Thursday, May 26, 2011

Improving your intuition

Intuition is based, in part, on your tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is the collection of all your life’s experiences stored and cataloged in your brain – available for subconscious pattern matching to help you find solutions to problems. (The full explanation about how this happens, as fascinating as it is, is a little too complex to cover here in a blog post.)

I often get asked by young fire officers how they can get the experienced required to make intuitive decisions. Here are a few things you can do to pre-load your experiences.

1. Read: One of the best ways to build knowledge is through reading.

2. Take classes: Formal training builds a strong foundation of knowledge.

3. Practice evolutions: Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Make sure your practice reflects how you would perform in real fire conditions.

4. Simulations: These are a great way to trick your brain into thinking you’ve actually had the experience when, in reality, it was only a simulation.

5. Study: Become a student of near-miss reports and line-of-duty death reports. There are many lessons contained in these documents that will help you.

BONUS. Get emotional: You heard me right. As you do the things on the list above, make each experience personal and get emotionally invested in it. For example, if you’re reading about a line-of-duty death report, read it as though you’re really there and not as some third-party observer. Emotions cause lessons to seat deep into memory.

Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP
Executive Director
Center for the Advancement of Situational Awareness & Decision Making
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  1. Well stated Chief! I am a firm believer, as a prior Captain, that all the items you have listed are absolutely essential to be a great company officer!

    Brett Hill- Founder/ Former IAFF Local 3657 President
    9/11 Patch Project

  2. Nuggets. It is a nugget or nuggets of insight, not a
    full linear story. As you develop your intuition, you learn to organize
    and understand the story.
    Non-rational. Not irrational or illogical, but
    non-rational. The rational reason may not yet make sense or may be unknown
    at the time. You may recognize things as an intuition after-the-fact,
    because at the time it didn't seem to make sense so you didn't bother with


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