As a learning consultant with over 25 years developing and delivering management simulations, I know that simulations are awesome! There are so many benefits to simulated learning for learners, their organizations and instructors.
“Learning activities that resemble real business circumstances foster better transfer of learning.” (Richard Swanson and Elwood Holton, How to Assess Performance, Learning & Perceptions in Organizations).
Organizations are always looking to engage and challenge their learners. A well designed, interactive, learning-based simulation does the trick.
Simulations strengthen strategic execution
- The opportunity to make strategic decisions, receive immediate feedback and see the results of those decisions enhances and accelerates the learning process. Seeing is believing.
- When learners focus on a common goal and understand the drivers of a business, their ability to execute against the organization’s strategic direction improves. Simulations provide insight into the different “levers” that drive business results and foster a learners’ understanding of an organization’s long-term strategic direction. This knowledge changes behaviors back on the job.
Simulations improve decision-making
- Simulations can be geared to develop “managers of the future” or support the objectives of “high potential” leadership programs.
- Well executed, experiential-based simulations provide learners with “a day in the life” experience of what it’s like to walk in management’s (or their client’s) shoes. This new-found perspective improves learners’ understanding of how C-level management makes decisions and executes strategically. Through a simulation, learners can make decisions in a risk-free environment and gain a better understanding of an executive’s decision-making process. Learners can then apply their experience to decisions they make in their everyday role and align those decisions to the organization’s strategy.
Simulations develop leaders
- Developing tomorrow’s leaders is critical to the success of every organization. Group-based simulations allow learners to build their leadership skills by teaching critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills and allowing learners to apply these skills in a risk-free environment.
Simulations build collaboration across the organization
- Training programs (especially team-based, competitive simulations) can group learners together that do not work together otherwise, building relationships across the organization. This allows learners to better understand the issues and challenges of the entire organization versus just their area of the company.
- “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak” said Epictetus a Greek philosopher (and my mother at the dinner table). For organizations, team-based simulations can improve how individuals (especially with strong personalities) work together. To motivate my classes, I often say “the teams that develop a good, respectful working relationship usually perform better during the simulation.”
Simulated learning experiences have the potential to deliver results well beyond foundational learning and that’s why they are awesome. The skills and knowledge that learners take away from well-designed simulations stay with them for a lifetime and improve their leadership, decision-making and communication skills. These improvements can have a significant impact on your organization as it executes against its goals.
What are your thoughts, experiences and comments on simulations?
If you have specific or related topics you’d like addressed, please leave a comment below.
About the Author
Chris Lawton, a founding partner at Performance Solutions International (PSI) and financial services consultant, has been providing training and consulting services for the last 25 years (after a career in public accounting).
Performance Solutions International (PSI)
At PSI we offer two bank simulations that we use to teach industry professionals all about the complex business of banking and financial services (Executive Suite Simulation and Community Banking Sim). We have created a number of custom simulations for our clients too.
“PSI’s simulation is highly engaging and we continue to get very positive feedback. We’ll continue to partner with PSI on this vital part of our learning curriculum.” From a long-term PSI Banking Client
“The course was highly informative and honestly a lot of fun! The hands on activities helped bring the lessons to light because you can visually see the impacts of the decisions made.” From a participant