In this series of articles, we will look at the use of simulations in effective training interventions. First, let’s find out why an organization would want to use simulations in its training program.
In the past, the mention of training simulations brought pictures of high-tech cockpit mock-ups and controlled burning buildings to mind. But in today’s environment, a training simulation can occur in a classroom or online with just about any line of professionals. We know that simulations in highly technical or dangerous situations are necessities, but why should we consider using simulations in various aspects of business training, such as strategy, operations, or even leadership? The answers are fairly simple, so in this series we will discuss simulations and how you can effectively implement them in your organizations.
One of the key outcomes of a business simulation is the aspect of execution.
Many times, even in our own professional lives, we find that knowledge is fantastic but that execution and application of knowledge is a little further out of reach. Up-and-coming executives can be trained in the classroom and even on the job, but their ability to executive complex strategies is a muscle that isn’t often tested. Consider the fact that trainees can make decisions and see their outcomes in a controlled environment, for just about any type of situation your organization may face. If the execution is not quite right, trainees can go back and try again, which is most often impossible in the real world.
Another reason to use simulations in your organization is to help people learn about new processes and new strategies, as well as to help them understand what their goals and objectives really are. If your organization is changing direction, as many have during uncertain economic conditions, a simulation can help personnel move through the change virtually – and in far less time than in real life. A two day simulation can encompass two years on the job, and, as we’ve already discussed, the environment is controlled and outcomes are simply there for learning.
In terms of strategy, consider an organization that has acquired or been acquired. The cultural and operational perspectives of a consolidation are quite large and the organization could take years to adjust to the change. Why not use a simulation that includes cultural and operational aspects in order to accurately portray what life will be like after the change? Not only can a simulation like this teach new employees how and why the organization makes decisions, but it can also bring them closer to the overall cultural goal much sooner than you might expect. Trainees can examine their decision making skills, operational knowledge, and even leadership qualities during a well-planned simulation.
Another reason to use simulations is the team-building aspect, especially with new teams or organizations. As group members begin to deal with a real-life situation right away, they are able to learn about their team members’ strengths and opportunities and work together for a common goal. Imagine consolidating the “storming” phase of team development into a few days or weeks, versus a few years. And, as we’ve seen recently, organizations must be able to turn quickly and without much fuss if they want to stay competitive.
Speaking purely in financial or economic terms, simulations can help decision-makers deal with the results of their choices without actually spending any physical cash. This is again an example of where knowledge works but applying it in controlled situations works even better. For example, if a team needs to determine the best way to create efficiencies and cut costs, why not run the process as a training simulation first? This way, the team can actually visualize their decisions and determine potential paths before any decisions are made in real-time. If the simulation is controlled, team members can go through exercises that they may not go through if they are faced with a decision in the real world – or that they may not take enough time to discuss before moving forward in that real world.
So it’s time to move simulations from the cockpit and out of burning buildings – and into board rooms and training rooms in a multitude of businesses and organizations. Next, we will discuss the components of effective simulations.