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Dr Who-Weighting Options and Calculating Odds-Worst Case Scenario

Amy Pond: What if the gravity fails?

The Doctor: I've thought about that.
Amy Pond: And?
The Doctor: We'll all plunge to our deaths. See? I've thought about it! [examines the
door] Ah, the security protocols are still live. There's no way to override them; it's
River Song: How impossible?
The Doctor: Two minutes.
Decision-making under Pressure



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When an important decision must be made in a high-pressure situation, it is
natural to worry about making a "bad" or "wrong" decision. Most people prefer
to have sufficient time to analyze a situation and consider the alternatives. In
a high-pressure situation, however, time is often a luxury they cannot afford.
In the workplace, people are often expected to make good decisions in a very
short space of time.

Some of the best decisions, however, are made under pressure. Pressure can
result in focused attention and the use of unconscious reasoning. It can force
a decision-maker to sort the relevant factors from the irrelevant, and can
result in clear thinking with unambiguous priorities. There are several
practices which can serve decision-makers under pressure well.

What You Need to KnowWhen put under pressure, I tend to become overwhelmed by the
risk of making the "wrong" decision. How can I overcome this?
Many people react to a pressure situation by running through all the potential
disaster scenarios if a bad decision is made. This will cloud your thinking and
adds yet more pressure to your decision-making. Try to overcome this
response by focusing on the relevant information and putting the rest aside.
Tell yourself you can mull it over later—but for now you must prioritize and
focus on the key factors.

How can I avoid having to make hasty decisions under pressure?

Most people prefer to make decisions after a period of un-pressured analysis.
If your job might require you to make decisions under pressure, take an
offensive approach—look ahead and consider various potential eventualities,
the decisions you might make, and their likely outcomes. By doing this, even
if you do not encounter the exact situation, you will have already thought
through a number of different scenarios and your thinking will be faster,
clearer, and more readily accessible, whatever decision is required.

Should I rely on my gut instinct when making decisions under pressure?

There are times when instincts can serve you very well. This is especially true
if you have a long track record of dealing with similar situations. It is always
important to balance instinct by considering any extenuating circumstances,
however. Be sure to remain open to any new information before impulsively
following your instincts.

I am often asked to make fast decisions that meet the agendas of others. How can I think
through their motivations and arrive at the right conclusions when under pressure?
If you do not see the urgency to make the decision, jockey for more time and
explore the situation more fully. In these instances, open communication is
very important—especially if the decision has an impact on others. You do not
want to be in a position of accounting for a decision you made, and having to
admit that you were pressured into it by someone else!

What to DoBuild Your Decision-making Competence

While some people are naturally better decision-makers than others, decision-
making is a skill that can be learned and improved. There are many tools that
help the decision-making process. They range from decision trees, to help
identify the pros and cons of different solutions, to a force field analysis in
which the pressures for and against change are highlighted and weighted.
These techniques are most useful when tempered by experience or
moderated by a feeling of what will work and what will not.
When under pressure to make a decision, however, the luxury of time to use
these techniques does not typically exist. Instead, the situation may require
being reactive and drawing upon intuition. Some people who appear to have
good instincts for what needs to be done are probably drawing from extensive
experience, with specific knowledge of what has worked in the past and what
has not. People who lack this background will benefit from "virtually" going
through potential decisions before they are required. In this way, responses to
different situations can be rehearsed in a more leisurely fashion, making it
easier to determine the best course of action should the situations ever arise.

The following sections describe this and other techniques that can help
improve decision-making skills, especially when called upon to make decisions
under pressure.

Anticipate and Rehearse Scenarios

To avoid serious errors in future, high-pressure decision scenarios, think
ahead, anticipating and rehearsing various scenarios before they occur. This is
a common technique for emergency services personnel when role-playing
crises and other serious situations. Everything is enacted as if it is really
happening, so that the parties involved gain experience making good
decisions under pressure. Then, when a serious situation occurs in reality,
everyone is better equipped to make decisions rapidly and effectively.
Think through a series of "disaster scenarios" involving your professional
responsibilities, and make some conclusions about available courses of action
should any of them actually happen. This does not need to be a negative
activity—with a bit of luck, none of the situations will actually emerge.
However, if they do, having already run through the thought processes, you
will be much better equipped to make a decision.
Conduct a Risk Analysis
Another valuable activity that can improve decision-making is to undertake a
risk analysis of potential threats or issues before the need for any reactive
decision arises. This process not only yields the benefit of being better
prepared to respond to the analyzed threats, it may also help to identify ways
in which some threats can be reduced or eliminated.
Here is a useful checklist for conducting a risk analysis:

 Speculate on the potential threats facing your situation. These may

include financial, technical, operational, or human threats. Ask "What if…"
until all possible scenarios are exhausted.
 Measure the likelihood of each risk occurring. Think about the
combination of the probability of its occurrence and the cost of its effect. By
doing this, you can determine the worst-case scenario.
 Beginning with the most critical risk or threat, consider the different
ways it could be addressed. Going through this exercise before the risk occurs
may enable you to eliminate the risk altogether, or devise a contingency plan
that will mitigate the risk. Repeat this process for each of the most serious
 Make contact with others who play a key role in the elimination or
contingency plan for a particular risk. Inform them of any action required of
them to manage the situation effectively. If everyone is warned, informed of
their role, and kept briefed about the probability of a serious threat occurring,
they will be able to mobilize more swiftly when necessary.
Appraise the Situation
When something happens that requires urgent attention, avoid jumping to
conclusions. Resist going down a path that reflects your biases or fears, rather
than what is actually going on. Instead, take a deep breath and take time to
appraise the situation—then decide which of the scenarios you have already
considered most closely matches what has occurred. It is difficult to predict a
situation precisely, so be prepared to "mix and match" prepared plans of
action in order to meet the demands of the situation.

Discard Irrelevant Facts

It is easy to become overwhelmed by information in crisis situations. Typically,
there are only one or two critical facts upon which the decision rests. Avoid
getting distracted by factors that are irrelevant to the current decision—
discard information that is clouding your judgement. Answering the question
"Is this critical now?" will enable you to identify and reject elements of the
situation that do not warrant urgent attention, thus advancing to the core of
the problem more rapidly.

Weigh Options
It sometimes helps to apply weightings or scores to the available options, to
better identify the most suitable decisions. In a high-pressure situation, this
may have to be a mental exercise—though putting it in writing can be helpful.
This activity can bring focus to a muddled or chaotic situation and help
highlight the best decision.

Talk Through the Decision

To ensure that nothing has been overlooked, check your logic with a trusted or
experienced colleague. The exercise of articulating your decision process to
someone else often helps to further clarify your rationale and cement your
Remember that a so-called "good" decision does not necessarily guarantee a
satisfactory outcome. Sometimes, even when a careful decision-making
process yields what we believe to be a good decision, things can turn sour.
The activity of making a good decision does not protect from failure. All we
can do is stack the odds in our favor as much as possible and hope for the
best. Every situation, regardless of its outcome, presents a learning
opportunity that will assist future decisions.

What to AvoidYou Allow Yourself to Feel Overwhelmed

Allowing yourself to feel overwhelmed by decision-making situations will result
in clouded logic, comprising your decision-making ability. Regardless of time
pressures, always listen attentively and collect the most critical information
before moving into decision-making mode. This will help you remain clear-
headed as you sift through the facts and determine what is really going on.
Many mistakes are made by people who assume they already know what is
happening and thus, do not perceive what is really going on around them. Do
not fall into the trap of seeing and hearing only what you expect to see and
You Don't Let Others Know What is Expected
Failing to brief other key players about their role in a crisis-response situation
will slow things down and increase the pressure on everyone involved in the
situation—including you, as the key decision-maker. When making rapid
decisions under pressure, the last thing you need is confusion and a barrage
of questions from others about what is expected of them. Inform others about
potential scenarios and their particular responsibilities, prior to the need for
action or as soon as is feasible.

You Become Bogged Down in Detail

Any good decision-making process can get bogged down in details. When
making a decision under pressure, it is critical to eliminate as much irrelevant
detail as possible. If a detail is not immediately relevant to the situation, it
should be set aside so that you can get to the core of the issue and focus on
what needs to be done.

You Don't Ask for Help

When under pressure to make a good decision, avoid allowing your pride to
get in the way of asking for help. A more experienced colleague may be able
to lend a valuable perspective. Ask him or her to talk you through the
rationale for their recommendations. This will help you to "learn the ropes,"
gaining valuable experience that you will be able to tap in future decision-
making scenarios.

Thinking On Your Feet

Staying cool under pressure
© iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimages
"So, Susan, your report indicates you support forging ahead with the expansion but have you
considered the impact this will have on our customers? Surely you remember the fiasco in Dallas last
year when they tried the same type of project?"
Yikes! If you're Susan, you're likely feeling under pressure! You have to answer the question and allay
the CEO's concerns about the disruption to customers. What do you do? What do you say? How do you
say it? What if you can't think of anything to say?
This is not an uncommon situation. Whether you are put on the spot while attending a meeting,
presenting a proposal, selling an idea, or answering questions after a presentation, articulating your
thoughts in unanticipated situations is a skill. Thinking on your feet is highly coveted skill and when you
master it, your clever and astute responses will instill immediate confidence in what you are saying.
When you can translate your thoughts and ideas into coherent speech quickly, you ensure your ideas
are heard. You also come across as being confident, persuasive, and trustworthy.
Confidence is key when learning to think on your feet. When you present information, give an opinion or
provide suggestions, make sure you know what you are talking about and that you are well informed.
This doesn't mean you have to know everything about everything, but if you are reasonably confident in
your knowledge of the subject, that confidence will help you to remain calm and collected even if you
are put unexpectedly in the hot seat.
Learning How To Think on Your Feet
The secret of thinking on your feet is to be prepared: learn some skills and tactics, and do some
preparation for situations that might put you under pressure. Then when you do find yourself faced with
unexpected questions and debate, you'll be ready to draw on these tactics and preparation, and so stay
poised while you compose your thoughts and prepare your response. Here are some tips and tactics:
1. Relax
This is often the opposite of how you are feeling when you're under pressure, but in order for your voice
to remain calm and for your brain to "think", you have to be as relaxed as possible.
 Take deep breaths.
 Take a second and give yourself a positive and affirming message.
 Clench invisible muscles (thighs, biceps, feet) for a few seconds and release.
2. Listen
It comes as no surprise that listening is critical to thinking on your feet. Why do you need to listen? To
make sure you fully understand the question or request before you reply. If you answer too soon, you
risk going into a line of thinking that is unnecessary or inappropriate. To help you with your listening
remember to:
 Look directly at the questioner.
 Observe body language as well as what is being spoken.
 Try to interpret what is being suggested by the question or request. Is this an
attack, a legitimate request for more information, or a test? Why is this person
asking this and what is the intention?

Remember that the person is asking a question because he or she is interested. Some
interest is positive – they simply want to know more – and some is negative – they want to
see you squirm. Either way they are interested in what you have to say. It's your privilege
and pleasure not to disappoint them!

