MIDWAY BREATHER-STOP AND REFLECT

  • • Crises are complex events that require teamwork to resolve successfully. However, teamwork is strained by a variety of factors (e.g., team cognition, common operating picture, situation awareness, information sharing, and hidden knowledge).
  • • The conceptual strains to teamwork may be further exacerbated by the role of culture; however, creating an environment in which to study this effectively presents a research challenge best resolved by a multinational case-study approach.

A CASE STUDY EXAMINING TEAM COGNITION AND CULTURE

In order to examine the differences that emerge across cultural groups, two case studies were developed using a scaled-world simulation, NeoCITIES. NeoCITIES is a scaled-world, human-in-the-loop distributed team simulation that allows for the effective examination of team cognition within complex settings. It is centered on routine and nonroutine emergency crisis response events in which teams of three must take on the roles of fire, police, and hazardous materials to coordinate and collaborate on resource allocation to events throughout the simulation. Although the studies used the NeoCITIES simulation as a foundation for data collection, the challenges of controlling for all potential variables across multiple sites in different countries proved to be insurmountable. As a result, the researchers agreed that a case-study approach presents data that are collected via separate experiments in separate international venues. These studies, when viewed as individual events, provide insight into how cultural differences may influence key factors in crisis response outlined above. The results presented here reflect the premise that multiple factors influence crisis response, and one of those is cultural context.

Research in cross-cultural contexts has remained largely unexplored due to the complexities and complications that arise from conducting such studies. Through an existing interuniversity cooperation, The Pennsylvania State University and the University of Manchester (UK) tackled the challenges by designing a collaborative research project to test cultural differences. The project’s goal was to determine how culture might influence crisis response with a particular focus on information sharing. By analyzing responses from the United States and the United Kingdom teams to a series of events that required communicating and sharing hidden knowledge, the researchers hoped to identify similarities and differences in the two culturally different environments. The realities of cross-cultural research challenges such as establishing a common research approach and environment resulted in gathering data from two unique cases rather than determining what similarities and differences existed between commonly controlled research environments. Although failing to extract significant data related to the intended results, the experiment offered case data that is presented.

Penn State and the University of Manchester (United Kingdom) have had a longterm relationship, built primarily around a shared credit-based curriculum that offers professional development education to multinational companies. This project in itself presents an interesting database for assessing cross-cultural education. With more than a decade of cooperation, the primary investigators (PIs) on the education project agreed that a collaborative research project would further strengthen the interinstitutional partnership. The long sought-after initiative came to fruition in the context of cultural influencers on crisis management response. Combined, the institutions provided a viable participant poll and environment to conduct the study, a shared simulation (i.e., NeoCITIES) from which to collect data, and an institutional commitment to moving the project ahead.

Successful collaboration supported by viable findings required an agreed upon research approach, establishment of a similar testing environment, and most critically that NeoCITIES could be adapted for the United Kingdom environment in terms of contextual relevance, technical installation, and training. The advantages of identifying the key areas of collaboration allowed the researchers to adjust the project’s perspective when insurmountable challenges arose. The lessons learned through the process of setting up this study in itself offered insight into cultural differences that informed the team’s understanding of what was needed to implement cross-cultural research.

Although there was conceptual agreement on the research approach, it ultimately became apparent that establishing a common research environment that was the basis of valid statistical research project was undoable. The available facilities at the two institutions were simply too different to create similar testing environments in the time allocated for the study. With a quantitative study unattainable, it was decided that instead the experiments should be conducted at the separate locations but compared using a collective case-study approach. Case studies offer in-depth analysis of a complex problems or events over a specific time. As a result, case studies are not characterized by the methods used to collect and analyze data, but rather focus on the unit of analysis (Willig, 2001, p. 74). Case-study boundaries result from specifics of the analysis—who, what, where, when, and how that yields the data collected via observation, simulation, document review, and interviews. A case-study approach is highly compatible with the LLF as it carries ethnography, knowledge elicitation, and scaled-world elements to interpret practice around certain boundary conditions and intended goals related to cognitive systems and culture. Through a collective or comparative case method, the results from similar, albeit not identical, events may be analyzed to understand similarities and differences, which would be compared with a particular focus on communication among team members including the sharing of hidden knowledge. Furthermore, the case-study approach employed is highly compatible with the LLF as it carries ethnography, knowledge elicitation, and scaled-world elements to interpret practice around certain boundary conditions and intended goals related to teams, cognitive systems, and culture.

 
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