of Waterloo (Ontario). He’s into, well, here’s what he has on his web site-

My research program has focused on the integration of implicit social-cognitive processes with the study of broad social issues. At the moment, I am particularly interested in how motivations to see the world as just, orderly, and non-chaotic influence perceptions of others and the social systems within which we all live (i.e., governments, schools, organizations, etc.). This has led to several specific lines of research. Examples include: What are the myriad ways by which people cope with, adapt to, and rationalize social inequalities? Why and how do people defend the legitimacy of their social systems in the face of evidence that these system sometimes act illegitimately? What are the social cognitive processes that give rise to the creation and defense of religious beliefs? In a secondary line of work, I examine how social stimuli that we pay little or no attention to in our day-to-day lives (i.e., nonconscious primes) can influence social perception and behaviors, such as those that occur in contexts of interpersonal conflict.

And just the titles of some of his publications make me salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs. More reading for future stepper sessions!


About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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