3. Have the Question Repeated

If you're feeling particularly under pressure, ask for the question to be repeated. This gives you a bit
more time to think about your response.
At first glance people think this will only make them look unsure. It doesn't. It makes you look concerned
that you give an appropriate response. It also gives the questioner an opportunity to rephrase and ask a
question that is more on point. Remember, the questioner may well have just "thought on his or her feet"
to ask the question, so when you give them a second chance, the question may well be better
articulated and clearer to all.
By asking to have the question repeated you also get another opportunity to assess the intentions of the
questioner. If it is more specific or better worded, chances are the person really wants to learn more. If
the repeated question is more aggressive than the first one, then you know the person is more
interested in making you uncomfortable than anything else. When that's the case, the next tip comes in
very handy.
4. Use Stall Tactics
Sometimes you need more time to get your thoughts straight and calm yourself down enough to make a
clear reply. The last thing you want to do is blurt out the first thing that comes to your mind. Often this is
a defensive comment that only makes you look insecure and anxious rather than confident and
 Repeat the question yourself. This gives you time to think and you clarify
exactly what is being asked. It also allows you to rephrase if necessary and put a
positive spin on the request. "How have I considered the impact on customers in
order to make sure they have a continued positive experience during the
 Narrow the focus. Here, you ask a question of your own to not only clarify, but
to bring the question down to a manageable scope. "You're interested in hearing
how I've considered customer impacts. What impacts are you most interested in:
product availability or in-store service?"
 Ask for clarification. Again, this will force the questioner to be more specific and
hopefully get more to a specific point. "When you say you want to know how I've
analyzed customer impacts, do you mean you want a detailed analysis or a list of
the tools and methods I used?"
 Ask for a definition. Jargon and specific terminology may present a problem for
you. Ask to have words and ideas clarified to ensure you are talking about the
same thing.
5. Use Silence to your Advantage
We are conditioned to believe that silence is uncomfortable. However, if you use it sparingly, it
communicates that you are in control of your thoughts and confident in your ability to answer expertly.
When you rush to answer you also typically rush your words. Pausing to collect your thoughts tells your
brain to slow everything down.
6. Stick to One Point and One Supporting Piece of Information
There's a high risk that, under pressure, you'll answer a question with either too much or too little
information. If you give too short an answer, you risk letting the conversation slip into interrogation
mode. (You'll get another question, and the questioner will be firmly in control of how the dialogue
unfolds). When your reply is too long, you risk losing people's interest, coming across as boring, or
giving away things that are better left unsaid. Remember, you aren't being asked to give a speech on
the subject. The questioner wants to know something. Respect that and give them an answer, with just
enough supporting information.
This technique gives you focus. Rather than trying to tie together all the ideas that are running through
your head, when you pick one main point and one supporting fact, you allow yourself to answer
accurately and assuredly.

If you don't know the answer, say so. There is no point trying to make something up. You
will end up looking foolish and this will lower your confidence when you need to think on
your feet in the future. There is (usually) nothing wrong with not knowing something.
Simply make sure you follow up as soon as possible afterwards with a researched answer.

7. Prepare Some "What Ifs"

With a bit of forethought, it's often possible to predict the types of questions you might be asked, so you
can prepare and rehearse some answers to questions that might come your way. Let's say you are
presenting the monthly sales figures to your management team. The chances are your report will cover
most of the obvious questions that the management team might have, but what other questions might
you predict? What's different about this month? What new questions might be asked? How would you
respond? What additional information might you need to have to hand to support more detailed
In particular, spend some time brainstorming the most difficult questions that people might ask, and
preparing and rehearsing good answers to them.
8. Practice Clear Delivery
How you say something is almost as important as what you say. If you mumble or use "umm" or "ah"
between every second word, confidence in what you are saying plummets. Whenever you are speaking
with people, make a point to practice these key oration skills:
 Speak in a strong voice. (Don't confuse strong with loud!)
 Use pauses strategically to emphasize a point or slow yourself down.
 Vary your tone and pay attention to how your message will be perceived given
the intonation you use.
 Use eye contact appropriately.
 Pay attention to your grammar.
 Use the level of formality that is appropriate to the situation.
9. Summarize and Stop
Wrap up your response with a quick summary statement. After that, resist adding more information.
There may well be silence after your summary. Don't make the common mistake of filling the silence
with more information! This is the time when other people are adsorbing the information you have given.
If you persist with more information, you may end up causing confusion and undoing the great work
you've already done in delivering your response.
Use words to indicate you are summarizing (i.e. "in conclusion," "finally") or briefly restate the question
and your answer. So – what did I do to analyze customer impacts? I reviewed the Dallas case files in
detail, and prepared a "What if" analysis for our own situation."

Key Points:
No one enjoys being putting on the spot or answering questions that you aren't fully
expecting. The uncertainty can be stressful. That stress doesn't need to be unmanageable
and you can think on your feet if you remember the strategies we just discussed.
Essentially, thinking on your feet means staying in control of the situation. Ask questions,
buy time for yourself, and remember to stick to one point and make that one point count.
When you are able to zoom in on the key areas of concern, you'll answer like an expert and
you impress your audience, and yourself, with your confidence and poise.

Critical Decision Making Under Pressure: The

Complete Article
Submitted by Fred on Wed, 12/03/2008 - 12:57am.
 COL John Boyd
 Decision Making
 Decision Making Critiques

