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Integrate Simulations Into Leadership Development

"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." - Warren Buffet

"Sure, we could do it that way, but we want it to work."


Often, I'm confronted with this seemingly age-old challenge in my work. That is, can we find the right balance to collaborate with our clients, engage the client organization, and do what it takes to increase the likelihood our project will be successful?


Too often, however, our decision makers in organizations support training for outdated or inappropriate reasons. Are you doing training for the wrong reasons? Here are a few (Adapted from Langevin Learning Services):

  1. There's money left in the budget.

  2. You want to address "the issue of the day"

  3. You want to show you care

  4. It's a hot topic

  5. You have lots of requests

  6. You can do it online

Resources are scarce. Time is tight. We only meet every so often. These are all good reasons that we ought to focus on what works, and avoid things that don't. As a Certified Performance Technologist, I'm always looking for things that work and add value for my clients.


Integrating business simulations into leadership development works.


I don't mean "works" as in the advertising, doublespeak meaning of the word. I mean it actually increases the likelihood that we will achieve the results we're looking for.


By contrast, I am saying that we should integrate business simulations, rather than deploy them as stand alone learning events. Surely, we learn a great deal from the experience of stand-alone business learning, but we learn much more if we integrate it into the bigger picture of learning, performance, and business results.


Why is this worthwhile? Well, most if not all learning and training nowadays is delivered from a distance. We get together for training and learning in-person meetings infrequently. This time is precious. We should focus on what that forum offers that you cannot get through other means. We ought to get the most out of it that we can.


Integration is the way to get the most out of business simulations and in-person learning events.


Integrating doesn't need to be complicated. Here is an example of how I use this simple, yet powerful integration principle:


Often, a client will engage me to deliver a simulation. My first step is to interview the program sponsor, learn the context of the program, learn what is coming before and after my simulation, and define the specific learning and performance results we're aiming for. I collaborate with the client sponsor, leadership, and other instructors to touch on themes, skill practices and messaging.


In delivery, I look for opportunities to reference, reinforce, and encourage learners to apply their new learning and take action, consistent with the overall goals of the program. I adapt in real time. We integrate impact maps, mission/vision, strategic goals, leadership models, and performance expectations into the experience. As a result, the learners experience a simulation aligned with their learning and business goals.


In short, we should focus more energy on what comes BEFORE and AFTER our programs, and use that knowledge to inform us on what we do DURING our programs.


Other integration tactics include:

  1. Engaging company leaders and managers as real-time coaches in the business simulation (This also has the side benefit of increasing the visibility of your leader development work!)

  2. Engage professional coaches to observe, assess, and provide targeted feedback and encouragement

  3. Include executive leaders and others to serve on panels to discuss issues uncovered in the business simulation (strategy, markets, plans, etc.) through their own Teachable Point of View.

  4. Tie-in relevant reading and research (e.g. Blue Ocean Strategy) to business simulation debriefs

  5. Connect business simulations to relevant, specific skill development efforts (e.g. decision making training/skills)

  6. Direct learners to speak to their bosses about what they learned in the program. Use a Success Case Method of evaluation to determine what worked and what had impact and why.

Just a few of these tactics can make a world of difference. The program is much less likely to be seen as a once-and-done seminar that has no chance of impact. We can't afford to be "once-and-done." We need to adopt integration tactics that assure our sponsors that learning will have an impact on business performance.


It really works!

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