Project

Sensemaking among seafaring leaders

Goal: Explore the nature of sensemaking among seafaring leaders with the view to developing an explanatory model and provide improved pedagogy for maritime leadership.

Updates
0 new
1
Recommendations
0 new
0
Followers
0 new
6
Reads
0 new
60

Project log

Bradley Roberts
added a research item
The emerging field of neurophenomenology provides a source of fresh insights into professional practice from an embodied perspective. This chapter draws upon the lifeworld perspectives of master mariners at sea to illustrate the potential benefits of applying a neurophenomenological lens to better understand professional practice and its development. Neurophenomenology aims to integrate the fields of cognition, neurobiology and the phenomenological examination of human experience in order to advance and illuminate understandings of human consciousness. While it remains an emerging interdisciplinary field, it is supported by decades of empirical, neurobiological evidence. As such, it provides an evidence-informed approach to understanding embodied dimensions of practice. This chapter considers what neurophenomenology can bring to embodied perspectives, in professional education, and how neurophenomenology can enlighten educational practices that support professionals’ being, doing and becoming. The chapter draws on relevant examples from master mariners at sea, as well as other professional contexts, and demonstrates that neurophenomenology provides a fruitful and tantalising lens for developing insights into education and professional practice.
Bradley Roberts
added a research item
Embodied sensemaking has the potential to cause catastrophic loss of life at sea. However, paradoxically, it can enable seafaring leaders to save lives, protect the environment and create order from chaos in complex and high-risk work contexts. Yet, embodied sensemaking remains unexplored within contemporary maritime human factors (MHF) literature. MHF’s prevailing paradigms of Cartesian dualism and reductionist research methodologies are inadequate for engaging with the complex and interconnected nature of living and working at sea. This doctoral thesis pursues the question: How do seafaring leaders make sense of critical events that confront their practice? In particular, it explores the degree that sensemaking is an embodied phenomenon. It does so via a research method that is novel to MHF studies; a phenomenologically attentive narrative interpretive approach. This research design involved semi-structured interviews with twenty seafaring leaders (master mariners and chief engineers). Denzin’s interpretive interactionism (2001) was employed to generate thick descriptions of seafaring leader narratives, which were then interpreted to arrive at impactful insights into the nature of sensemaking, revealing it to be a deeply embodied phenomenon. These interpretations were then theoretically examined to validate and extend upon these insights. This thesis concludes that there is a “bottom-up”, neurobiological dynamic that shapes the way seafaring leaders make sense of critical events, as well as their every-day professional practice. This dynamic is based upon commonly shared neural populations that bodily integrate perceptions, actions, emotions, sensations, and thoughts in a mind/body sensemaking system that is enmeshed with its environment. Additionally, there is a “bottom-up”, sociological dynamic that also shapes the way that seafaring leaders make sense of critical events. This sociological dynamic, conceptualised by Bourdieu as habitus, is scaffolded and reinforced by the neurobiological dynamic described above. As such, it too is an embodied phenomenon. Both these neurobiological and sociological forms of sensemaking are largely hidden from the conscious awareness of seafaring leaders. As such, this thesis makes a number of original academic and practice-based contributions, such as; • applying a holistic, interpretive approach to examining embodied sensemaking among seafaring leaders. • connecting embodiment, phronesis (or practice wisdom) and habitus in a comprehensive and theoretically validated manner. • developing a set of practice-based recommendations, including pragmatic tools and techniques designed to bring embodied sensemaking within the awareness of seafaring leaders. This thesis concludes with a call to action for the broader maritime sector to integrate embodied sensemaking within its theoretical paradigms.
Bradley Roberts
added 2 research items
This article proposes the exploration of how leaders within the Australian offshore marine sector, as an example of a high reliability work context, engage in embodied sensemaking to resolve critical events. Based on an extensive literature review, it prescribes a phenomenological, interpretivist approach to examining embodied sensemaking via semi-structured critical incident interviews with seafaring leaders (Masters and Chief Engineers). By interpreting thick descriptions of their lived experience, it is intended to develop both theoretical understanding as well as practice wisdom for dealing with critical events. High Reliability Organisations (HROs), such as those within the offshore marine sector, face the challenge of maintaining exceptional safety and operational reliability amidst increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). These factors provide for the emergence of critical incidents and events that are not readily anticipated. Weick’s theoretical model of sensemaking is examined in light of contemporary seafarer experience, as well as current theories on embodied cognition that were not available when Weick developed his sensemaking theory. Additionally, the research will challenge a number of archetypal assumptions of maritime command that have prevailed since Homer’s classic Odyssey. An examination of sensemaking of seafaring leaders will recast Homer’s hero, Odysseus, in light of the contemporary maritime context. Pursuing a phenomenological study into seafaring leadership with the view of developing a practice wisdom pedagogy has not been researched, despite its value being identified by the International Maritime Organisation. It is hoped that building wisdom and resilience in terms of how leaders within the Australian offshore marine sector make sense of, and resolve, these unexpected events will contribute towards the preservation of life and the environment.
Purpose Phenomenology is widely recognised for its power to generate nuanced understanding of lived experience and human existence. However, phenomenology is often made inaccessible to prospective researchers due to its specialised nomenclature and dense philosophical underpinnings. This paper explores the value of the researcher’s lived experience as a pathway into phenomenological inquiry. The purpose of this paper is to improve the accessibility of phenomenology as a method for qualitative analysis. It achieves this by aligning Husserl’s concept of phenomenological epoche, or bracketing of preconceptions, and the author’s lived experience as a practitioner of kendo, or Japanese fencing. Design/methodology/approach The paper employs the narrative vignette as a means of illuminating the intersections between kendo practice and the application of phenomenological epoche as it applies to the understanding of embodied sensemaking. Reflections on the narrative vignette identified a suite of techniques from kendo practice that were applied to a phenomenological approach for critical incident interviews. These techniques were then applied to 30 critical incident, semi-structured interviews as part of a PhD research project into embodied sensemaking. Findings The results from these interviews suggest that the kendo-derived techniques were effective in generating thick narratives from participants during semi-structured interviews. Examination of the results provided insights into the linkage between phenomenology as a continental philosophy and eastern perspectives such as those found within the Zen traditions and other aesthetic practices. Originality/value This research suggests that lived experience such as kendo practice can provide a ready-to-hand pathway to phenomenological inquiry.
Bradley Roberts
added an update
I am currently developing pragmatic techniques and interventions for developing embodied sensemaking awareness within individual seafarers, while enabling wise practice in how they make sense of, and respond to, critical events.
 