 Fred Leland

 OODA Loop

 Crises Preparedness
 Conflict and Violence

 Operational Art

Decisions in rapidly changing dangerous circumstances are made at times without thought. I
have heard and even uttered the words myself, "I didn't think about it." I just acted." We just
did what had to be done."
Can that be true? Can those of us involved in extreme situations where life and death are at
stake actually make decisions without thinking, without analyzing options, intuitively?
The answer is clearly yes.
Dr. Gary Klein in his research of cognitive development talks about making decisions under
pressure in what he describes as "Recognition-Primed Decision Making". What Klein found
working with the United States Marine Corps, Emergency workers and Businesses across the
country, was, "It was not that the commanders were refusing to compare options. I had been
so fixated on what they were not doing that I had missed the real finding: that the
commanders could come up with a good course of action from the start. That is what the
stories were telling us. Even when faced with a complex situation, the commanders could see
it as familiar and know how to react."
Klein says "the commander’s secret was that their experience let them see a situation, even a
non-routine one, as an example of a prototype, so they knew the typical course of action right
away. Their experience let them identify a reasonable reaction as the first one they
considered, so they did not bother thinking of others. They were not being perverse. They
were being skillful. We now call this strategy recognition-primed decision making."
The Recognition-Primed Decision Making model fuses two processes Klein says; the way
decisions makers size up the situation to recognize which course of action makes sense, and
the way they evaluate the course of action by imagining it. Now it is important to keep in mind
that decisions evolve with circumstances some decisions are made simply with more time to
decide and others require quick if-then thinking to achieve results. The focus here is how to
prepare ourselves to do those rapid decisions that needs to be made under pressure.
Law enforcement and security personnel at times make decisions with very little information
available and even less, time. This time criticality is because either rapidly changing
circumstances that unfold unexpectedly and spontaneously allowing little time to decide or an
individual officer is locked into a complacent mindset his Boyd Cycle is turned off, misses
critical information unfolding progressively and is caught unprepared. Decision making in both
cases is made more difficult due to little information being picked up on and processed. Law
enforcement and security officers find themselves in these types of situations all too often. If
not prepared through training, education, experience and backed up by strong character
leadership time critical decisions do not get made and the advantage goes to the adversary.
To gather and process the incoming information in rapidly changing circumstances requires
judgment and decision making without all the facts. (Actually due to intuition built through
experience we gain situational awareness, meaning there is a lot of information an
experienced decision maker uses, it was just not available to us in earlier stages ). To pick up
on this information the signs and signals, we must have our individual Boyd Cycle “Turned
On!” The Boyd Cycle (OODA-LOOP) is a subconscious and conscious act, of observation,
orientation, decision and action cycles we use in our daily routines to make decisions.
Col Boyd explained a person in a conflict; any conflict must observe the environment, to
include himself, his adversary, the moral, mental and physical situation, potential allies and
opponents. He must orient to what it all means, “what’s going on” which is part of the ongoing
process throughout the situation. Orientation involves the information observed, ones genetic
heritage, social environment and prior experiences (birth-present) that forms our picture of the
situation. The results one forms during the orientation phase must be decided upon and an
attempt made to carry out the decision, he must act.
An example of this: is driving a car which combines mental and physical skills. While driving
we make hundreds of subconscious and conscious decisions as to what other drivers will and
will not do based on the signs and signals they display and take action accordingly in most
cases. If we observe a turn signal or brake light come on in front of us we orient to it and
make a conscious decision to slow ourselves or turn safely and act to do so in an effort to
avoid accidents and keeps traffic flowing. If something happens unexpectedly and we observe
and absorb the information, we make intuitive subconscious decisions and take decisive
action as in swerving to a safe part of the road or stopping quickly to avoid the hazard. If we
are not paying attention, having a spirited conversation, dialing a cell phone or distracted in
some other way, problems arise, near misses, accelerated stopping and accidents occur.
Why? There is a break in a properly running Boyd Cycle and we miss critical information.
The driving example is a very good one to utilize. It combines cognitive and physical abilities
which are necessary to be successful and overall, at driving, we are very successful. Yes
there are accidents, deaths and seriously injured, but when you consider the number of cars
on the road and the daily activity taking place in cars we are damn good at combining these
cognitive and physical skills. Why because we do it all the time, every day and this translate
into experience at picking up the obvious and subtle signs giving us situational awareness
while driving that translates into very good conscious and subconscious decision making.
This driving analogy is important to look at because it shows the correlation between doing
and developing experience, utilizing both our cognitive and physical abilities in carrying out
our daily tasks. This directly relates to what we in law enforcement and security do in carrying
out our duties day to day. It also shows the importance of continuous training (driving
everyday) and its affect on developing this ability in those who deal with crime, crime
problems and dangerous encounters. Where both implicit, and explicit information is utilized
in, solving these types of problems.
Our goal should be to harness the ability to develop the cognitive decision making process
with the physical skills required in both progressive and spontaneous circumstances and
refine the necessary methods through experience and apply it accordingly based on the
environment and current circumstances. The first step is a shift of mind that intuition is not
magic, not some strange force that comes from some unknown mystical location. That indeed
intuition comes from a fine tuned senses, leading to a rapid decision making cycle developed
through tough and continuous development through decision making exercises.
Intuition is defined as: "the way we translate our experience into action." Our experience lets
us recognize what is going on (making judgments) and how to react (making decisions).’Our
experience enables us to recognize what to do and we can make decisions rapidly and
without conscious awareness or effort.' We do not have to think through situations in order to
make a good decision.
Recognition-Primed Decision Making can be enhanced through training and in understanding
that conflict is time competitive observation, orientation decision and action cycles.
Recognition-primed decision making is guided and controlled through tactical judgments
based on your individual perceptions as circumstances unfold. What COL John Boyd called;
"Implicit guidance and control."
The late Colonel John Boyd in his work stated that conflict is time competitive observation,
orientation, and decision and action cycles. Boyd’s decision making cycle has been proven in
its ability to give the upper hand, the clear advantage to the one with the fastest O-O-D-A
cycle. The OODA loop had to be implicit in order to be made rapidly enough to outpace our
adversary and win. Again these decisions are made based on the individual involved
experience, background as well as training and the new information presenting itself via the
unfolding circumstances.
The word implicit is used throughout Boyd’s work. I understand it as tactical judgment and
intuitive decision making. This type of decision making is necessary in an effort to deal with
and resolve crime and violence we in law enforcement and security are facing. There is no
time in dangerous rapidly unfolding circumstances, for contemplation and analytical decision
making. By the time you stop and contemplate, ponder an idea and come up with a solution, it
may be too late. The real world of crime and violence is not a class room or boardroom
model, where there is time to strategize and take hours, days and weeks to come up with a
plan. It is clear we must recognize forming patterns and respond guided by implicit
information if we are to be successful. This is not to say we do not use explicit information
gathered when the time and information is available. There is a balance between explicit and
implicit information. We do our homework and gather information in accordance with what is
unfolding at the time. This is both an art and science developed by education, training and
experience… It alludes to the critical importance of understanding conflict and the strategy
and tactics essential in resolving it...
What’s not clear is understanding, how we explain intuitive decisions. Why is being able to
explain decisions important? The obvious answer is so those who sit in review of our
decisions understand how and why a critical decision was made. So that the citizenry, who
participate in review boards and sit on juries have a better understanding how we use tactical
judgment to decide. So those in leadership positions within our professions and those who
conduct investigations into events surrounding decisions, frontline law enforcement and
security professionals make. In the heat of the moment, our decisions are thoroughly
investigated, fairly. Not just with the available physical evidence, provided at the scene of an
incident, but taking into account how conflict unfolds and how individuals process information
and perceive circumstances as they unfold.
This knowledge as to how we process information and make decisions is so critical to
understand and consider if justice, is to prevail. The most important reason is so that the
individuals in law enforcement and security can deal with the aftermath of an incident through
understanding that decisions made on the fly, in rapidly changing circumstances do not match
the analytical models. Analytical models are done when there is plenty of time. This allows for
an analysis and synthesis to take place in the static environment of a classroom or in a living
room watching a media report of the circumstances. The man in the arena has only time to
read and pick up on important subtle signs showing danger and act. It is clearly a different
process that physiology shifts us from a frontal lobe conscious thinking, analytical being; to a
mid-brain subconscious instinctive reaction responding through operant conditioning to meet
the challenge or threat.
In the world today explicit and clear answers are expected after a response, even if it is a use
of force situation, an officer handling a suspicious person or a response to a natural disaster
to save lives. How do we explain what we did not "think about" so others understand?
Intuition, implicit judgment appears simple to understand but is not an easily acquired skill.
The words intuition and implicit almost imply "there is something missing."This term implies
an unscientific or haphazard approach. "In conflict one plus one does not equal two" but we
live in a world where there is an explicit answer to every situation. Yet in the real world of
conflict that is not the case. You put two people together who disagree and you cannot predict
what’s going to happen, let alone the conflicting individuals get so angry they decide to get
physical or worse deadly.
In conflict there are chaos, uncertainty, disorder, and friction that confuse and slow the
decision making cycle down. You cannot predict exactly what’s going to happen next,
because there are things going on that you cannot see or hear for example; the numerous
thoughts going through your adversaries mind: "I will do what I am asked," "I will not do what I
am asked," "I will escape," "I will fight," "I will assault," "I will kill," "I will play dumb until...," "I
will stab," "I will shoot," "he looks prepared I will comply," "he looks complacent I will not
comply," etc. Remember your adversary has his own objectives and plans as you do and they
combat one another, thereby creating conflict! In conflict 1+1=? Pause to try and figure out
(analysis) what’s happening or gather more explicit (precise) information and it could be over
with unfavorable results. Therefore the needed tactical judgment or implicit, guidance and
The problem arises when our judgments in the heat of the moment amongst all the chaos,
uncertainty, disorder and friction were perceived as unreasonable or wrong by others. We
respond with what we perceived as happening based on the unfolding circumstances was
not, after all is said and done, accurate. Our judgment was wrong! What you thought was a
gun… was a wallet, or cell phone. Who you thought was the suspect was an innocent
bystander. This is worst case scenario. However in this worst case scenario we could still be
justified in our actions based on the circumstances.
What about the body language that you observed that showed signs the citizen was
becoming anxious and you were fearful of assault. You take initiative to control the situation
and the citizen responds by becoming physically assaultive. You take control with reasonable
physical force, a complaint is filed and you are now under investigation for excessive force.
What about the citizen who verbally abuses you while in your professional capacity and you
strategically decide to raise your voice and use verbal manipulation to gain control, which you
do. Again you’re facing a complaint investigation.
How are these examples explained appropriately? How does the lack of understanding by
ourselves and those who sit in judgment of us, as to how we make decisions, affect our in the
moment, under pressure decision making? Why is it important to understand and be able to
explain it? How and who do we train so there is a clearer understanding of the decisions we
make, for all involved? How will all this enhance our ability to perform under pressure and
become better intuitive decision makers?
Critical Decision Making: Under Pressure Part 2
Explicit verses Implicit Information: It’s Role in the Process
In part one of this series we discussed the Recognition-Primed Decision Making, the Boyd
Cycle and the importance of training in the development of the decision making process. In
this second part I want to answer some questions. What is implicit and explicit information?
How we make decisions based on one or the other, or a combination of both types of
information we receive? I also want to answer the question how does our lack of
understanding of conflict and decision making affect our decisions in the real world while
under pressure? How do we explain these decisions after they are made to all affected by the
decisions we make (leadership, citizenry, organization, juries)? How and who do we train and
educate so there is a clear understanding of the decisions we make? Finally how will this
educational process enhance our ability to perform under pressure and become better
decision makers?
In the law enforcement and security professions most of the little training conducted
surrounds physical skills training. Training focuses on firearm proficiency, how to swing and
block with a impact weapon, use oleoresin capsicum (Pepper Spray), defensive tactics and
handcuffing techniques. A small portion of time is spent talking about use of force decisions
and filing appropriate reports as to the action taken by officers. Although there have been
great strides in bringing new training techniques such as Redman suits, simmunitions and
range 3000 simulators to combine the physical and mental realms of conflict. While this
training is excellent, it is just a small part of the overall conditioning that must take place in the
preparation of our profession. This type of response training is called conditioned response. It
is a specific training for a specific reaction, and while it is important, does not fully prepare
people for complex situations.
Decisions are made in two ways as we exposed in part 1. They can be done through
analytical thought when time is plenty and the circumstances allow for a detail analysis and
synthesis of gathered explicit information. Or, they are also made intuitively under pressure
when time is critical and only implicit information can be gathered to resolve critical incidents.
To understand how we make decisions it is important to understand the nature of how we
gather explicit and implicit information as well as how we combine them in making decisions.
Decision Making and Explicit information
Rapid decision making is essential to the law enforcement and security officer. An officer who
is unable to make a timely decision puts himself and those around him in danger. Most of us
are brought up to make decisions after careful consideration and contemplation. “Think before
