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Simulations for Learning…

img_4031We are in a converted cable manufacturing factory in Helsinki, Finland with over a hundred of the brightest people we have ever met. They are working frantically to deliver small beads into a series of troughs using an amazing array of delivery mechanisms. These guys are data junkies, working for a company at the cutting edge of ideas around “big data”, so why ask them to manoeuvre mini-cablecars and drop marbles from a great height?

In our experience, learning to lead and work in teams is much more than a cerebral act. We often spend time with clever people who read all the books, understand all the theory and yet still find it tough to engage effectively with others under pressure. Application of theory requires practice, practice, practice – and most times, that practice should not happen when there are millions of euros at stake. Much better to rehearse in relative safety, where the only thing to lose is a bit of pride…

This simulation for the Finns is just one of a series, developed between ourselves and our Swiss partners, MTI. Frustrating, complex and fiendishly creative, these simulations range from fifteen minutes to a full day in duration, each one designed to be fun, engaging and sometimes sobering. The purpose is not to re-create a facsimile of a work environment; indeed quite the opposite – the simulation creates a context for behaviour, pure and simple. Removed from technical expertise or work-related conditioning, a well-designed simulation creates a moment of fantasy – where leadership, communication and behaviours are the secret to success.

A sixty minute simulation can hold all the clues about how a team is likely to work together, how a project is probably going to turn out or why an initiative will fly or fail. A simulation, set up and observed by experienced facilitators, is a laboratory for behaviours – a place where participants can experiment, reflect and identify critical moments of success or failure.

All this in the knowledge that it is “safe rehearsal”. Muscle memory for the brain. A reassuring marker for the limbic system.

And for the data guys in Helsinki, what did they learn? Well, they learned a lot about clarifying purpose before jumping into task; how to listen and explore ideas fully, without assumptions; and how to lead in a complex and rapidly changing customer-centric landscape. And because it is action embedded on theory, they now have a shared experience, a common lexicon with which to spot, surface and address similar moments in their real world.

We have created simulations to help build teams, assist leaders to better understand themselves and others, and help groups identify how best to influence change. If you are interested in knowing more about the range of simulations we have or would like us to design one specifically for you, please get in touch.

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