A well-designed simulation provides an excellent practice field for developing leadership competencies. Here's why:
Safe learning environment. Learning new leadership behaviors creates anxiety because it requires letting go of old patterns of success. In organizations where decision-making stakes are high, this can inhibit leaders from experimenting with the new skills they need to become more effective. Our simulations lower this fear by creating a fictional environment where risk-taking is encouraged, both in terms of personal behavior and strategic decision-making. Leaders can push beyond their comfort zones and experience the results--without fear of embarrassment or crashing the business.
Whole system perspective. Simulations give leaders a new perspective of their business by compressing time and space. By bringing the entire business system into a single room, leaders can interact across functions and with outside stakeholders in ways that facilitate direct conversations and surface differing perspectives about the business. We also place participants in roles different than their normal job to provide them with a new view of their business and to foster empathy for others’ challenges. By compressing five to twenty years of business dynamics into a 2 – 4 day experience, we help leaders see more clearly the long-term consequences of their decisions on the business and on the larger systems that they impact.
Accelerated cycles of practice. Research shows that the experiential learning process is an iterative cycle, consisting of multiple rounds of experimenting, reflecting, hypothesizing, and decision-making. Simulations allow leaders to experience many such cycles at an accelerated pace. Typically, we run our simulations through 5 – 10 input-output rounds (e.g. on an annual basis) to give participants multiple attempts at leading in new ways. We carefully pace our simulations over multi-day periods to accelerate feedback, but at the same time allow enough time for the mental percolation that occurs overnight and between rounds. When unexpected results occur, leaders have time to reflect on their actions, adjust their approach, and test whether their new behaviors produce better results.