Guest Speakers

Laura Maguire

Laura is a Research Engineer who studies human performance in high risk/high consequence work.

Her research interests lie in studying real work in the ‘natural laboratory’ of mountain environments to better understand the adaptation and resilience needed for working in conditions of uncertainty and change. 

She has a Master’s degree in Human Factors & Systems Safety and a PhD in Cognitive Systems Engineering from the Ohio State University and draws from 15 years of experience working in safety and risk management in industrial settings.

Controlling the cognitive costs of coordination in distributed work teams: In other words, why ‘communication’ is a hard problem for mountain safety

It’s often said that improving team communication is a solution for better risk management. However, communication is a small part of a broader subset of coordinative functions needed to successfully manage complex activities like managing risk in avalanche terrain. 

This talk digs into the cognitive work of mountain safety professions to show how group coordination and communication incur cognitive ‘costs’.  In lower tempo operations (like early season conditions) these costs are barely noticeable. In high tempo operations (like in the midst of an epic storm cycle or during a rescue) these costs escalate. Escalations can lead to coordination breakdowns that overwhelm a team’s ability to manage the situationendangering themselves and those they seek to protect. Strategies for controlling the costs of coordination in various mountain contexts are discussed.