Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…” These words are incredibly important for the workforce of the digital age to remember. Why? The volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of the ever-changing business landscape means a career riddled with challenges. The question is of whether you are going to face and overcome these challenges or shy away from them, although the latter is equivalent to extinction.
In such a case, it is imperative that the necessary skills are developed quickly. Time is of the essence, without learning or retention being compromised. Therefore, simulations play a crucial role in helping build sustained learning. Given this context, it is pertinent for the business world to scale up the use of simulations in corporate learning. To ensure this outcome, we address three more myths commonly held about simulation-based learning. (Read: Dispelling the myths – Simulations Edition: Part 1)
Myth: Simulations are too difficult
To paraphrase Roosevelt, ‘Nothing worth having is easy’. Does this mean that simulations are indeed difficult? Perhaps at some point and in some ways. To my mind, there are two reasons that simulations can be viewed as difficult:
- A discomfort in using technology
- Obscurity of concept
Let’s dig a little deeper to debate the merit of this belief that simulations are difficult.
On the one hand, Simulations are technology-based solutions, and a discomfort in using technology may be an obstacle in simulation-based learning. After all, simulations have been around for nearly a century, while technology has been commonplace only in the last two decades or so. Therefore, there might have been some truth to this myth, but this was a long time ago. Since the advent of social media, mobile phones, and the internet, technology has become deeply embedded in our lives. Therefore, there are very few people who lack the understanding and comfort of handling technology. There are even fewer such individuals in the corporate world. Given the audience, simulation technology is definitely not too difficult to navigate.
An area where a belief that simulations are too difficult could be well-founded is in the lack of understanding of a concept, i.e., when you don’t understand the cognitive aspects of a topic, it can be difficult to implement it. However, research and experience both suggest that the best way to learn something is by doing. While it may seemingly take additional time and effort to do so, the resultant effect is one of sustained knowledge and skill development.
Myth: Learners are only interested in the competition aspect
It is true that a simulation comprises several elements of gamification and game-like mechanics to ensure that the activity is fun, engaging and immersive. As a result, simulations often look very similar to computer games, with points and leaderboards. Therefore, it may seem that learners get swept away by the competitiveness of the game-like simulation. An interesting observation that those who have experienced simulations before would have made is that often, learners discuss the simulation and their performance on the simulation long after the activity has been completed. In doing so, they compare notes on the actions they took, the results they got, and the strategy they employed in achieving the objectives set out for them within the simulation. Therein continues learning.
However, more credit must be given to the simulation construct. Two crucial features of superlative simulations are great instructional design and a concrete underlying theoretical framework. Without them, a simulation just doesn’t serve its purpose. What purpose? Simulations are designed for learning. While they successfully keep the learner engaged and excited, a simulation does not create impact unless the objective of the simulation is achieved, which is that of change – in knowledge, skill and mindset. This is where facilitators play a significant role. With this, we address another myth, tied closely to this one – that simulations make the role of instructors redundant.
Myth: Simulations make the role of instructors redundant
Simulations propagate the idea of learning by doing. As a result, the learning process and experience is hyper-personal and puts the learner at the centre. The fear, here, is that the role of the instructor becomes redundant, putting them out of a job. While instructors have now been replaced by facilitators, this is one myth that is still quite difficult to debunk. As the nature and quality of simulations improve, we don’t know what impact they will leave in their trail.
Take, for example, Stephen Gillett. For those who have never heard of him, Gillett is famous for being the youngest executive on the C-suite of Starbucks Coffee when he took on the role of Chief Information Officer. Since then, he has moved companies’ multiple times, creating positive waves wherever he goes. But, why are we talking about him? In an interview with CNN-Business, Gillett once credited the online video game World of Warcraft with helping him become the CIO of Starbucks.
Gillett’s story gives us an insight into the impact that gamed-based or gamified activities have on personal development and learning. Unfortunately, not everyone has the foresight and analytical ability to understand the learning and employ it elsewhere, as Gillett did. Herein lies the crucial responsibility and importance of a facilitator – to coach learners through the simulation activity, help them interpret their results, highlight their learning, and develop action plans based on learning to improve productivity and efficiency in the learners’ real-time professional roles. Therefore, the need for a facilitator continues to exist, albeit in a slightly different manner than as trainers and instructors. Whether instructors continue to be effective at their roles depends on their willingness and ability to adapt to the changing learning methodology.
To know how simulations enable deep and impactful learning, watch this video.
In the last part of this series, we look at the final four myths that are commonly held about simulations.