CODA: Business Simulations

Russ Volckmann

Here is an example of the use of simulations in business as a learning device. It suggests to me that this is an important approach to development that relates directly to an integral perspective. The source of this information is:

Reworking Intuition: Business simulations spark rapid workplace renovations

Bruce Bower

Peter Senge is reported to have said that 80% of organization change efforts fail to meet their goals and we don’t know why the other 20% succeed.  This brief article suggests that we may be closer to an answer for why they succeeded or, at least, it provides encouraging ideas about promoting successful change.

The focus is on the work of Lia DiBello at the Workforce Transformation Research and Innovation in San Diego, CA. She and her staff have put together a two day workshop that in three reported applications have resulted in remarkable turnarounds of companies which were in danger of being closed down due to years of losses.

Using a methodology that involves simulation, staff from each of these companies attended (reluctantly) the first day and simulated the way they were used to doing business. The results were replications of the losses they experienced in their companies. The second day, the staff applied their own knowledge to how to rectify these results in another simulation. Far more positive results were achieved. They then returned to their work at their companies and led the turnarounds, each of which led to profitability.

The focus of DiBello’s work involves drawing on what people already know and applying this in simulations in order to leverage new behavior. James C. Spohrer, director of IBM Almaden Services Research in San Jose, CA, stated, “Large corporations are increasingly incorporating simulation exercises into the actual work process.”

Lauren Resnick of the University of Pittsburgh stated that  “evidence indicates that what a person already knows about a subject or an activity lays a foundation for new learning and achieving expertise in that area, she adds. Data also show that knowledge is best cultivated through active participation in relevant tasks, not through memorization or drills.”

Do you think we are going to see growing evidence that the use of simulations is, indeed, most effective in preparing people to address issues in the future because it scaffolds them into new modes of awareness and learning? DiBello concludes, “The world actually looks different when you learn to think about it in a fundamentally different way.”

This is worth considering when you see and hear all of the focus – and sometimes the hype – about vertical development. If it can work in the world of organizations, it can work on all lines of development.

> Russ Volckmann