you act!” “What were you thinking?” Didn’t you think it through?” are words we have all heard
from parents, teachers, co-workers, bosses, internal investigators and review boards
throughout our lives, when our decisions come into question.
There has been extensive research on the topic of cognitive development. One of the models
in decision making has been develop by research and transformation and implementation into
a usable model is the Adaptive Leadership Methodology (ALM) developed by Donald
Vandergriff and his cadre in teaching new leaders in the Army ROTC program. ALM has been
accepted by the Army with the United States Military Academy at West Point rewriting the
lesson plans in its Department of Military Instruction (DMI) following the ALM model. In his
book Raising the Bar: Creating and Nurturing Adaptability to Deal with the Changing Face of
War, Vandergriff describes methods of decision making the first The Military decision Making
Process, he describes as the classical or analytical approach; “the MDMP is a very good
example of an analytical decision-making process; it is the first of two primary decision
making models. Analytical methods such as the MDMP are formal problem solving
techniques.” (Vandergriff, 2006) The U.S. Army’s MDMP is a modification of the French
Army’s misinterpretation of a German Army Decision-making training approach in the late
1800s. In the U.S. Army’s model, the decision-maker uses an analytical decision making
process to reach logical decisions based upon a thorough analysis of the mission and
situation. The MDMP as well as other analytical decision-making models use the same basic
problem solving methodology.”
An example of this is the problem oriented policing, problem solving process SARA;
scanning-identifying the problem; analysis-learning the problem’s causes, scope and effects;
response-acting to alleviate the problem; and assessment-determining whether the response
The SARA Problem-Solving Model is employed by most law enforcement agencies and
provides techniques for identifying the elements of the problem; techniques to support the
search for the underlying causes of the problem; and techniques for the development of the
most effective strategy to address the problem. The final phase of the model highlights the
requirement to assess the final results and to determine if the response was effective. The
S.A.R.A. model is widely applicable to problems faced by many neighborhoods and has
produced excellent results for hundreds of communities across the United States. It
establishes a collaborative, systematic process to address issues of community, safety, and
quality of life.
This approach is very good when the time for gathering, pondering and analyzing is plenty.
Explicit (precise) information is gathered, reviewed, analyzed, and discussed by a
collaborative group of police, business owners, and community members. Decisions are
made as to what strategies and tactics to utilize then a plan is developed and put into action
which is under constant assessment by all so adjustments can be made to make the plan
effective. The key here is there is “TIME” to get explicit and detailed information and walk
through the process to achieve desired results.
Explicit decisions are needed if you are trying things or experimenting to resolve these
progressively evolving problems of the community. Intuitive decisions are not needed
exclusively to resolve these types of issues because time is available. A big factor in this type
of problem solving and the need for explicit information is it gives time to develop trust
amongst the group which is sometime lacking in communities and a problem for rapid
decision making.
Rapid Decision-Making and Implicit Information
When the focus has turned to critical decisions that need to be made and time to make
decisions is critical such as; use of force decision making. Most decisions must be made
intuitively and rapid based on implicit (understood) information or tactical judgment based on
the patterns we have learned from experience (birth-present) and the new information we are
gathering, analyzing and synthesizing in the rapidly changing circumstances. This leads us to
a second type of decision-making.
The second type of decision-making model is a naturalistic or heuristic model.
Experience has much to do with this method of decision-making. There are three key steps
inherent in heuristic decision-making: experience the situation in a changing context,
recognize the pattern of the problem from personal knowledge and experience, and
implement a solution. Although this is commonly used decision-making approach, heuristic
and naturalistic models for decision-making have only recently come into prominence in
decision-making literature.
Security and law enforcement officers use the rapid decision-making process by recognizing
the signs and signals of crime and danger intuitively or through what we in the protection
professions call our sixth sense. Our sixth sense is intuition based on, experience. “Intuition is
how we translate our experiences into action.”
Again I will use the car analogy as an example. It is a freezing cold, snowy night and the
roads are covered with snow and ice. You are traveling at 40 mph on a narrow curvy road.
Your mindset is on getting home after a long shift. As you come into a sharp corner your
vehicle begins to slide out of control. As you feel your heart rate pick up and hands lock onto
the steering wheel and foot goes to the brake automatically due to the fear of and avoidance
of an accident. Your experience is you have lived in this wintery environment your whole life
and have driven the icy, snow covered roads countless times before. Your intuition kicks in
with “this is BAD!” You intuitively release or pump your foot on the brake, steer towards the
direction of the slide and drive through the problem to safety. When you’re once again safe
then your heart rate comes back down to normal and breathe a sigh of relief. The conscious
mind comes back and gives you a scolding for being complacent and driving too fast for the
“Experience is a reliable guide when it is relevant to the contemporary and future operating
environment and missions, and when it’s filtered, processed and stored in the brain using
enduring principles and useful, reliable thought models. When key elements of the operating
environment, opponents, technology and missions change rapidly, how experience is
translated into intuition is even more important.”
Failure to use rapid intuitive decision-making in circumstances where it is required can be
deadly. We must take slices of important information, called pattern recognition, make
decisions and take the best option if, we are to survive dangerous and deadly encounters.
I have used this scenario bellow in training for 8 years. It is a tragic example of when
decision-making is indecisive.
A young officer with about 1 year on the job observes a motor vehicle for speeding on the
highway. The speed of the vehicle was approximately 98mph. The officer pursues the vehicle
as it gets off the highway to secondary roads, the offender does not appear to be trying to
escape, just traveling at such a speed he does not see the pursuing officer initially, the vehicle
eventual pulls over, in a remote area. It is important to note this is a remote area of the
country and back-up is a long way off at least 20 miles.
Once stopped, the officer and the traffic violator exit their vehicles. The violator, a male in his
fifties walks towards the officer. The officer says “good morning sir” and they exchange
pleasantries. The officer observes the subject has his hands in his pockets and tells him, “sir
takes your hands out of your pockets” The subject asks, “why?” “Take your hands out of your
pockets sir,” the officer demands again. The subject in a display of complete frustration,
anxiety, non-compliance and contempt, starts to do what I describe as an Irish gig in the
middle of the road all the while telling the officer; “here I am, here I am, shoot my F#$%ing
This behavior continues for 30 seconds, and then the subject approaches the officer
exclaiming; “I am a F@#$ing Vietnam combat veteran” as a struggle ensues. The subject is
struck by the officer’s impact weapon, only to walk away towards his vehicle and open the
door. All the while the officer is ordering him to “get back”, “get back,” “sir, get back” “sir get
back here to me!” The subject is standing at the operator’s driver’s side door leaning inside
while retrieving something. The officer is keeping his distance and giving orders to get back.
The officer notices the subject has a long gun (M-1 carbine) in his hand and orders him “sir
put the gun down.” He radios for back up and continues to tell the subject, “sir put the gun
down,” “put it down now sir.” The subject shouts back an emphatic “NO!”
The officer continues several more times to order the subject to put the gun down, and then
they exchange shots. The subject fires suppressive fire to keep the officer at bay while
moving to avoid the officer’s shots and close the distance. The officer and subject continue to
exchange gun fire until the subject’s rounds finally strike. While the young officer is struck he
continues to order the subject to put the gun down. The officer continues the fight and hits the
subject center mass, but the subject is able to reload his firearm. After the subject has
reloaded, he shoots while moving and kills the young officer on the roadside. He then walks
towards his personal vehicle shouting “mother f@#$er!”
In the end 60 rounds exchanged—33 by the subject and 27 by the officer–the Subject hit the
officer a total of ten times and the officer struck the subject once. The young officer involved
died at the scene. The subject escaped and was apprehended the next day.
This video I use for training has a powerful affect on me and the officers of law enforcement
and security.
This incident is a catalyst for my research on decision making. The lessons are plentiful, but I
focus on the decision-making. Keep in mind the review of this incident is for learning lessons
and in no way is meant to dishonor the memory of a fallen brother officer. Any given day it
could be one of us due to lack of decisive decision-making.
In my view this incident was about decision making or lack thereof decision making, despite
all the physical aspects of conflict that unfolded. At the core of this incident was not making
decisions and seizing the initiative. This is an example of where rapid intuitive decision
making could have, should have and would have ended in the favor of the officer. Why? What
made him indecisive and therefore ineffective in this case?
Take a look at this fact; from the time the rifle was first seen to the first round being fired was
30 seconds. 30 seconds does not seem like a very long time, but in a hostile situation that is a
lifetime. It is important when reviewing this incident and the decisions involved not getting lost
in the gun fight. It should have never got that far. Lets break this down so we can see the
importance of understanding the decision making process based on experience gathered in
this line of work.
The subject was stopped for speeding, once stopped he exits his vehicle, which agree or
disagree with is common practice known as a walk back in this part of the country. Once the
conversation ensues and the request for the subject to remove his hands from his pockets
ends in a diatribe of unusual behavior i.e. Irish gig in roadway, shouting “here I am”, “here I
am”, “shoot my f@#$ing ass!” turns to an assault on the officer from which the subject walks
away. Intuitively the officer mind should have been screaming “BOLD action is required.” Bold
action translates into several options, (1) I cannot not handle this guy alone, he is too strong. I
must disengage and regroup with back-up. (2) I can handle him physically and I must use
reasonable and necessary force to control the subject. I must act now and choose one of the
two options before the situation escalates out of control (i.e., gun appears).
Then the subject walks to his vehicle, retrieves, readies a rifle and after several orders to put
the weapon down, refuses and assaults the officer with lethal force. Again bold action is
required: (1) close distance with subject while he is in the process of readying the weapon
and if he does not comply deadly force would be reasonable and necessary. (2) Seek cover
and engage with deadly force. (3) Drive into, the non-compliant tactical advantage seeking
and escalating to the imminent threat of deadly force subject. (4) Disengage from the suspect
to a safe cover location remembering rifle verses pistol gives advantage to the subject.
Continue to monitor with available resources, insuring public safety. Then a more detailed
explicit plan can be implemented.
Why was he indecisive? We will never know for sure, what the young officer was thinking but,
I have listened to various responses from veteran officers involved in trying circumstances.
They list: poor training, liability concerns, no leadership backing, no community backing,
never thought it would happen to him (complacency), reluctance in taking a human life, being
disciplined for using force etc. These are few of the most common responses I have heard
and discussed as factors surrounding indecisiveness. What Klein and Vandergriff have
discovered through hundreds of observations of and the study of decision making in complex
environments, is that people fail because they have not been prepared properly for this
situation. What we consider as conventional training does not fit the bill.
The training aspect we will discuss below but the other responses listed as factors in
indecisiveness are all part of what’s known as friction-“Everything is very simple in war, but
the simplest thing is difficult.” (Graham, 1873) In the decision making aspect of conflict, any
unthought-of, unresolved issues or concerns will slow the decision making cycle down, in an
attempt to analyze these issues in the midst of a crisis situation, causing an overload of the
senses and indecisiveness.
Under pressure and the survival stress response, kicks in. An automatic response takes
place, shifting thought, from the frontal lobe (analytical thinking) to mid-brain (intuitive
thinking). According to Vandergriff it is not automatic, just faster, and conditioned through
doing many complex scenarios none of which were the same (each followed by constructive
feedback sessions called After Action Reviews or AARs). A high stress situation causes
chemical changes in the brain that cause you to think and act differently than when under
normal conditions. Most of those involved in traumatic situations give little or no thought to
their behavior; they instinctively do what their experience has programmed them to do,
through education, training and preparation. In this scenario it appears as though the young
officer is over thinking the issue and hence he is confused and indecisive. He is unable to
adapt in time to take effective action.
The ability to adapt to changing conditions in rapidly changing conditions and seize the
initiative requires the ability to think on your feet. “Adaptability is an effective change in
response to an altered situation. Adaptability is not speed of reaction, but the slower, more
deliberate processes associated with problem solving. ” This is where the observation and the
ongoing process, orientation phase of the Boyd Cycle come into play.
The young officer in this case should have been making the observations via all his senses
including intuition, obviously he was seeing everything unfold, but he failed absorb the
information effectively and orient to the magnitude of the threat unfolding in front of him. This
caused a form of paralysis when the survival stress response instinctively kicked in. You might
ask: “if it’s instinctive, why did he not do something?” The answer is he did not and was not
trained properly in rapid decision making (I use the word “and” because it is the responsibility
of the individual and his or her organization to prepare them).
I do not attribute his indecisiveness to complacency in this case, because he initially
appeared alert and aware ordering hands out of pockets etc in attempt to gain some
semblance of control. Once the circumstances went outside the normal training of what he
had received, he could not decide. This problem rests not with this young, conscientious and
brave officer. Out of date training is prevalent in the law enforcement and security
professions. Let me remind you, that there remains a place in our profession with what we call
training. But, to just depend on it, puts us decades behind of what we now know about
learning. We should do all we can to learn from this incident and others like it, in an effort to
evolve and adapt our approach and response strategies and tactics. Training in decision
making, specifically deciding under pressure should be a staple of training for all law
enforcement and security officers.
The Winning Combination Gathering Explicit and Implicit Information
In the heat of a rapidly changing set of circumstances where risk is high it is imperative we
process information implicitly via the Boyd Cycle if we are to gain the edge and seize the
initiative. We also discuss situations where risk is low and time is prevalent for gathering
detailed information and thoughtful analysis over time in an effort to implement whatever plan
we wish to fit the circumstances or problem we are facing.
We talked a lot about the use of implicit information and rapid decision making and how there
