Maybe managing a business is like riding a unicycle: no amount of talking about it will build core competencies. If someone wants to get the hang of it, they have to do it.
Recently Robin wrote about the importance of experiential learning. Earlier, Nikolai wrote with passion about how hard it is to explain the power of experiential learning. It’s got me thinking about how the “do it” principle permeates everything we do here.
Why are we passionate about learning by doing? It’s rooted in a belief that humans learn best by playing and doing – not just watching and listening. The belief that, in a sense, we are designed to learn by doing.
With a good hands-on business simulation, participants can confront the abstract view of business in a tangible manner. They can see and touch the way a business operates. They can play at making business decisions and immediately measure the results. In other words, experiential learning leaves the participant with a mental matrix for retaining and applying concepts in the future.
When learners create the cause-effect relationship, they make the connections more rapidly and they develop their business acumen.
Now, if there’s a gap between the decision and the effect, they can forget the decision or the reason for it. And if there are too many components generating a single result, they may fail to see which decisions were important. Either of these situations will weaken their learning.
Many simulations claim to offer experiential learning; but how are participants experiencing the learning? For example:
- Is the content in the game, or in facilitator lectures, multimedia, and written materials?
- If there are separate rounds of activity, what happens during the intervals?
- If there is structured learning between rounds, does it relate to the game or to the real world or both?
Here are a few more questions that can produce telling answers:
- Are the participants watching, or starring in, the simulation?
- Is the simulation a unique experience that they can own?
- At the end of the day, are all teams in the same position?
- If they are in unique positions, how are they different and how did they get there?
I’ve written a longer piece about situations that weaken learning – and what’s essential to running an effective business simulation. If you’re interested check out the guide Top 12 Things to Avoid in Business Acumen Training.