Given that team cognition has been shown to facilitate team effectiveness (e.g., DeChurch & Mesmer-Magnus, 2010), we developed interventions designed to enhance the development of shared understanding in teams. Each is reviewed below.


Story Content: Collaboration and Timing

We directed our efforts toward story creation in two areas that were relevant within an emergency management context: collaboration and timing. The collaboration theme highlighted the breakdowns that occur when teams fail to communicate critical information, and the timing theme highlighted the breakdowns that occur when teams fail to attend to the pacing and ordering of member actions.

Story Context: Metaphorical versus Analog

The term metaphorical storytelling was used to refer to stories that help to connect what listeners are less familiar with to what they are more familiar with. As stories should be relatable (Denning, 2001), and popular TV shows have popularized this setting, the metaphorical story was based on a true story that occurred at a hospital in New York City. In the story, the protagonist breaks his leg during a winter vacation. The patient’s postsurgery recovery encountered complications that stemmed from collaboration and timing errors of the medical team.

In contrast to metaphorical storytelling, analog storytelling maintains a closer connection between the story and the target domain. Derived from analogical problem solving (Bransford & Stein, 1984), the goal of analog storytelling is to apply the principles of narrative to a domain to a similar situation that the story represents. The NeoCITIES/analog story focused on a graduate student working in a laboratory environment during a severe snowstorm. During an unforeseen power outage, the protagonist has an accident where a beaker containing acid that he was carrying splashed its contents on his left arm. The protagonist has severe chemical burns and requires the assistance of police, fire, and HazMat. Complications stem from collaboration and timing errors of the response team.

Our stories were designed to embed the deep structure about the NeoCITIES simulation into an engaging and applicable story format using the principles of narrative. Each of the four stories went through several drafts, informed by internal discussions among the research team as well as sources with medical expertise (for the medical stories) and emergency crisis management experience (for the NeoCITIES stories). We had to balance the need to incorporate the deep level structure of collaboration and timing requirements in the NeoCITIES simulation with the need for the story to be realistic, credible, and engaging. We consulted with a professor and writer from the English department to edit our stories and ensure that they met the principles of narrative.

In summary, four types of stories (medical timing, medical collaboration, NeoCITIES timing, and NeoCITIES collaboration) and a control group (no story) were constructed. The four stories allowed us to test the effect of story content (timing versus collaboration) as well as story context (medical versus emergency crisis management) on team cognition. In the medical context, the deep level structure was similar to NeoCITIES, but the surface level structure was distinct (metaphorical storytelling). In contrast, in the NeoCITIES context, the surface and deep level structures were similar (analog storytelling) (Mancuso, Parr, et al., 2011). Participants viewed a five minute video on their computer. A narrator’s voice was heard, whereas various pictures of key points were displayed.


We sought to bring clarity to the literature by developing and testing guided reflexivity interventions that involved the inducement of team members’ engagement in a systematic reflection exercise (Gurtner et al., 2007). We manipulated both team and individual reflexivity.

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