is no time for analytical processing of information. That is true in the spontaneous and
unexpected circumstances our duties sometimes put us in. But what about when you’re
planning a dangerous mission, a high risk warrant services if in law enforcement or a
response to an individual who may be potentially violent in the workplace if you’re a security
officer? Neither case has the individual involved forced anything dangerous and TIME is on
your side.
In this type of situation you can take time and do a thorough background and intelligence
investigation to learn all you can about the individual in question. After gathering and
analyzing the information collected, you can notify in the case of security proper authorities
such as law enforcement, employers in an effort to prepare a plan and intervene based on
current practices. If law enforcement you can take precautions as well in calling out a highly
trained response teams who are better equipped and prepared to handle the type of service
required. You can put a detailed plan deciding when and where you want to put the plan into
action. You can put all the right personnel in the right places before implementing any action.
You can prepare by doing your homework and gathering all the explicit details, you can.
Once in place and the plan goes into action, and contact is made, the implicit side of the
equation is back at the forefront because good plans should actually resemble biology instead
of engineering. That is they should evolve. The preparation and planning cannot take into
account the silent evidence, the thoughts and motivations going on in the mind of an adaptive
individual with his own ideas and plans. Although the right personal development to include
training in the Boyd Cycle, which leads to situational awareness and adaptation as long as the
plan is allowed to evolve. So you must be prepared to adapt to the changing circumstances,
only in this case you have all the tools and personnel on scene and ready to take whatever
action is necessary based on the subject’s response. This is the combination of explicit and
implicit information gathering and both decision making models in an effort to give you every
advantage in setting up the environment and individual for your success.
You can do this on the fly as well in a variety of circumstances by slowing down and utilizing if
then thinking while in route to calls such as domestic violence call or an alarm. Use the time in
route to the call for “if/then thinking” as it relates to your approach strategies such as; park
down the street a few hundred yards and approach on foot to the alarm or domestic. You will
be amazed at what more explicit information you can observe to improve your orientation of
what’s going on. We take too many “tactically troubled” short cuts in this profession and pay
with the loss of life. Give yourself the advantages and set yourself up to respond. Let’s stop
mistaking good luck for good tactics and harness every possible way to adapt, learn and
evolve in our abilities to make better decisions and hence more tactically savvy techniques
that give us the edge we need.
Critical Decisions Making: Under Pressure Part 3
Creating and Nurturing the Decision Making Environment
Complexity of Decisions
We discussed the Recognized Primed Decision Making and the importance of understanding
and utilizing the Boyd Cycle to process implicit and explicit information in parts one and two of
this article on critical decision making. In parts 1 and 2, we used several examples of where
and how this applies to the everyday work we do. We also discussed two ways we process
information analytically, when time is plenty and risk is lower, as well as intuitively made
decisions when time is scarce and risk is high. This leads to an understanding that critical
decisions can be complex especially in environments where there is conflict and competitive
minds collide.
We often after a decision is made, struggle to explain our responses appropriately. Decision
makers have problems articulating their decisions and actions. And those who review the
decision, struggle to understand the action. This leads to unnecessary suspicion from
investigators and frustration on the part of the decision maker. This fact creates problems in
the individual decision maker, making future decisions, as well as effects the whole
organizations decision making capabilities, why? There is confusion, uncertainty and mistrust
over what is a good or bad decision. Officers are often told they made a bad decision, are
disciplined over it and told to “get out there and handle it right the next time.” No explanation
as to why the decision was bad or how he/she may do it better, just get out there and do
what’s right! This is unacceptable, this creates friction, the slowing down of the decision
making cycle, which is both dangerous and leads to an ineffective organization. Not
acceptable in professions where life and death are part of the mix. We must seek more
knowledge and understanding of how conflict unfolds and how we make decisions, if we are
to be more effective at making and reviewing them.
We use Complexity theory in an effort to understand the dynamic nature of conflict and
decision making. “Briefly put, complexity theory postulates how complex systems are capable
of generating simple patterns, and conversely, how simple systems are capable of displaying
complex behaviors.” (Vandergriff, Raising the Bar Creating and Nurturing Adaptability to Deal
with the Changing Face of War, 2006) We must have some understanding of complexity
theory and how it relates to the complex nature of humans and human behavior in competitive
environments, if we are to explain or gain understanding and comprehension of the
environment, behaviors and events around us. “What’s happening now?”
This definition of complexity fits perfectly in the world of law enforcement and security where
rapid decisions making is necessary to fulfill our obligations to protect and serve the
community or organization. To perform a decision in a competitive environment or, to
understand what happened, if you are reviewing or investigating the circumstances
surrounding a decision, you must take into consideration that conflict is a complex
phenomenon full of uncertainties, and a vast array of other problematic factors that cause
friction and slow decision making down. That small change in the individuals, the environment
and in the situation itself can produce significantly larger outcomes, like winning or losing, life
or death.
I want to focus on how we can effectively create an environment of good decision makers. An
organization must develop sound decision makers in an environment that includes ongoing
development through innovative training and the nurturing of strong character. Strength of
character is the bedrock of rapid decision making.
One of the best resources I have read on the training and leadership aspects of developing
rapid decision making is Don Vandergriff’s book; Raising the Bar: Creating and Nurturing
Adaptability in the Changing Face of War. Vandergriff has spent years researching and fine
tuning his methods of learning and education in the United States Army. His leadership model
called Adaptive Leader Methodology (ALM) for developing rapid decision makers is now being
accepted by the U.S. Army, specifically at the United States Military Academy at West Point
New York in the Department of Military Instruction. After all is said and done what we do in
rapidly changing circumstance is to think on our feet, “Adapt”!
Adaptability is defined as “an effective change in response to an altered situation. Adaptability
is not speed of reaction, but the slower, more deliberate processes associated with problem
solving.” (Vandergriff, 2006) To be effective on the street you must be able to process
information under pressure quickly but deliberately. Through continual development with
varied scenarios and constant feedback from mentors, peers and instructors, people learn to
pick up on signs and signals that signify change is taking place, and then be able to respond
accordingly. The type of development Vandergriff speaks of enables an individual to
synthesize multiple courses of action faster in a given situation, and then pick an appropriate
one, then act on it. This is the orientation part of Boyd’s OODA loop, and it is the most
important part. Once an individual orients on the key aspect of what they have observed,
then, decide and act parts become easier.
To meet and deal with the types of crime, crime problems, conventional and unconventional
threats we face, we must develop and nurture mutual trust and strength of character with in
our organization and community to make effective decisions, especially decisions under
pressure. “Raising the Bar” describes key characteristics of adaptive individuals. Which I
agree is critical to posses if we are to be successful and change the internal and external
culture which affects how we respond and deal with the serious issues we all face.
Vandergriff’s approach develops adaptability in leaders focusing on five areas:
Intuitive-this enables rapid decision-making without conscious awareness or effort;
Critical thinker- the ability to achieve understanding, evaluates viewpoints, and solves
Creative Thinker-equally important, called fingerspitzenfuhl or the feeling in the tip of one’s
fingers (Napoleon called it a “gut” feeling);
Self-Aware-an understanding of one’s own strengths and weaknesses;
Social Skills-the ability, to assess people’s strengths and weaknesses, the use of
communication skills, and the art of listening
These characteristics are critical to being a good decision maker and adaptive individual. The
characteristics listed above, have been talked about in the law enforcement and security
professions for years. Let’s develop and etch them at the forefront of our minds by conducting
valuable training and setting high standards that focus on these characteristics. As mentioned
above there have been efforts made in the area of cognitive/physical training which use force
on force role plays, simmunitions and simulators all great tools to enhance this effort. At the
heart of all this training, or as Vandergriff says development, is the ability for instructors to
facilitate the after action review after each event.
The problem we face in law enforcement and security is that the vast majority of officers do
not receive the training due to budget constraints, short staffs and the nature of what we do
(little time available), creating a shortfall on this great training reaching everyone who works
the street. But the biggest obstacle to this type of development is cultural. Once again a
mindset shift is needed in how and when we train to develop these characteristics and skills
necessary. But, surprisingly, as advanced as Vandergriff’s model appears to be, it requires
little resources, just very good instructors who understand its principles and how to teach
within the framework of Boyd’s OODA loop.
Mindset Shift…Take Advantage of Time!
COL John Boyd described conflict as “time competitive” observation, orientation, decision and
action cycles (Boyd, December 1986) …discussed above in part 1. These time competitive
cycles should also be considered in preparation for future encounters, taking advantage of
available time on shift to train and develop decision makers.
Most agencies do not spend the time or money on training frontline personnel. Those
agencies that do, send their personnel to training send them to a one day, two day, or week
long training classes that use out of date methods of learning, i.e., competency theory
focused on short term memorization presented using power point lectures etc. These types of
training classes are good for short term accomplishment, and do not promote long term
continued learning. Problem here is, two-fold (1) training is conducted with outdated learning
models and (2) in most cases you cannot afford to send enough personnel to get an
organizational benefit from the training. If your agency can afford it, and send everyone, you
can only send, once, with no follow-up. Problem with this is, the skills learned; perish quickly
due to lack of conditioning through repetitive training. The benefits of cognitive and physical
training are perishable, so if we are to be successful in creating and nurturing these skills it
takes repetition and constant work if there is to be any real long term benefits.
The “shift of mindset” comes into play when changing a culture. There are numerous
examples of how this shift in culture can occur, such as take advantage of downtime during a
working shift, such as roll call, to train. Extend roll calls or guard mount time by 15-20
minutes, use uncommitted time on the shift to conduct a mini-training scenario with Tactical
Decision Games (TDGs). Another aspect is doing it during physical training. Vandergriff has
written an entire annex in a handbook on how to develop adaptability while developing the
physical aspect of our profession. Yes, some of this development is up to “individual initiative!”
Creating Decision Makers with Tactical Decision Games (TDGs)
Highly effective method of training that develops rapid decision making is a tool called the
tactical decision game (TDG) or decision making exercise (DME). This is a critical piece of
Vandergriff’s training methodology with the military. He has achieved great results in using
these games to develop decision makers who will demonstrate adaptability in combat. He has
received great feedback from those serving overseas to the benefits of the TDG’s in creating
decision makers performing for high stakes and under high pressure.
Tactical decision games are situational exercises on paper representing a snap shot in time. A
scenario is handed out that describes a problem related to your profession (law enforcement,
security, military, business, etc). The facilitator sets a short time limit for you to come up with a
solution to the problem presented. The TDGs can be conducted individually or in a group
setting. As soon as time is up, with the facilitator using “time hacks”, an individual or group is
told to present their course of action. What you did and why? It is important that individuals or
groups working together are candid and honest in their responses. You’re only fooling yourself
to do otherwise. The lesson learned from the TDGs can make you more effective and safe in
the performance of your job. The time to develop the strength of character and the courage to
make decisions comes here, in the training environment. Mistakes can be made here that do
not cost a life and valuable lessons are learned.
The key here is the facilitator/instructor whose job it is to insure responses are brought out
and lessons are learned from the scenario. This can be done while working. I know because
we have used them on my department and I have used them training security companies. It
takes some effort, but can indeed be done.
The TDGs are effective at developing decision making in the field. In the few years we used
TGDs in the Walpole police department, officers went from the initial thought of what are we
doing this for? To getting involved and discussing strategy and tactics necessary to resolving
the problem faced in the TDG setting. This evolved to applying what was learned, to the street
under pressure. Tactical response and approaches to calls, communications, utilization of
tactical basics such as; contact/cover principle and cover and concealment, approach
strategies, perimeter containment and overall officer safety improved greatly utilizing these
short scenarios. Knowledge of laws and policy and procedure improved by utilizing decision
making exercises to fit legal and policy questions.
This simple tool works and works well. I use the term simple tool but, make no mistake, its
work implementing and conducting these exercises. Developing scenarios and insuring
appropriate lessons are learned takes thought and innovation to insure proper training is
taking place. The instructor/facilitator needs to understand his job, is to draw out answers, not
give them out. I must emphasize this point because; I have made that mistake in conducting
the exercises. The goal is to make “decision makers” and “innovators”, not give answers,
directions and create followers; we have enough of that in our professions already.
The TDGs are about developing individual, initiative driven frontline leaders who can make
decisions that meet the mission of the agency. “TDGs are used to teach leaders how to think
and to train and reinforce established ways of doing something, such as task training. The
techniques can be traced back at least to the Chinese general and military theorist Sun Tzu,
who was advocating their use more than 2,500 years ago.” (Vandergriff, From Swift To Swiss
Tactical Decision Games and Their Place in Military Education and Performance
Improvement, 2006 )
The decision making critique (DMC) or after action review (AAR) is another critical component
to developing decision makers. The AAR is conducted after the decisions are made and
discussed after student responses. This is where the instructor/facilitator again draws out
lessons learned from the group critique. The facilitator keys on two aspects of the TDG, was
the decision made in a timely manner? What was the rationale of the student or group in
making their decision? As Vandergriff continues to drill into students that attend his workshop,
“it is not about the tactics but the decisions” when facilitating the discussion of a TDG.
I have been asked how often you conduct the exercises. Keep in mind that the benefit of
