What is situational awareness?

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By Angela Mutiso?

Too Many Distractions in Today’s Digital Environment

Logotherapy tries to make the patient fully aware of his own responsibleness; therefore, it must leave to him the option for what, to what, or to whom he understands himself to be responsible.

Victor E. Frankl

In his widely read book, Man’s Search for Meaning, internationally renowned psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl, who ‘endured years of unspeakable horror in Nazi death camps’, describes a situationin one of his perturbing anecdotes, thus; there was neither time nor desire to consider moral or ethical issues. Every man was controlled by one thought only; to keep himself alive for the family waiting for him at home, and to save his friends. 

In that script, this architect of logotherapy, (a therapeutic approach that helps people find personal meaning in life), was literally discussing life and death. In this heart rending and insightful book, described by Gordon W. Allport as a remarkable blend of science and humanism, the excerpt quoted above (regarding every man being controlled by one thought only), brings to mind the touching story of a young boy who rescued school mates, so busy with their devices to realize they were about to have an awful accident. The story is narrated below…

A driver ferrying a busload of school children home at the end of day suffered an attack that immobilized him. One of the students in the businstantly moved to his seat, and took control of the vehicle.

Police explained to the gratified parents of the 7th grader that as soon as their son noticed thedriver was having a medical emergency, he sprang into action. He took the wheel, hit the brake and gained control of the situation, saving the driver and the students(This rescuer always sat near the driver every time he was in that bus and observed his actions). After the tension and excitement, it was all over, or was it?

There were still unanswered questions; why didn’t anyone else notice what was happening? It turns out that virtually every kid (they confessed this) in the bus was on a device. One was listening to music, another playing a game, another watching a movie, others were probably on face book, or whatsApp, name it. 

Someone, explaining the situation said; “we hear a lot about the consequences of screen time, but one thing I never considered until now, is the loss of situational awareness; what’s happening around them, and yet one kid in the bus instantly recognized what was happening;any guesses as to why?” His father understood why at once. He explained that it was because his son did not have a cell phone. He went on…And the lesson here is; what are you gonna do when you don’t have a phone? You are gonna look at people, you’re gonna look at stuff, you’regonna notice things, it is a very powerful lesson, maybe change the world kind of lesson.

Question is…Do these devices blunt our emotions? Do they deprive us of the spirit of comradeship? Do they dehumanize us? Do they stunt our intellectual growth? And do they end friendships with a click? They obviously take away our attention from what is going on around us, and deprive us of what we are talking about in this feature…situational awareness and situational roles.

It is apparent that if the young boy who saved so many lives by his quick reaction hadn’t noticed what was happening, and if he had failed to take immediate action when he saw it, most of the children in that bus would have been badly injured, some would even have died. He was alert to his environment and this made it possible for him to, (in Victor Frankl’s words) keep himself (and the other people in the bus) alive for the family waiting for him at home, and to save his friends. Situational awareness leads to immediate re-action.

So what is situational awareness and why is it important?

Situational awareness can be referred to as a state of knowledge,” and situational assessment as “the processes” used to achieve that knowledge. Mica Endsley (a pioneer and world leader in the study and application of situation awareness in advanced systems) argues that “it is important to distinguish the term situation awareness, as a state of knowledge, from the processes used to achieve that state.

How does Situational Awareness help you Navigate Life in the Modern Workplace

Being able to maintain situational awareness has become a crucial skill because there are so many distractions in today’s digital environment. The capacity to consciously notice and understand one’s surroundings and to anticipate and understand the potential implications of events and actions is known as situational awareness.

It is necessary to learn the significance of situational awareness, and why it is a vital tool in the modern workplace, daily routines, and navigating life with confidence and purpose. Situational awareness comprises the ability to observe, interpret, and analyze various environmental factors, including people, objects, events, and their interrelationships. It is finely tuned sense of alertness, an acute understanding of context, and the ability to make well-informed decisions based on this awareness.

Why is Situational Awareness essential?

It is necessary for augmenting personal safety and security. People can take practical steps to alleviate risks, threats, or dangers by being aware of them in advance. Situational awareness gives people the power to stay safe by making them alert to their surroundings in strange situations or to spot warning indications of suspicious conduct.

Making wise moves is good for personal and professional situations. Situational awareness makes you properly analyze events and make relevant decisions by giving them the bigger picture. One can avoid mistakes and get better results by taking into account all pertinent aspects and foreseeing future outcomes.

There are many ways in which situational awareness can make life easier for us today. It eases communication skills by promoting active listening and empathy. By being conscious to the emotions, needs, and perspectives of others, individuals can guide their communication style accordingly. This can enable better relationships, collaboration, perceptiveness and teamwork.

Situational Awareness in the Modern Workplace;

Crisis Management: In times of crises, situational awareness is essential for leaders and employees alike. By closely monitoring evolving situations, identifying risks, and assessing the impact on business operations, individuals can respond swiftly and effectively, minimizing disruption and ensuring the safety of personnel.

Adaptability and Innovation: The modern workplace is characterized by constant change and complexity. Situational awareness equips individuals with the agility to adapt to shifting circumstances and embrace innovation. By being aware of developing trends, technological advancements, and market dynamics, individuals can seize opportunities and stay ahead of the competition.

Effective Leadership: Leaders who possess situational awareness are adept at understanding the dynamics within their teams and organizations. They can gauge employee morale, identify areas for improvement, and make informed decisions that align with their vision. By fostering a culture of situational awareness, leaders can create an environment that promotes engagement, trust, and growth.

Situational Awareness in Daily Routines and Life

Management: Situational awareness aids in optimizing time and prioritizing tasks. By understanding the urgency, importance, and dependencies of various activities, individuals can distribute their time effectively, achieving greater efficiency and work-life balance.

Personal Relationships: Situational awareness plays a crucial role in building and nurturing personal relationships. By actively listening, observing non-verbal cues, and being empathetic, individuals can form stronger connections, resolve conflicts, and foster meaningful bonds with others.

Emotional Well-being: Being aware of one’s emotional state and triggers is essential for maintaining emotional well-being. Situational awareness allows individuals to recognize stressors, manage their reactions, and make conscious choices that promote self-care and resilience.


Situational roles serve as navigational tools that enable professionals to adapt their behavior, communication, and problem-solving approaches to suit the demands of various situations. Understanding and embracing situational roles can significantly enhance our effectiveness, productivity, and relationships in the workplace, as well as in our social and non-social interactions.

By recognizing the meaning, prominence, and value of situational roles, professionals can harness their resourcefulness and make a positive impact in diverse contexts.

The writer is the Editorial Consultant of the Accountant Journal.

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