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Free Content Complex Collaborative Problem-Solving Processes in Mission Control

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Fiore SM, Wiltshire TJ, Oglesby JM, O’Keefe WS, Salas E. Complex collaborative problem-solving processes in mission control. Aviat Space Environ Med 2014; 85:456–61.

Introduction: NASA’s Mission Control Center (MCC) is responsible for control of the International Space Station (ISS), which includes responding to problems that obstruct the functioning of the ISS and that may pose a threat to the health and well-being of the flight crew. These problems are often complex, requiring individuals, teams, and multiteam systems, to work collaboratively. Research is warranted to examine individual and collaborative problem-solving processes in this context. Specifically, focus is placed on how Mission Control personnel—each with their own skills and responsibilities—exchange information to gain a shared understanding of the problem. The Macrocognition in Teams Model describes the processes that individuals and teams undertake in order to solve problems and may be applicable to Mission Control teams. Method: Semistructured interviews centering on a recent complex problem were conducted with seven MCC professionals. In order to assess collaborative problem-solving processes in MCC with those predicted by the Macrocognition in Teams Model, a coding scheme was developed to analyze the interview transcriptions. Results: Findings are supported with excerpts from participant transcriptions and suggest that team knowledge-building processes accounted for approximately 50% of all coded data and are essential for successful collaborative problem solving in mission control. Support for the internalized and externalized team knowledge was also found (19% and 20%, respectively). Discussion: The Macrocognition in Teams Model was shown to be a useful depiction of collaborative problem solving in mission control and further research with this as a guiding framework is warranted.

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Keywords: collaborative problem solving; distributed teams; macrocognition in teams; mission control

Document Type: Short Communication

Affiliations: University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, and the United Space Alliance, LLC, Houston, TX, USA

Publication date: 01 April 2014

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