developing rapid decision makers comes from conditioning. Like anything else conditioning
comes from repetition, but unlike task training (rote memorization), repetition means
constantly changing the conditions while focusing on the five aspects of adaptability
mentioned earlier. Realistically in an environment that has no specific training unit, and the
person in charge of training has multiple tasks such as running daily operations, in charge of
investigations, scheduling and frontline supervisory responsibilities it is challenging, but worth
the effort to conduct these exercises. Here are some examples as to how a multi-tasking,
understaffed agency can reap the benefits of conducting TDGs and developing adaptive
In our environment with shifts it’s tough to do TDGs daily, although it can be done. If it gets
demanding and busy on the shift you “ADAPT” and handle the necessary call for service, then
when things slow down get back at the TDG (we now always have one ready “opportunity
training”). The method used in my department was 1 game per month, 12 training evolutions
that were not taught elsewhere with numerous lessons learned, from each TDG. The training
objectives and lessons learned, did improve decision making and the tactical mindset of
officers with just 12 TDGs conducted. There was a significant difference in responses to calls
and how they were handled.
How to conduct TDGs
Here is an example of a TDG.
It is 1AM. You receive a dispatch reporting prisoner escaped in a marked police unit, with a
fellow officer’s gun. The suspect is a female emotionally disturbed prisoner who was returning
after an evaluation from, the hospital transported by a fellow officer.
Ten (10) minutes later it’s reported she has shown up at her sister’s house that has custody of
“her” child. She kidnaps her own child and shoots and kills sister’s family dog. She leaves the
scene and comes into contact with a fellow officer responding to the location.
She drives at a high rate of speed towards this officer, hits the driver’s side door, officer
jumped from and shoots at her but, misses. She continues to flee, crashes the car and then
flees on foot with her child.
A search is commenced for 5 hours when she suddenly reappears in town, on the street,
pointing the gun at police and her child who she is holding in her arms. She begins to laugh
and taunt and makes statements “I will shoot you” and points the gun at those around,
including her child and the news media that is on scene. From a car length away, you begin to
negotiate. She then states I have ruined my life. You are fixing to work a murder suicide.
You then give instructions, how do you handle this situation? You have 30 second begin…
When the 30 seconds are up you pick individuals to give their responses. Get them up in front
of the room (add a little pressure) and have them explain what they did and why. Do this
individually with each participant. When all have completed get them as group to talk and
critique each response. You will be amazed at what learning takes place.
You can also when time, is really tight do these TDGs in a group setting. Just give the group
the scenario and begin a discussion as to how it’s handled. This is again Adaptability,
changes do to “time” constraints, and we get the lessons in. Our jobs are about change and
adapting to those changes. Take advantage of the time you have to better prepare for the
dynamic encounters we are faced with.
Our goal should be to do more of this type of training. To take advantage of any down time
available to get a TDG in, when staffed with appropriate numbers of properly trained
instructors (minimum 1 per shift) you could easily do a game a week (52 per year) which
would be, much more beneficial to all, individuals and agency. Take advantage of actual calls
and the lessons learned from them by utilizing After Action Reviews, which in my mind is TDG
in reverse. You actually made decisions and resolved the problem (real world lessons). There
is no more valuable training evolution than to take actual experienced situation and break
down the lessons learned and adapt the lessons to a future response… The TDGs work and
work well at developing decision makers and enhancing knowledge from past training.
To bring the training program to an even higher level of learning programs of instruction
should utilize the method, explained above, to build experiences, which turn into pattern
The full program s of instruction Vandergriff describes, consists of four primary pillars and
includes the use of: (1) a case study learning method; (2) tactical decision games; (3) free
play force on force exercises; and (4) feedback through the leader evaluation system.
This complete comprehensive program of instruction, unify the approaches above in
accomplishing learning objectives, which include; Improving one’s ability to make decisions
quickly and effectively; Making sense of new situations, seeing patterns, and spotting
opportunities and options that was not visible before; Becoming more comfortable in a variety
of situations; Developing more advanced and ambitious tactics; and Becoming more familiar
with weapons capabilities, employment techniques, and other technical details. (Vandergriff,
Raising the Bar Creating and Nurturing Adaptability to Deal with the Changing Face of War,
2006) Start with the case studies and TDGs and build upon the program to develop the best
decision makers we can. From TDGs, you move into a force on force training environment,
but all are followed by a facilitated AAR. The cost of not doing so is too high!
Mutual Understanding Community/Protectors: Training Those We Serve
An important piece of decision making is the necessary element of being able to explain our
decisions. Explain them to folks in the community or organization who may not have a good
understanding as to how we decide under pressure. In this article we discussed intuitive
decisions based on implicit information gathered in high risk, little time available scenarios.
We understand it, we know what we did and why, but still we have a difficult time explaining it
to the world sitting in review from behind the desk in a safe environment, with plenty of time,
analyzing the circumstances with an analytical mind. And explicit answers to our decisions are
Why do we have this problem and how do we make those who do not do, what we do,
understand? Perceptions and orientation of what we do is based as Boyd has stated on, past
experience, genetic heritage, cultural traditions, and unfolding circumstances. (Boyd,
December 1986) People see things, as they, view the world. Based on what Boyd has stated
here in regards to how we orient (perceive) the world. Can we expect the citizens, to
understand and make an appropriate judgment of our actions if most of their perceptions, of
what we do come from, the abstract world of media, news, movies, television and print? If
decisions of our actions are based on something they heard that has never been disproved or
they have never experienced, how do they begin to understand it, in a way that the silent
evidence (thought process, decision making, survival stress, etc.) is considered in the
process? Again the process should be training, training and being more open and honest as
to, what we do and why we do it.
As a community and a law enforcement organization we say we want to see and get to know
or officers, yet if they stop, get out of their cars and have a conversation with someone they
are seen as goofing off and not working. If they are seen in their cars parked on the roadside
or in a parking lot conducting surveillance or traffic duties again the inference is, they are
goofing off. These examples seem and are simplistic, yet they result in complaints, complaint
investigations and at times, reprimands of individual officers. Officers in turn begin to see the
community, whether a city or town or the occupants of a facility, they protect, as fickle minded.
The community sees officers as out of touch. Leadership, community or organizational, get
wrapped up in the politics of this and in short a great divide is formed which leads to distrust
on both sides, a sad reality for those on both sides of the coin which in the end leads to poor
To do the job at hand protecting and serving, it is pretty much understood that the community
as a whole, after all the police and security are part of the community, they work in, and we
must work together. To do this there must be a better understanding of what each role is and
that role is actual mutual. The community wants to be safe and law enforcement and security
roles, are to make it that way. We are on the same page. So how do we get to the same
paragraph on the page?
Training, education and learning is the key to closing this divide. This is nothing new; it’s been
written and talked about in the law enforcement realm for more than 30 years. Although the
foundation of experiential learning goes back centuries as Vandergriff explains in his research
expounded upon in his article From Swift to Swiss Tactical Decision Games and Their Place
in Military Education and Performance Improvement; “in the late 1700s, Pestalozzi developed
his theory that students would learn faster on their own if allowed to “experience the thing
before they tried to give it a name.” TDGs were used to sharpen students’ decision-making
skills and to provide a basis for evaluating them on their character.” I find it both fascinating
and alarming us (law enforcement and security professions), are just recently beginning to
conduct this type of training that’s been around with documentation that it works and works
well. A question of character and lack of knowledge seems to be the answer as to why we are
In fairness there has been a multitude of training classes on community oriented policing and
problem oriented policing across the nation on the topic of building community trust. But not
much of this training focuses on decision making under pressure in for example; use of force
situations. Where training the population in use of force decision making has been conducted
as in the LAPD program, there has been great results in bridging the divide between
protection professionals and the community. It is a process of communicating and sharing
information on both sides of the spectrum to help each understand what’s expected and how
we go about doing our jobs effectively.
We must continue to bridge this gap between protector and the citizenry by agencies offering
more of this training, such as citizen’s police academies, working with community groups,
schools and things like Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC). In these groups all
educate in their area of expertise, not to make experts, but to gain an understanding of what
their goals and objectives are and then what methods are utilized in making decisions to help
in understanding.
In the law enforcement and security fields we would put citizens and community leaders in
circumstances we handle and have them role play them out. Or use TDGs to give them a feel
for the types of decisions we make… Simple methods of education and learning, to bridge
this gap which is critical if we want those to understand what it is we do and how we make
decisions under pressure. This result in the community as a whole interested and involved
and helps all understand the job we perform as well as the risks and consequences.
Adapting to the changing conditions is what makes a true professional. Doing things the way
we have always done them is fool hearted and unprofessional. On the other hand change for
the sake of change is as well just as fool hearted, but effective change to meet the challenges
that lay ahead and prepare all for both conventional and unconventional problems and
threats, will take strength of character and leadership, leadership from; frontline personnel,
mid-level supervisors and administrators, as well as community and local government leaders
to reach these goals.
Leadership Roles in the Decision Making Process
The main component in the development of good decision makers falls on the individual and
individual efforts. Yes, but the climate for this development comes from the top, in leadership.
To achieve the results sought after, if we truly want to call ourselves professionals and
prepare for the challenges we face in the future, leaders must LEAD. It is the Leader’s role, to
create and nurture the appropriate environment that emboldens decision makers. Leader
development is two way, it falls on the individual, but the organization’s leaders must set the
conditions to encourage it. “The aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures in
men, but to remove the cause of failure.” (W. Edwards Deming)
“Leadership can be described as a process by which a person influences others to
accomplish an objective, and directs his or her organization in a way that makes it more
cohesive and coherent.” (Vandergriff, Raising the Bar Creating and Nurturing Adaptability to
Deal with the Changing Face of War, 2006) This is the definition we should subscribe to.
However, all too often I have had both frontline personnel and mangers tell me that this
cannot be done. “This type of training and developing initiative driven personnel will cause
more problems for departments and agencies in dealing with liability issues and complaints
because control is lost.” I wholeheartedly disagree with his sentiment.
The opposite is indeed the effect you get. This is not a free reign type of leadership. Matter of
fact if done appropriately it will take more effort and time on your part as a leader, because
you will be involved. Your training program will be enhanced and the learning that takes place
unifies your agencies and all the individuals in it. How? Through the system described above
which develops “mutual trust” throughout the organization because the focus is now on
The “how to” is left to the individuals and the instructors. But a culture must exist to encourage
what the Army calls outcome based training (Vandergriff Manning the Legions of the United
States and Finding tomorrow’s Centurians).
Mutual trust (unity) in turn allows individuals to think and innovate when solving problems,
because they know it is what’s expected. It’s known by all, they will be held accountable for
their actions good and bad. And those leaders will be there standing with them in the
aftermath of a good or bad decision and that everything will be done to learn from and adapt
the lessons too future operations.
If we expect frontline personnel to go out and deal with dangerous circumstances and resolve
them, they must be insured leadership will be doing all they can do to develop, nurture and
stand behind decisions made. Also be willing to except responsibility when things go wrong.
The world we work in, is complex and chaotic yet in the vast majority of situations we handle
without drastic or tragic results. This is done with “very little training” in decision making.
However in the less than one percent of the time for example a law enforcement officer uses
force, leadership fails in backing an officer’s decision. Why? We could write another article on,
politics, lack of knowledge in conflict, an unwillingness to take a stand on behalf of the
decision maker, unwillingness to correct a obvious problem they observe, etc. etc. etc.
If you take on a leadership role, Then you must LEAD and have the strength of character to
do what needs to be done in creating the appropriate environment. The single most reason
for failure to make a decision I hear from those I train and speak with is “We will not get
backed by our bosses!” These words are uttered not from the 10%, but from those who do
care about what they do, yet feel for whatever reason they will not be backed after they have
done what they have sworn or are duty bound to do in their efforts to resolve conflicts.
A leader’s role is to inspire others to complete the mission, whatever the mission is. It’s to
develop unity and focus. It’s to hold themselves and others accountable for actions taken,
rewarding good decisions and learning from and if warranted disciplining for bad decisions.
This must be done fairly with integrity leading the way or we will not be prepared for the
problems and threats that we will face. A leader’s role is to reduce friction in decision making
of frontline personnel. Try it, I guarantee you will relish the benefits and results.
I would like to thank Don Vandergriff for all his insight and assistance into my writing this
article. The numerous emails and phone calls interrupting his busy schedule, would be trying
for most, yet Don always took the time to answer questions and give advice. Don you’re a
true innovator and mentor. Many thanks.
Bio: Fred Leland is an active Lieutenant with the Walpole PD and a former United States
Marine. He is an accomplished and accredited trainer with more than 28 years experience
teaching law enforcement, military and security professionals. He is a graduate of the FBI
National Academy Class 216, where he specialized in terrorism related topics, leadership and
management. He is currently an instructor for the Massachusetts Municipal Police Training
Committee where he teaches decision making, use of force, terrorism, leadership and
incident command to veteran law enforcement officers. His specialties are handling dynamic
encounters, threat assessment, use of force, and decision making. Fred is a student of the
late modern day Strategist COL John Boyd and the Ancient Strategist Sun Tzu. He founded
Law Enforcement and Security Consulting, Inc (LESC) in 2006 with the focus of bringing
these principles to law enforcement and security.

