When will we ever learn? the after action review, lessons learned and the next steps in training and educating the homeland security enterprise for the 21st century
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The problem of how preparedness and response organizations effectively elicit, develop, capture and disseminate organizational knowledge has been difficult to answer. Although techniques such as the after action review (AAR) have been practiced for over 40 years, not much is known about how it actually works at a theoretical level or if it still has viability in an increasingly complex world. Research also suggests that within many agencies, the AAR is not being practiced regularly and the lessons learned from the AARs being completed are not distributed or implemented effectively. An over-reliance on AARs and lessons learned might in fact be creating more harm than help. The complexity of modern day exercises and emergencies demands that responders be able not just to apply learning from past events but also to reflect, act, and learn in real time. Determining how to create the proper individual and organizational conditions for response professionals to make sense of and act upon the various learning opportunities inherent both during and after an event is crucial. Thinking of the problem within a larger emergency learning framework (ELF) and identifying learning as its own discrete organizational capability are recommended as potential solutions.