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Masters' Q&A - Libby Macomber

Experts Answer 5 Questions on Simulations - Libby Macomber

A hand holding a sign that says ask an expert.

This is the second in my series of interviews with experts in our field of learning, development, performance, and business acumen. Today, it's Libby Macomber, President of Celemi, Inc., the global provider of hands-on business learning, business simulations, and business performance improvement.



To learn more about her, her work, and her advocacy, go here.


DAN: Why do you think leaders at all levels get so much from learning in simulations?

LIBBY: Leaders gain value from simulations because they get to practice making decisions, communicating, negotiating, and influencing in a safe environment. Excellent simulations, like the ones from Celemi, mimic real life. Leaders see themselves and their organizations within the simulation.


They are challenged to compete, weigh risks and benefits, analyze data, and perform in a tight timeframe. This truly prepares them for seeing issues from a strategic perspective back on the job. Pilots use flight simulations - It’s mandatory. Businesspeople should use business simulations. There’s a lot at stake, and we deserve to take training that prepares us to be and do great things!


DAN: How have simulation participants demonstrated their learning back on the job? What’s the return on this investment (financial or non-financial)?

LIBBY: Not a session goes by without focusing on applying the knowledge back on the job. I was literally given goosebumps and tears in my eyes, 2 weeks ago when I received the work I had assigned to my cohort. They had applied the concepts better than I could ever have expected.


My client is a prominent pharmaceutical company. I asked the cohort of participants to apply their new knowledge from our agility simulation called, Agile Move. The cohort resided in R&D, the heart of any pharma company. I gave them the task of taking a challenge at work and applying agile principles, anticipating what their decision would do to specific KPIs, and providing a timeline for action. The impact on the KPI was significant. In this case, it was Customer Value, Team Satisfaction, Speed, and Value for Effort.


Think about what impact these measures can do on drug development and overall innovation. Again, I was moved to tears! These incredibly talented and bright professionals will soar when you give them the right professional development!


DAN: What makes learning through a Celemi simulation experience unique and meaningful?

LIBBY: Celemi simulations are unique and meaningful because of our unmatched quality. Outcomes from decisions are realistic. Challenges are believable. They prepare leaders for advancement. They provide a big-picture understanding of business on so many levels. We truly get it at Celemi. We help others get it by making our simulations simple but not easy. Take a moment and try to make a challenging concept simple but not easy. Yep, it’s hard. Our developers know the secret, and they do it amazingly well!


DAN: Some Talent Development Teams partner with Finance leaders, HR leaders, Project professionals, or even senior Operations executives on topics in their area of expertise. How have simulators been adapted in collaboration with these subject experts? What have been the results?

LIBBY: Over 6 million people in 70 countries have experienced the Power of Learning with Celemi Simulations. We achieved these numbers because we are true partners with our clients.


For example, we worked with finance leaders in a service organization that had just been spun off from the mothership. The business was profitable, but they had always relied on the parent company for cash. Thus, they had not focused on invoicing efficiency, forecasting appropriately, and cash management. This was a big gap now that they had their own P&L!


The CFO of this large service organization participated in our day-long class. She observed and commented when she felt important action points were being discovered during the day. At one point she was literally jumping up and down and pointing to her nose. Ding Ding Ding, we need you to get our services in place and invoice faster! What does that take? It takes refocus of our leaders on the project. What will this do? It will increase cash flow and allow us the freedom to invest. Because the cohort had just been running a fictional company, they understood the implications for their own organization.


We are currently providing a Train the Trainer for the finance team to provide Celemi Apples & Oranges to all leaders of this organization. I suspect they are beginning to fill the gap in their strategy as we speak. The full impact may take over a year because it’s more than understanding, it’s acting. That is up to them. I have total faith in this client, though. You can just tell they’re great people who can do great things for themselves and their own clients.


DAN: What energizes you about your work?

LIBBY: I get energized by making a difference. The above examples happened very recently. That’s just it. There are so many great companies that have surmountable obstacles holding them back. Let me at them!


Helping them diagnose the issues is often necessary. Then it’s making small, quick changes to overcome the obstacles. Because our simulations not only provide understanding but also, create emotion for change, we can impact the business. The competition, the teamwork among colleagues, and the ability of each person in the room to have a voice to assure action back on the job.


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