Bradley Roberts
added a research item
In this chapter we enter the fascinating and challenging world of master mariners. Through their narratives we set out to examine what this space is like and how its exploration can shed light on what practice wisdom means and how it is realised in the varied lifeworlds of master mariners. We present the following key arguments:  Being a master mariner is a complex role that blends professional practice and experience-based practice;  While many professionals work in organisations and corporations, master mariners work in unique venues where they are both master and employee;  Today’s master mariners face many challenges that relate to being individual professional practitioners, team leaders, organisational managers and chief executive officers reporting to company directors – at each of these levels decision making has different and potentially conflicting challenges and human/ economic/ethical/practice accountabilities;  There is considerable pressure on these master mariners being both ship “ruler” and senior responsible officer – present in the midst of both calm seas and crises and part of a corporate command tethered to distant overseers;  Master mariners today are equipped with advanced technology and face the imperative of scientific-based evidence in this age of global and multinational corporate accountability; and  Practice wisdom is an often overlooked centrality in all of these spaces.
Bradley Roberts
added a research item
While seafaring leaders describe their roles in terms of autocratic authority, infallibility, and permanence, their narratives suggest themes of impermanence and imperfection. This gives rise to paradoxical tensions in the face of liquid modernity. The author encourages seafaring leaders and professional practitioners to step out of the shadow of monolithic archetypes in order to develop wise practice.
Bradley Roberts
added a research item
Homer's hero, Odysseus, has stood as the archetype for seafaring leaders in Western society for almost three thousand years. This archetype is typified by infallibility, permanence, and the capacity to prevail undaunted amidst the extraordinary challenges of life at sea. As a monolithic ideal, it is in stark contrast with the lifeworld of seafaring leaders in this age of liquid modernity (Badham 2017). Seafaring leaders must contend with complexity and crises in ways that stretch their professional practice (Cherry & Higgs 2016). They are often left with a keen sense of their human fallibility and a sense of incompleteness in the aftermath of critical events. This conference paper arises from my PhD research project that explored how seafaring leaders make sense of critical events. Applying a narrative interpretive approach, I interviewed twenty seafaring leaders (captains and chief engineers) regarding their lived experience in contending with critical events, both in the immediate situation and their ongoing efforts to reconcile these events in terms of their professional identities (Roberts 2017). The participants provided rich, narrative descriptions of events ranging from the sinking of a ship through to a hostile crew storming the bridge, and managing the complex trade-offs between commercial goals and safety during high reliability work contexts. This conference paper, In the shadow of Odysseus, examines the gulf between the seafaring archetype espoused by Western culture and the reality of contemporary seafaring leadership (Lippi 2013). While undeniably heroic, the hue of these narratives suggests wabi-sabi elements of imperfection, impermanence and flawed beauty (Juniper 2011). In most cases, it is their human striving and sensemaking in the face of extraordinary events that is sufficient to hold the line in the teeth of high-stakes crises and dilemmas. My research also suggests the Japanese tradition of kintsugi, of mending broken items with gold (figure 1). Just as kintsugi seeks to repair and venerate broken items with precious metals (Hammill 2016), so too do these seafaring leaders piece together their identities and professional practice in the aftermath of these critical events; making them whole and vastly more valuable as a result.
Bradley Roberts
added a project goal
Explore the nature of sensemaking among seafaring leaders with the view to developing an explanatory model and provide improved pedagogy for maritime leadership.