How to Think on Your Feet - Pressure Breeds

By Donald J. Trump, Trump University, The Official Guides to Real Estate
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The best way to have an edge is to live on one.

-- Donald J. Trump

I’ve already written about complacency and how it can ruin your chances for success. It’s the same as
being in a rut and deciding to stay there. That’s why I advise people to live on the edge. It’s the opposite
of complacency; you have to learn to think on your feet.

What is it to think on your feet?

Ever notice how your senses are heightened when you are in challenging situations? You're
experiencing an adrenalin rush that gives you extra energy. If you see every day as a challenge, you’d
be surprised how efficient you can become, and how much can be accomplished. People often say they
“hit the ground running,” which is another way of saying they did their prep work and were ready.
One recurrent lesson on The Apprentice teaches candidates to think quickly. They are under a time
constraint, but it’s important that they also have a Plan B in line. If Plan A doesn’t work, they’re prepared
for it and they won’t lose much time. They are learning to think ahead, to be prepared, and to cover their
bases. These are basic ingredients for success in business.

How you can think on your feet.

When I started out in business, I spent a great deal of time researching every detail that might be
pertinent to the deal I was interested in making. I still do the same today. People often comment on how
quickly I operate, but the reason I can move quickly is that I’ve done the background work first, which no
one usually sees. I prepare myself thoroughly, and then when it is time to move ahead, I am ready to

Being able to think on your feet is the result of training and discipline. You can’t sprint unless you have
built up the stamina to do so. Building stamina is up to you. If you don’t work at it, it’s not going to
happen by wishful thinking. You have to dedicate yourself to it every day. In other words, set a goal and
work towards it. Athletes know that no one else can do the training for them. Business people should
have the same discipline. You have to be self-reliant.

Have you ever said to yourself, “I wish I’d thought of that!”? One way to learn to think on your feet is to
ask yourself what you should be thinking of this very moment. Do it right now. You’d be surprised how
many good ideas you might have, if you’d give yourself the chance to think about them. Thinking takes
time. It’s the preparation for being able to think on your feet. First things first: First we walk, then we run,
then we sprint.

Thoreau said: “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestioned ability of a man to elevate his
life by conscious endeavor.” That is not only an encouraging statement, it is also an empowering one. It
means you can accomplish a lot by applying your brainpower and then moving forward with it. Thought
without action won’t amount to much in the long run. Those great ideas you have will remain great ideas
unless you actively do something with them.

Don’t wait for dire circumstances to test your quick-thinking ability. Test yourself daily. Be alert at all
times. As Napoleon said: “A leader has the right to be beaten, but never the right to be surprised.” See
yourself as a leader--starting right now. It will mean you are self-reliant and responsible, and you won't
be unpleasantly surprised by the vicissitudes of life, whether you are in business or not. Being prepared
cannot be overestimated, and if you want to hit the big time running, you’d better be able to think on
those feet of yours. So let’s get going!

Developing Quick Thinking

The human mind is capable of lightning quick thinking, but primarily when in a relaxed,
positive frame of mind. Do you
remember the last emotional outburst or argument that you had? Did you get too
flustered for a proper comeback? Did you say to yourself later on, "I wish I had said
(such and such)?"
When you allow the emotional side of your brain to gain control, the conscious
thinking side of your brain is suspended. Quick response is easily achieved when
you curb the impulse to flare up emotionally. For starters, exercise discipline over
yourself and be silent when emotionally confronted. This will give you a chance to see how
another person
blows off steam without getting embroiled in the process yourself. It will also give
you practice in achieving more conscious control over your life.
Policemen, bar maids and customer relations officers all practice being 'cool'
headed thinkers, because it is their job to handle emotional retorts in a calmer way.
Lack of emotional control brings about inefficiency, non-productivity and little
progress. Like with other things, practice is the key to improvement.
As an exercise, work with a partner that you barely know. Agree ahead of time
that this exercise is only a game, and that the object of the exercise is NOT to get
antagonistic with each other over it. Now let your partner act as target, and you start
bombarding him with emotionally directed remarks, one at a time. Your partner's job
is to keep as cool and as calm as possible, and retort back to you a response as
quickly as he can. A split second of clear thinking is all that is necessary, and soon
you'll get the knack of it. Afterwards, reverse the roles.
If done in a workshop, it might help to listen to other pairs performing the
exercise. Often you'll find a response directed in the form of a calm question will
take an emotional person off guard, because to consciously formulate an answer, the
thinking side of the brain is needed. With practice, you'll no longer need to fumble
for your words. Quick responses will become second nature to you.
One way to get the words to flow quickly when you're upset is to simply read
aloud a page out of a book as fast as you can. This is also a good method to use in
pulling yourself out of a depressive, hateful or lonely mood (but not for chronic
conditions). The conscious effort is so intense to keep the rapid speed going that
your emotional doldrums simply pass away as your awareness is shifted to a cortical
task. Time yourself for speed and read the same page again, but go faster this time.

To think fast in emergency situations is often a matter of life and death in some
cases. How would you handle yourself in a fire, a bad car accident, a robbery or on
a passenger liner sinking at sea? Campers have died of cold exposure with packs
containing food and cooking stoves. Car occupants have frozen to death in their cars
with a half a tank of gas left. People have drowned in 4 feet of water. Panic is a
killer. Determined, quick thinking is a life saver. Injured outdoorsmen have dragged
their smashed bodies for miles and survived. Women have given birth to children in
the wilderness all alone. People have performed amputations or crude surgery on
themselves and saved their own lives.
As an exercise, visualize yourself in emergency situations where you correctly
choose a creative alternative for survival. For instance, after falling through the ice
on a frozen river, you breathe from the shallow air pockets trapped underneath the
ice. You bail out of an airplane and your primary and secondary chutes don't open,
so you cut a slit in your pack and pull the chute out. While in an elevator, the cable
snaps and you grab a hold of the ceiling fan to break your eventual fall to the ground.
By creating visualizations where you are an active participant, you build self-
confidence and establish prepared scenarios in your mind to give you a better ability
to handle yourself later. Even when totally different emergencies pop up, your
readiness for them will produce better responses.
Posted by Sandra Zimmer on Sunday, June 21st, 2009 · Filed in Persuasion, public speaking, Thinking
on Your Feet · Tagged being with audiences, Persuasion, Presence, Presentation, public
speaking, Thinking on Your Feet · 2 comments

Impromptu speaking or thinking on your feet is synthesis thinking not new

thought thinking. You do have to prepare to think on your feet; but then you have to
let go and flow. So it uses structure and flow at the same time.

In impromptu speaking or thinking on your feet, you are most often sharing your
expertise in a spontaneous situation where you want to help a client or influence a
prospective client. You don’t have time to plan all your words. You must grab some
thoughts and ideas and stories and let them flow through your mind and out of your

Thinking on your feet is thinking as you speak and speaking as you think. This
experience is hard to articulate and hard to teach because it happens at another level
of consciousness than normal thought. Normal thought is usually a mental process of
thinking in words, one word at a time. But thinking on your feet is not verbal but
rather thinking in gestalt concepts.

Thinking on your feet is rarely pure creative thinking. You are not usually making up
totally new ideas, rather you are synthesizing and stringing together ideas, insights
and stories that have been thought out at a prior time.

I was hired a few years ago to facilitate a Leadership Houston class to make
leadership declarations at the last meeting of their year-long program. The Director of
LH had met me and hired me, but he did not ask for the approval of the man (I will
call him Bill) who had facilitated the whole year of sessions.

So, he had to get the three of us together on a conference call to discuss my

participation in the last session. There was definitely a flavor of “audition” in our
call. There was an unspoken expectation that I would have to prove my value to Bill
even though the stated purpose was to plan the last session.

At the beginning of the call, Bill asked me to talk about my work and what I did. I
had a choice to make FAST! I could tense up and try to think of what to say or just
dive in.

I took a deep breath, said, “OK” and opened my mouth not knowing what I was going
to say. About 5 minutes later I stopped talking. I heard a silence on the phone line
and then both said “WOW” at the same time.

I don’t know exactly what I said, but I know I was grounded and present in that
moment. I had managed to synthesized the following concepts:

1. An opening that was a “Helping people get what they want” line.
2. What was different about my approach.
3. What results are often achieved.
4. A story to back it up.
5. What I thought we could do to help the LH participants make their leadership

I followed the flow of thoughts as they occurred to me. And I was not focused on my
performance. The pieces of content I shared were things that were already in my
verbiage. I had said them many times before. Now I was just synthesizing them to
help Bill and the LH Director understand what I could do to support their last

I love to make speaking easy for myself and for my clients. Learning to break things
into chunks of content and to string them together produces talks that are compelling,
persuasive and creative. Check out Speaking from the Heart class descriptions.
Thinking Fast on Your Feet: Discover The Power of
Your Intuition
Intuition and creativity are part of our biological make-up going
back thousands of years. Archeologists have uncovered
findings that prove our caveman ancestors possessed these
abilities to "know something spontaneously, without the
conscious use of reasoning." Everyone has a sixth sense, but
too often we avoid listening to this inner source of
information because we believe it is more efficient to be
rational. This article provides eight suggestions for learning
how to listen to our inner voice.

