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Monday, August 26, 2013

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING: Why Simulations Are So Effective for Corporate Training

Research and experience confirm that the most powerful and lasting learning comes from the discovery associated with our direct experiences - when we act and then experience the consequences of our actions. It is what Peter Senge has dubbed, "the learning horizon."

The dilemma, however, is that ambiguous problems and complex situations typically have very long learning horizons, requiring the passage of months or even years before the consequences of previous actions and decisions can be experienced.

Simulations accelerate learning associated with the analysis of complex problems, and equally important, the managerial and interpersonal behaviors required to act (lead or perform) successfully in a complex environment. According to Dayle Smith, professor of management and organizational behavior at the University of San Francisco's School of Business and Management, "[Simulations are a powerful and effective] response to the need for more integration of functional business areas. This provides the working manager with the problem-solving experience and skills he will need to effectively maneuver in today's complex business world." 

As a result, when facilitated effectively, a simulation creates an interactive learning experience that delivers significant knowledge and real behavior change. Unlike the traditional classroom in which participants learn by hearing or watching, in simulations, they learn by doing, a process proven to transfer concepts quickly from theory into action so they become immediately implementable in the workplace.

Ahmad Ezzeddine, assistant dean at the Wayne State University School of Business, describes another benefit of simulations: their ability to address all the various learning styles. "People can read, touch, and feel the results, so individuals have an opportunity to learn in the way that is best for them."


Perhaps the biggest reason simulations are so valuable in the corporate classroom is their contribution to emotional intelligence. Relationship skills are a critical managerial competency. According to research conducted by Discovery Learning at the Center for Creative Leadership, 64 percent of managers selected developmental goals related to building better relationships as important competency skills, while just 37 percent selected goals related to being a better manager or administrator.

Have you experienced the unique learning environment provided by a simulation? We'd love to hear about it!

Please share your insights and questions by posting comments below. For help in selecting the right simulation, pairing a simulation with an assessment, or learning how to become certified to use any of our simulations, visit our website at www.DiscoveryLearning.com or use our Contact Page. We have compiled extensive data to inform us about the best simulation and assessment instruments for different circumstances.
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This post was extracted from articles by Chris Musselwhite,  Sue Kennedy, and Nancy Probst, originally published in T+D magazine (American Society for Training and Development).

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