Why Simulations Are Better Than Traditional Learning Methods

When it comes to management development, there are a number of training methods in use today, with more (or at least more acronyms; e.g.  ‘MOOC’?) being thought up all the time.

The developers of these methods of course all claim that that they are “proven to deliver results”, which makes selecting the right one difficult.

The most effective learning processes offer a good balance between the time spent and the knowledge gained and/or skills acquired.

Simulations offer a practical and useful alternative to traditional methods, and are increasingly becoming a cornerstone of management development offerings.

How Simulations Help

The key reason why simulations are an effective teaching methodology is that they mimic real life situations, the same ones that participants are likely to face on the job in the future. They allow the people involved in dealing with such problems to test different actions and responses. In effect, they are testing theories in real life.

The most important difference between simulations and real life is that no one (including the company’s reputation) gets ‘hurt’.

The scenarios are not easy either. Participants have to fully apply themselves, and they experience what happens when they take actions, seeing cause and effect in real time as they progress through the scenario. This allows participants to understand both the short and long term impacts of their actions, arming them with skills and insights that should stop them making mistakes in the real world situations that the simulation is mimicking. This ‘do and see the results’ process is highly effective when it comes to skills development and knowledge retention.

Another key factor in the success of simulations is that they encourage experimentation and allow for the making of mistakes. This is a vital matter in the context of learning, people being allowed to do the wrong thing or take the wrong path without any repercussions other than a low score.

One of the most important teaching practices is repetition. Here again, scenarios help, as it is possible to run a scenario time and time again, each run using subtly reconfigured variables. This is vital, as asking the same questions or reading out the same script is unlikely to work. Scenarios allow you to create repeated content in a way that is not boring.

Simulations take a different path depending on the participants’ decisions. This ensures that a different outcome is likely to occur on each run, allowing each student to understand and learn from any mistakes and different sequences of decisions.

In any organisation, it is the leaders that can have the greatest impact on success or failure. In turn this means that it is they that need the most training. Let’s face it, today’s leaders face many challenges, not the least those of accelerating levels of change and uncertainty, so anything that can be done to help them should be grasped in both hands. Simulations allow each leader to see how his team members operate and react in different situations, while learning about themselves and how they, too need to learn and change.

It is good to remember an ancient Chinese proverb

Tell me I forget.

Show me, I remember.

Involve me, I understand.

People develop complex skills by doing, by first making decisions and taking actions, then experiencing the outcomes, and most importantly, working out why it all ended the way it did, why those decisions and actions led to those outcomes.

If this process is carried out time and time again, employees will learn what works and what does not (and why). This will ensure that when a situation does happen in real life, the organisation is better able to cope.

As any military person will tell you, training is essential if staff are to be able to deal with all the  problems and situations they face.

Simulations offer the prospect of reducing the risk of failure in the real world, something that should be welcomed by any organisation.

If you would like to understand more about simulations and how they could help your business succeed in today’s competitive world, visit https://www.prendo.com/why-simulate/