Dr. Carl Jung, one of the fathers of modern psychoanalysis, described

intuition as the ability to anticipate change and to see possibilities inherent in
a situation. It is also the magic ingredient in new ideas and inventions.

Intuition and creativity are part of our biological make-up going back
thousands of years. Archaeologists have uncovered findings that prove our
caveman ancestors possessed these abilities to "know something
spontaneously, without the conscious use of reasoning." The evidence shows
that although they did not possess language skills and were primarily
concerned with survival, primitive humans intuitively used ritual to connect
with the mysterious realm of spirit.

In case you are wondering, everyone has a sixth sense. The good news is that it
works whether you believe it or not! It is a natural mental ability that you can
strengthen with practice, much the same way that you can become fluent in a
new language, play a musical instrument, or become a better golfer.

If you need to be able to think quickly in a variety of situations, overcome

creative blocks and find innovative solutions, here are some tips for learning
how to listen to your inner voice:

Go with the Flow

Pay attention to ideas, insights, and impressions that seem to come out of
nowhere. They are not "just imagination." They are information that your
brain is elaborating . Data can take many forms. Your brain is capable of
receiving information in the form of feelings, sensations, taste, sight, smell,
and sound. It synthesizes the data into a quick impression, often called a gut
feeling or hunch . Too often we avoid listening to this inner source of
information because we believe it is more efficient to be rational.

Respect those Hunches

For example, your brain may say that it is time to return an important phone
call or time to get off the phone. Or you may have a feeling of urgency about
delivering a message in person instead of sending a text. Successful people
from all walks of life report that paying attention and respecting their hunches
dramatically improves their sense of timing and consequently, success in their

Follow that Gut Feeling

When a gut feeling or hunch presents itself, the most important step is to act
on it as soon as possible. Write your gut feeling someplace immediately so that
you can refer back to it later. Then make a choice: Act on it or ignore it.
Observe the result and keep a record so that you can build your personal
intuitive database for future reference.

Take Time out to Solve a Problem

In order to make maximum use of your brain's ability to solve problems

intuitively, take a break. Do not try to solve it using logic. Do something else.
Take a walk. Listen to music. Shower. Relax. This opens up access to the
intuitive part of the brain that synthesizes information effortlessly. Allow your
intuitive mind to work for your solutions. Later on, you will notice that you are
thinking with clear vision. Do not be surprised as your intuition pops up more
frequently from now on.

Ask your Sixth Sense for Help

This is one of the most important rules. It may seem strange but it is possible
to speak to the part of your brain that knows how to receive and synthesize
information at high speed. The easiest way to do this is to take a few moments
to breathe deeply with eyes closed. When feeling relaxed, all that is needed is
to ask the intuitive part of the brain which is within you for help when solving
the problem. Strange but true: your brain will execute any command you

Look for the Big Picture

Instead of getting buried in details, take a deep breath and shift your focus to a
different task. At the same time, ask your intuitive mind to show you the big
picture. For example, if you are working on an Excel spread sheet and
something does not look right, ask your intuitive mind to show you what is
missing. You will be amazed when the missing piece of information pops into
your mind all of a sudden, effortlessly. Just ask. Your intuitive voice speaks
gently. Do not forget to listen to the subtle answers and write them down.

Acknowledge your Intuitive Mind

As you get more comfortable using these techniques every day, it will get
easier to think faster when you under pressure. One way to wire in this new
skill level is to thank your intuitive mind for helping you to solve a problem. It
is probably easier for you to criticize yourself when you make a mistake.
Instead take a moment to say to yourself, "Good work!" or "Not bad!" or
"Thanks!" Your brain will learn that this effort to find a solution is well
appreciated and this "thanking" will enhance your ability to come up with an
answer more quickly next time. Noticing when your hunch or gut feeling is
right on course will build your confidence.

Trust Yourself

One of the Fathers of Reason, the French mathematician Blaise Pascal said,
"There are two excesses: to exclude reason, and to admit only reason." As you
learn to see, hear, and feel your sixth sense, not only will you think fast on
your feet, you will become a master of your mind. Success is inevitable.
Author affiliation:

Laurie Nadel, PhD, is the author of the international bestseller Sixth Sense.
She has appeared on "Oprah," "Sightings," Sonya Live," Good Day, New York,"
and dozens of other television and radio programs around the country. Her
work has been featured in "New York Women," "Cosmopolitan," "Ladies'
Home Journal," "McCall's," "The Los Angeles Times," and "United Press

Nadel develops and presents seminars on intuitive leadership and decision-making.

She is a trainer for the American Management Association. Holding doctorates in
psychology and clinical hypnotherapy, she maintains a private practice in New York
City. She is also on the faculty of the American Institute of Hypnotherapy in Irvine,
California. A professional writer for more than twenty years, she has worked for such
major news organizations as CBS and ABC News, Newsweek, and United Press

“Adaptability - Could you do three different jobs in as many
years? Could you travel around the country on your own,
working from a laptop? Could you fly out to Brussels to explain
policy to our European Partners? A Fast Streamer never knows
what might appear on their desk. You need to be able to deal
with the unexpected and that which is beyond your experience.”
Civil Service Fast Stream recruitment literature
What do recruiters want? How do they ask for it?
Are you adaptable/flexible? Do you have the skill?
Example of how to evidence your adaptability/flexibility in
applications and at interviews
Other useful resources

What do recruiters want?

Recruiters want applicants to be able to demonstrate that they
can adapt to changing circumstances and environments and
take on board new ideas and concepts. They want people with
the personal confidence to respond positively to change and to
new ways of working; people who are prepared to rise to the
challenge of dealing with the unfamiliar and show they can cope
with the new or unexpected.
 “a positive ‘can do’ attitude and a willingness to grasp
 “We want you to demonstrate a dynamic approach”
 “We’re after ambitious graduates who can respond with
pace and energy to every issue they face ...”
 “We are looking for graduates who have the right attitude
to change ...”
 “. . .respond positively to change and the challenges and
opportunities it brings”
These quotes are all taken from recent adverts in graduate
magazines .As you can see, they don’t use the words
‘adaptable’ or ‘flexible’, but these recruiters are looking for
candidates who have these qualities. They want candidates
who can thrive in a culture of change and continuous
improvement, and can be flexible in the way they work and think.

What makes a person adaptable/flexible?

Is being adaptable and flexible a characteristic of your
personality, a behaviour which you can learn, or an employability
skill you can develop? The answer is all three and having an
understanding of yourself and how you respond to situations will
be useful to you in the workplace. If you haven’t already taken a
personality questionnaire, like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator,
you might find it useful to do so.
When assessing adaptability/flexibility, recruiters may look for:
 Intellectual flexibility – keeping an open mind is important.
You should be able to demonstrate that you can integrate new
information and draw conclusions from it, and that you can
switch from the detail to the big picture.
 Being receptive – particularly to change. Being able to
respond with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn new
ways to achieve targets and objectives is a key competency.
 Creativity – actively seeking out new ways of doing things
and not being scared to improvise and/or experiment.
 Changes behavior – show that you can adjust your style of
working or method of approach to meet the needs of a situation
or emergency
Some people are naturally adaptable – in fact, they thrive on
change and the unexpected and alter their routines as much as
they can. However, if you are the kind of person who has a ‘to
do’ list and doesn’t like it when something arises which isn’t on
your list, then you aren’t naturally adaptable. You will, though,
have learnt how to become adaptable/flexible through
experience. You might even have the advantage over others as
you will have used your planning and organising skills to change
your behaviour. Look, also, at the section on initiative and
problem solving as the skills are very similar.
Whatever your natural tendencies, you have to be able to prove
to an employer that you can:
 Looks for ways to make changes work rather than
identifying why change will not work
 Adapt to change and new ways of working quickly and
 Make suggestions for increasing the effectiveness of
 Show willingness to learn new methods, procedures, or
 Shift your priorities in response to the demands of a
 Bounce back from setbacks and maintain a positive

How do you prove to a recruiter you have

these skills?
It is not good enough to simply say “I can adapt to situations” or
“I am flexible in the way I work”, you have to prove that you are
by giving appropriate examples. You can draw on situations like
these to help you demonstrate your adaptability:
 Living abroad as part of an exchange programme
 Moving to this country to study
 Balancing your study commitments with part time work
 Working and/or living with people of different ages/cultures
 Work experience, particularly placements and internships
 Voluntary work experience
Think of an example of when you have had to adapt to change or had to be flexible in
a situation. Then use the STAR technique to describe it:

S Define the Situation

T Identify the Task

A Describe your Action

R Explain the Result

This technique is useful at all stages of the selection process so

it is worthwhile getting to grips with it. Here’s an example:
S – define the situation: – (where were you; what were you
doing? what was the context)
I initially applied to study Pharmacy at University, acting on my
family’s advice. I knew I would have to achieve high grades in
my A levels, particularly Chemistry, which is not one of my best
subjects. Several of my friends were applying to Brighton
University and I did too. I got an offer and made plans.
However, I did not get the B grade I needed in Chemistry to be
accepted onto the course.
T – identify the Task: ( what was your aim? what was the
I had to re-think my future urgently. I could take up the offer of
an alternative course at Brighton, see if I could get on a
Pharmacy course elsewhere or re-consider my career.
Whatever I decided, I had to be flexible as I knew my options
were limited.
A – describe the Action you took: (be clear about what you
I decided that what I studied was more important than where I
studied it. My favourite subject is biology and I enjoyed
laboratory classes at school. After getting information from a
Careers Advice helpline and doing some research, I decided to
apply for Biomedical Sciences courses through Clearing. I drew
up a shortlist of courses and arranged to visit 3. I was most
impressed by the course here at Bradford and received an offer
from them. I knew that moving to Bradford would be a challenge
as my network of family and friends are all in the South.
R – highlight the Result you achieved: (what was the
outcome of your actions, what did you achieve?)
I was, initially, very upset having to change my plans but I'm
pleased I did as I am sure I have made the right
decision. Moving to Bradford was hard initially but everyone is
very friendly and I have got to know people from many different
cultures as Bradford is so diverse, and I have particularly
enjoyed this. I am also enjoying the course a lot and getting
good marks. I have already decided I want a career in
biomedical research and am planning to do a placement year.
To use the STAR technique effectively, remember:
 You are the STAR of the story, so focus on your own
actions, even if they were only a small part of a larger whole.
 Tell a story and capture the interest of the reader. Include
relevant details but don’t waffle.
 Move seamlessly from the situation, through the task, to
your actions, and finally to the result.
Adapting Your Examples
The example above, for instance, could easily be altered to
prove your initiative and problem-solving skills and could form
the basis of an example of planning and organising. It is
worthwhile spending time writing statements like this about all
your experiences and then adapting them to match each
recruiters’ specific requirements.